It was a fantastic Qualifying session for the JK Racing Asia Series’ first European encounter at the Paul Ricard Circuit today. Meritus.GP driver Afiq Ikhwan and current Championship leader, Aston Hare claimed one pole position apiece in a session where the top six drivers were separated by fractions of a second.
The top four drivers switched positions throughout, with Eurointernational’s Nabil Jeffri taking the early lead but in the last few minutes, both Hare (Eurointernational) and Ikhwan made a dash for the finish to clock their fastest times, Hare with 2:15.593 taking second whilst Ikhwan snatched pole on his very last lap with a blistering 2:15.474.
“I am so happy and the team is happy with me. We are much stronger now and we have proved to everybody that we can. We had lots of problems in the last rounds so now we are much stronger.
“There was a lot of pressure for me to perform in this qualifying, we were on P2 for the first few laps but at the last lap we managed to get everything together to get pole. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s race” said Ikhwan after the session.
“The circuit is very tricky and challenging. It was difficult for the team to get the perfect setup but at last we managed to get it and we are so happy right now” added Ikhwan.
“The beginning of the weekend wasn’t going so well, I was 1.8 seconds off but slowly we just started gaining some time and eventually we qualified second for the first race and first for the second race, what more can you ask for?” said Hare contentedly.
He continued, “The circuit is quite challenging, I think it is quite a good circuit to be in the JK Series. The car is really good, the team did a really good job and I’m looking forward to tomorrow to see what we can do”.
Jeffri will start third for both races, lining up next to his teammate and AirAsia Driver Development Program driver, Tan Wei Ron who overcame a difficult start of the season to start both races this weekend in fourth.
Jeffri said after the Qualifying, “I am not happy about it but am not unhappy about it either but I think I did my best and the team did their best.
“I didn’t expect the pace to drop that much, the team didn’t inform me that much because I told them to inform me if anyone is in front of me but they were quiet on the radio, so I thought everything is alright. But I still kept on pushing every lap, I think there are still places to improve, we will have a look at the data and see what we can do about it for tomorrow” he ended.
Eurointernational’s Irfan Ilyas and Meritus.GP’ Ernie Van Der Walt will share row three with Ilyas starting fifth in Round 5 with Van Der Walt in sixth and switching positions for Round 6.
Aidan Wright of Meritus.GP and Eurasia Motorsport’s Hiqmar Danial Hidzir will start on row four in seventh and eighth for both races. Wright said “It went really well, we were a little bit unsure through the first practice how it was going to go but we managed to get it sorted out, we changed a few things between the first practice and the qualifying and it seemed to work so we are pretty happy. I’ll just try to keep it together in the two races to see how it goes”.
Two guest drivers and teammates in US Formula Project team, Chris Vlok and Aditya Patel will share row five in ninth and tenth respectively, switching positions for Round 6 with Patel starting in ninth ahead of Vlok.
“I can’t say I am extremely happy but I know I did make a mistake in the last corner which cost me quite a bit, could have put me in the top seven but I guess I can make up for it in the race” said Patel.
Then he commented on the competition in the Series, “They are extremely fast but I still have a lot of time to find the pace to catch them, I will go through the data with the engineers and see. We have two races tomorrow and we can make up some places.
“More than the temperatures, it is also the grip factor with the GT cars running and they do leave a lot of rubber on the racing line, so in the beginning of the session it was a little bit slippery but towards the end of the session the times get faster and faster. Some of the drivers use a different strategy than I so I guess I did suffer a little bit from that” ended Patel.
Teammate, Sean Walkinshaw, Eurasia Motorsport’s Josh Raneri and French driver Bizalion Charly driving for Mahara will race from eleventh to thirteenth respectively.
Two drivers, Toby Earle of Meritus.GP and guest driver Ollie Millroy competing with Mahara were unable to Qualify and will start at the end of the pack for both races tomorrow.
The JK Racing Asia Series Round 5 is scheduled to be held at 10.25am (local time) with Round 6 scheduled for 5.40pm on Sunday, 1st July 2012.