The first round of the GT World Challenge Asia took place on the 20 – 22nd of May at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia. The series returns after a 2-year long break due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Sandy Kraokaew Stuvik teamed up with Audi Sport Asia Team X-Works for the inaugural round of Asia’s most professional GT3 championship. Sandy would share his #22 Audi R8 GT3 Evo II with Yasser Shahin, former Audi R8 LMS Cup Champion. The duo will race in the Pro-Am category and compete for overall wins. With a productive Thursday test completed, Sandy and Yasser together with the team endeavored to find the best setup for the hot conditions at Sepang Circuit. Come official practice on Friday, it was clear that the Audi-backed team would be fighting an uphill battle with this season’s BOP (balance of performance). This is supposed to create a level playing field for all cars, however, this was unfortunately not the case for the Audi cars on the grid.
Saturday morning qualifying sessions took place with Yasser Shahin taking the wheel for Q1, qualifying in 7th place. Sandy jumped in the car for Q2, where he managed to secure 6th position. “This is the maximum we can do given the circumstances, sadly we don’t stand a chance with the BOP the way it is now”, explains Sandy after a difficult session.
Saturday afternoon’s Race 1 took place with Shahin at the wheel of the #22 Audi Sport Asia Team X-Works Racing entry. A fantastic drive from the Australian saw Shahin get up to 2nd place before the pit-stop window, and he handed over the car to Sandy. A few crucial seconds lost in the pit-stops meant Sandy slipped down the 3rd position. Just as the race was settling down, Sandy unfortunately had a rear wheel hub failure, which meant the Thai driver had to retire from the race. Thankfully the #22 entry had completed more than 75% of the race, meaning that Shahin and Stuvik were able to secure valuable championship points. “A real shame to have to retire the car as we were looking set for a top 4 finish. The podium would likely have been out of reach as we simply cannot match the pace of the leading cars, but we’ll regroup and give it our all again in tomorrow’s race”, says Sandy.
Race 2 took place on Sunday at noon, with Sandy taking the start and keeping his nose clean in the first few corners. Sandy settled into the race and was running in 5th position before the pit-stop window. The Thai driver handed over the car to Shahin, but sadly the #22 Audi had left the pit-lane 0.114 seconds too soon, resulting in a penalty. Yasser and Sandy would be classified in 6th position despite the penalty, securing more valuable championship points. “It is very unfortunate that the pit-stop was slightly misjudged, but luckily we have only lost 1 position because of it. We’ll learn from this and we will come back stronger and more ready for the next one. I’m looking forward to racing in Japan again, and at one of my favorite circuits in the world – Suzuka.” Says Sandy after a challenging weekend.
Sandy Kraokaew Stuvik is honored to be supported by The Pizza Company, B-Quik, Audi Sport Asia, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Jet8 Aviation, Thai Airways, Puma Thailand, Dacon Trading, Thaiwings Travel Agency, the Sports Authority of Thailand, and the Royal Automobile Association of Thailand.