· Pinnacle Motorsport Australian storms to victory in Races 11 and 12
· BlackArts Racing’s Joey Alders rebounds to second in Race 12 to retain points lead
· Hitech Grand Prix’s Nikita Mazepin third driver in title contention heading to final round
Sepang, Malaysia (February 15, 2020) – Red Bull Junior and Pinnacle Motorsport driver Jack Doohan swept to victory in Races 11 and 12 at Malaysia’s 5.543km Sepang International Circuit to complete a hat-trick of wins in Round 4 of the F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA. The 17-year-old has now reduced his points deficit to championship leader Joey Alders of BlackArts Racing to just 15, while Hitech Grand Prix’s Nikita Mazepin took second in Race 11 and finished just off the podium in Race 12 to remain in championship contention as the series heads in to its final round in Thailand next week.
The entire F3 Asian Championship field acquitted itself superbly on the FIA Grade 1 circuit, with three exhilarating races packed with intense, fair and mature competition, proving once again the quality and talent amongst the international field of fledgling talent.
After 12 of 15 races, Alders retains his championship lead on 215 points, albeit with a reduced margin from Doohan on 200, with Mazepin still in title contention on 164 points with a maximum 75 on offer in the final triple header of the season. While the 2020 title will be a three-way battle, the top nine championship finishers will all earn valuable super licence points, giving them plenty to fight for at the Buriram International Circuit on February 22 and 23.
BlackArts Racing’s Thomas Luedi jumps to the top of the Masters class leaderboard having taken maximum advantage of the absence in Round 4 of title rival Paul Wong of Zen Motorsport. The battle for the Teams title is also heating up as the season nears its conclusion, with Pinnacle Motorsport and BlackArts Racing equal on 296 points, ahead of Absolute Racing on 212 and reigning and two-time Teams champions Hitech Grand Prix on 199.
Race 11 saw Doohan snatch the lead from pole-sitter Alders early on in the 15-lap race, the Dutchman struggling to find pace and dropping down the order, his eventual eighth-place finish taking a heavy toll on his points lead. Third across the line was guest driver and reigning champion Ukyo Sasahara for Hitech Grand Prix, with Absolute Racing’s Jamie Chadwick taking points for third after a strong showing.
Showing formidable focus, Doohan repeated his flawless win of Race 10 in the final race of the weekend with an uninterrupted run from pole to flag. Alders rebounded with strong pace in Race 12, but wasn’t able to catch his rival and had to settle for second. Team mate Yu Kanamaru drove a storming race to claim the final podium place, rocketing up the order off the start from P8 to third on the opening lap before withstanding a powerful challenge from Mazepin in the closing stages.
The F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA heads into the final round of the 2020 season next week at Thailand’s Buriram International Circuit on February 22 and 23. There, the title will be decided between Alders, Doohan and Mazepin, while a further six drivers will do battle for career-boosting super license points as the third season reaches its thrilling climax.
On a drying track after morning downpours, the field lined up on the grid shod with slicks for the first time this round. Race 11 began as it was to finish in spectacularly dramatic fashion. Joey Alders got away well from pole as the lights went out, but Pietro Fittipaldi alongside on the front row was swamped by the storming pack after an initially clean start, tumbling down the order to sixth. Jack Doohan quickly snatched second and immediately got alongside his Dutch title rival to challenge for the lead. Alders defended well from Doohan, and Jamie Chadwick briefly took second from the Australian, before the Red Bull Junior reclaimed the position and resumed his fight for the race lead.
Alders, Doohan and Chadwick thundered into the double right hander at Turn 7 with nothing between the trio and Nikita Mazepin in hot pursuit. As the tightly-packed field crossed the line for the first time, Alders had managed to maintain a wafer-thin advantage at the front, but his rivals had the bit firmly between their teeth.
Yu Kuai was a man on the move early on, climbing from his P10 grid position and up to seventh having got by Tommy Smith and Yu Kanamaru.
Up at the front, with Doohan filling his mirrors, Alders fought valiantly but the Australian dived up the inside on Lap 3 to take the lead briefly, before braking late and losing the advantage. He tried again at Turn 4, but Alders slammed the door.
A lap later though, Doohan made a move at Turn 4 and this time made it stick, passing his rival and quickly putting a distance between himself and Alders.
With the championship leader appearing to struggle with pace, next it was Chadwick who Alders had to contend with, the Absolute Racing driver piling on the pressure. Alders again fought back with some superb defensive driving, but an unstoppable Chadwick got alongside and the pair were two abreast across the start/finish line at the start of Lap 10. Locked in battle, Mazepin caught up and entered the fray, as did his Hitech Grand Prix team mate Ukyo Sasahara making it a thrilling four-way fight.
It was déjà vu a lap later when Chadwick once again got alongside Alders on the main straight, the W Series champion diving on the outside, then the inside, before finally finding her way past. Mazepin, however, had anticipated the move and positioned himself perfectly. The Russian tore past both to snatch second from Chadwick, with Sasahara attempting to follow. Chadwick initially held the Japanese driver at bay to retain third and challenge Mazepin, putting him on the defensive. But Sasahara would not be deterred and he snatched third on the road from the Absolute Racing driver on Lap 12.
Alders was the eventual loser in what had been a breath-taking display of hard, fair racing, dropping down the order to sixth behind Fittipaldi, losing two further places before the flag to finish behind Yu Kanamaru and Yu Kuai in eighth.
With five minutes left on the clock, Doohan had pulled out a comfortable lead of almost seven seconds at the front, with Mazepin unchallenged by guest driver and team mate Sasahara, who was keeping a frustrated Chadwick at bay in fourth.
As the flag fell, Doohan crossed the line to take his fourth win of the season and at the same time give his title hopes a massive boost. Second was Mazepin, with Sasahara third on the road but, ineligible to score points as a guest driver, Chadwick taking the consolation of 15 points for the position. Fittipaldi finished fifth ahead of Yu Kanamaru, Yu Kuai and Alders. Alessio Deledda and Miki Koyama rounded out the top 10.
Once again, the race was high on drama from the beginning. As the lights went out, Doohan made another perfect getaway from pole, but alongside him, Ukyo Sasahara was left stranded on the grid. Lightning reactions from the drivers lined up behind saw all deftly avoid the stricken car, although Jamie Chadwick on P4 lost valuable time.
Starting from P3, Alders had no such problems and took off in pursuit of Doohan, with the chasing pack heading into the first turn five abreast. Despite having to dodge the stationery Sasahara, Yu Kanamaru made a blinding getaway and was up to third by Turn 1, chased by Absolute Racing’s Tommy Smith and Zen Motorsport’s Yu Kuai, with Chadwick down the order in sixth.
Nikita Mazepin was an early gainer too, up to seventh from P11 by the end of the opening lap ahead of Pinnacle Motorsport’s Pietro Fittipaldi.
As Doohan pulled away at the front, maintaining a healthy gap from Alders, behind Yu Kanamaru in third, Smith came under fire from Yu Kuai who himself faced a challenge from Chadwick.
With 20 minutes gone, Mazepin had closed up to Chadwick. As the Russian made his move to climb to sixth, Fittipaldi seized the moment and skilfully followed him through demoting Chadwick to eighth in the order.
Next Mazepin honed in on Yu Kuai up ahead and, once again, Fittipaldi gained a place as he and the Hitech Grand Prix driver toughed it out with the Chinese talent. Chadwick joined the fray too, eventually also finding her way past Yu Kuai.
Mazepin was not done though and, with ten minutes remaining, closed up to Smith in fourth and – despite a spirited defence by the young Australian – dived past and up to fourth. Yet again, Fittipaldi wasn’t far behind, and both he and Chadwick passed the youngster who put in his most impressive performance of the season thus far.
Only minutes remained for Mazepin to try and catch – and pass – Yu Kanamaru to claim a podium finish. Despite filling his mirrors and piling on the pressure, the Japanese drive refused to be shaken, holding his line and keeping his eye firmly on the prize. Right on the max, Mazepin fought hard to keep his prey within striking distance, but Kanamaru stayed far enough clear to claim third.
Doohan crossed the line ahead of Alders with a margin of almost four seconds, completing a clean sweep of Round 4 wins and strengthening his title hopes. Fittipaldi finished fifth behind Mazepin, with Chadwick sixth ahead of Smith and Yu Kuai. BlackArts Racing’s Miki Koyama finished ninth ahead of Hitech Grand Prix driver Alessio Deledda, while Thomas Luedi took the Masters class win.
Driver Quotes – Race 11
Jack Doohan (Pinnacle Motorsport) – winner Race 11
“It was definitely an advantage starting on the right, but Pietro my team mate got a fairly decent start [on the left] and slotted in behind me, so I guess it was difficult but he did a good job of that. I tried to challenge Joey into Turn 1, but he did a good job to stay there and defend the position. From then on in I was trying to attack, but obviously not kill the tires too much. Then I launch it into Turn 4 because I knew [Joey] was braking early as I don’t think he knew how dry the track was. I got up his inside there. I didn’t know how hard to push, whether he was going to come on later or not, but his pace kept on dropping. I had a fair amount of front tire degradation so I was trying to limit that as much as possible to not cause something that could hurt the win. I kept that pace and held on for the win.”
Nikita Mazepin (Hitech Grand Prix) – 2nd Race 11
“It’s always fun when you’re in P3, P4 coming up to a group of cars – in single seaters there’s not so much close racing. When you see one car is sort of struggling and another is trying to overtake it’s always a nice position to find yourself in. It was a nice fight. A few side-by-sides in a few places. The track wasn’t 100% dry, which made it even better. It’s good to come out on P2 and my team mate was P3, which is nice. Especially nice after a difficult Race 10.”
Jamie Chadwick (Absolute Racing) – 3rd Race 11
“I’m a bit frustrated. Yesterday I was happy to be on the podium, today I’m a little bit frustrated to miss out on P2. I had a good start and slotted into P3 after the first lap. I was quite comfortable there. Joey’s pace was a bit quicker in the early laps but quite quickly started to drop off so I was able to capitalize to the point where he was really struggling with the pace when I started to attack. He didn’t make life easier for me so when I tried to pass him it allowed Nikita and Ukyo to close up, which then made it a four-way fight. It’s a bit frustrating to lose out to Nikita when I passed Joey as I think we had good pace to be comfortably in P2. You win some, you lose some, and I’m happy to be on the podium again.”
Driver Quotes – Race 12
Jack Doohan (Pinnacle Motorsport) – winner Race 12
“I wasn’t focussing on the championship too much. Obviously, it’s always at the back of my mind – it’s valuable points. It was a long race out by myself. I was just thinking about tire degradation over 15 laps. We didn’t really have a race yet in this type of heat, so it was different circumstances. I got a good start and then it was a yo-yo between me and Joey. The pace was varying but, luckily, I still got the win. A perfect weekend – double pole and three wins. We came here to do a job and we did it.”
Joey Alders (BlackArts Racing) – 2nd Race 12
“First of all, massive congratulations to Jack Doohan for taking three wins in a weekend. Race 2, was all good - no tire drop out. I saved the tires a little bit at the beginning of the race, maybe a bit too much. The gap was a bit too big later on when I tried to catch Doohan. We were driving identical times, so I couldn’t really catch him. It’s tight in the points, so we’ll see in Buriram!”
Yu Kanamaru (BlackArts Racing) – 3rd Race 12
“Definitely we had a great start. Already we were P3 at Turn 1, and from there on I tried to catch these guys, but they were too quick from the beginning. I focussed on saving the rear tires and I think that helped us in the end to fend off Nikita from P3. I’m really happy with the result.”