FFF Racing Team battled to a pair of second place results on two continents, Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs scaling the podium in the opening round of the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup in Italy and Andrea Amici and Edoardo Liberati in the GT Asia Series in South Korea (13-15 May).
The first ever GT3 Le Mans Cup weekend at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola in the Italian province of Bologna began on a low note for FFF Racing.
The pace of the McLaren 650S of Hamaguchi and Quaife-Hobbs was somewhat masked by a broken anti-roll bar, but the team received a major blow when the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Sean Fu Songyang and Andrea Caldarelli was lost during a trip into the Imola barriers at Acqua Minerale.
A superb effort by the FFF Racing mechanics to repair heavy rear-end damage and make the Lamborghini race-worthy again was valiant, but futile.
Nothing could be done trackside to meet the Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s exacting safety standards and the team was forced to withdraw the car, denying the Italian fans and FFF Racing’s 150-plus VVIP guests from sponsors Roger Dubuis and Aurae an opportunity to see Fu Songyang and home hero Caldarelli in action.
All hopes rested with Hamaguchi and Quaife-Hobbs and, while the pairing were underwhelmed after qualifying fourth on the grid, a desired podium finish was well within reach going into Saturday’s (14 May) two-hour enduro.
Hamaguchi was required to take the start and an incident involving the race-leading Ferrari and Porsche on the first run through the Tamburello chicane allowed the Japanese Am through into second position.
With only the TF Sport Aston Martin of Salih Yoluc standing between him and the race win, Hamaguchi never looked back. His attack was unremitting and his determination to snatch the lead was visible to all as he traded fastest laps with his foe.
Television cameras were fixated on what was a supremely mature and controlled display by both drivers, and the gap continued to fluctuate approaching the compulsory driver-changes, when a mistake in FFF Racing’s stop resulted in a significant loss of time.
The gap stood at 13 seconds when Quaife-Hobbs emerged from the pits at the start of the second hour, but the British Pro was in an assured second position and changed tact by focusing on staying out of harm’s way and bringing the car home with zero mistakes.
Quaife-Hobbs showed his class during a quick, yet controlled run to the flag and a well-deserved second position against a small, but perfectly formed field.
FFF Racing Team Principal, Sean Fu Songyang, said: “It’s the first race of the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup season for FFF Racing Team and we followed up the victory achieved two weeks ago in Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe with a second place, which is a great result.
“It was a proud moment when I saw the Chinese flag on the podium. Of course, we are still a new team and we have showed that we can be very powerful. Hiroshi (Hamaguchi) and Adrian (Quaife-Hobbs) did a good job. We had an issue in the stop, but P2 was probably what we deserved.”
Fu Songyang continued: “There is a lot of quality in the GT3 Le Mans Cup. The Am drivers are really quick and are probably the best in Europe, so the level is high. The grid isn’t big, but there is a lot of quality and I think the championship has a great deal of potential to grow into something spectacular.”
Elsewhere, FFF Racing Team commenced the 2016 GT Asia Series with a second place result for Amici and Liberati at the Korea International Circuit in South Korea (14-15 May).
The team went second quickest with Liberati at the wheel in the first part of qualifying and then Amici concluded Q2 in fifth after a strategic team decision to fit the Roger Dubuis-liveried Lamborghini Huracan GT3 with used tyres, freeing-up the fresh rubber for the start of race two (Sunday 15 May).
Liberati made a good start in the opening GT Asia encounter in South Korea on Saturday (14 May), but contact with a Bentley was followed by another more severe touch with the race-leading Porsche, which took both cars out of the race.
A five-place grid penalty for causing the collision demoted the team to tenth for race two, but the drivers were undeterred and Amici scythed his way up to P5 before handing the reins to Liberati, who surged to a second place result on FFF Racing’s maiden weekend with Lamborghini in Asia.