- 20-year-old Alders takes victory on championship debut for BlackArts Racing
- Pinnacle Motorsport driver Jack Doohan takes second from fourth row; Devlin DeFrancesco takes podium on debut with Absolute Racing
- Thomas Luedi wins Masters class from Paul Wong
BlackArts Racing’s Joey Alders took his maiden F3 Asian Championship certified by FIA on his series debut, opening the season at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit with an impressive victory and beating a star-studded international field of single seater talent. Second over the line after a strong run from his fourth row start was Pinnacle Motorsport’s Jack Doohan, championship runner-up last season, heading home another series rookie, Absolute Racing’s Devlin DeFrancesco.
It was a perfect Friday 13th for the BlackArts Racing team after Masters driver Thomas Luedi took the season-opening class victory from Zen Motorsport’s Paul Wong having snatched the lead from the pole sitter early on in the 14-lap race.
Top finisher from the two-time and reigning team champions Hitech Grand Prix was Russia’s Nikita Mazepin in fourth, ahead of Absolute Racing’s Daniel Cao of China. Third BlackArts Racing driver Yu Kanamaru was sixth ahead of W Series champion Jamie Chadwick, with pole-sitter and guest driver Ukyo Sasahara eighth having started from pitlane after technical issues before the start.
With two championship rookies on the podium after the opening race, four different teams in the top four with drivers from four nations, the new season of the F3 Asian Championship certified by FIA is shaping up to be the series most exciting and unpredictable so far.
A fast and furious 15-minute qualifying session earlier in the day saw Sasahara take pole, but with a wafer-thin margin from Yu Kuai and Alders who set identical times, although the Zen Motorsport driver lined up alongside the reigning champion having been the first to clock the lap.
Cao lined up next to Alders on the second row, with DeFrancesco and Mazepin making up row 3.
With Sasahara sidelined in pitlane before the start, Yu Kuai was the lone front row starter but a disastrous getaway as the lights went out saw the Chinese driver swamped. Cao also lost out early on too, dropping down the order to sixth from his P4 grid position by the end of the opening lap.
After the opening lap drama, DeFrancesco set about pulling away in the lead from Alders, Doohan and Mazepin, with Cao finding his way past Yu Kanamaru and up to fifth in the order. Doohan got by Alders, but the BlackArts Racing quickly reclaimed second.
With threatening dark clouds overhead, rain drops started falling on parts of the track, and an early casualty of the tricky conditions plus a coming together with Luedi was Seven GP’s Tatiana Calderón. Her stranded car brought out the safety car. That closed up the field but at the restart on lap 8, DeFrancesco got away well, holding the lead from a determined Alders.
Just it looked as though DeFrancesco had the win in the bag, Alders and Doohan pounced, diving past the Canadian and relegating him to third.
Yu Kuai finished ninth behind Sasahara and ahead of Absolute Racing’s Tommy Smith and Hitech Grand Prix’s Alessio Deledda of Italy.
It was a challenging series debut for Pietro Fittipaldi who wrestled technical issues throughout the race. There was disappointment too for 2018 season runner-up, when his race ended in retirement after eight laps.
Race 2 gets underway at 10:55 on Sunday, with Race 3 starting at 13:50 (all times GMT+8). Races 2 and 3 will be live streamed via the championship’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.
Joey Alders (BlackArts Racing) – winner Race 1
“It’s a good start to the season I think. The start was a bit not like we planned as we had a lot of wheelspin. I lost a place going in to T1 and then just managed the gap from the guy in front and tried to avoid getting attacked from the rear. That all went pretty well. Then the safety car came. I made a good restart and was really close to Jack. Then it was outside or inside, and they always say inside, so I had to make another swap to the inside and then, eyes closed, send it!”
Jack Doohan (Pinnacle Motorsport) – 2nd Race 1
“It was a mega start, attacking Devlin in Turn 1, and then we both went in hot and Joey got back on the inside of me. We were all pretty close, so it was better I think to save the racing for later on and try and keep calm. He got the position back. I didn’t quite have the pace he had for the first part of the race. Then the safety car came out and it started raining a bit, so I didn’t really know what the conditions were going to be like going into Turn 1, but then it was back to normal. Then I saw Joey was attacking Devlin, so I tried to tee up a move to try and get one of them. I got past Devlin and then tried to attack Joey, but I couldn’t match his pace.”
Devlin DeFrancesco (Absolute Racing) – 3rd Race 1
“We had a really good start and everything went to plan. Really good pace with the car. It was the first long run we’ve done, so it was a bit of a learning experience. The safety car came out and track conditions were a little bit tricky. It’s been a learning experience all week and we just keep getting better and better. The team is doing an unbelievable job and there’s definitely more to come. [Alders and Doohan] seemed to have a lot of pace after the safety car and I lost the position, but I kept it clean and brought the podium home – and tomorrow we start from pole!”
Thomas Luedi (BlackArts Racing) – Masters winner Race 1
“We had a good car so far all weekend, so it’s been going well. The race started well but just before the safety car, [Tatiana Calderón] and I came together in the last corner. Unfortunately, she was out, and after that I had front wing damage but I could nurse the car and bring it home. For the season, I’ll take it race by race.”
Results Race 1