Ukyo Sasahara takes flawless F3 Asian Championship Race 4 victory in Thailand

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Japan’s Ukyo Sasahara drove a flawless 19 laps of the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to take his third F3 Asian Championship victory in four races.

The Hitech GP championship leader resisted a spirited opening-lap challenge from team mate Jack Doohan to cross the line more than four seconds clear of the 16-year-old Australian, setting the fastest lap in the process and locking in pole position for Race 5. Behind Doohan, Absolute Racing’s Daniel Cao fought back after an opening-lap tangle to claim the final podium place.

In the Masters classification, it was heartbreak for BlackArts Racing’s Thomas Luedi. Starting from pole, Luedi led from rival Paul Wong of the 852 Challengers right up into the final moments of the 30-minute race when a technical issue saw victory slip away. That saw the Hong Kong driver take his first Asian F3 Championship Masters victory. 

With three wins and a podium finish, Sasahara strengthens his lead in the F3 Asian Championship driver classification with 93 points, 14 clear of Doohan in second.

BlackArts Racing’s Brendon Leitch remains third in the standings ahead of Cao and Absolute Racing’s Eshan Pieris in fifth. Wong takes the lead in the Masters classification following his Round 4 win and now lies 11 points head of B-Max Racing Team’s DRAGON, who is absent due to other commitments this weekend. 

Race 4

As the F3 Asian Championship field roared off the grid in anger for the first time at the 4.554km FIA Grade I track, Sasahara launched from pole and immediately shut the door on Doohan.

The youngster wasn’t about to yield without a fight though, and the pair were two-abreast into the opening series of turns in a superb display of clean racing right on the limit. Outpaced this time around, Doohan then slotted in behind his more experienced rival and the Hitech GP pair pulled away from the chasing pack.

Behind them, a clutch issue for Cao meant a slow getaway as the lights went out, dropping him down the order to seventh from his P3 start behind team mate Pieris, Leitch, BlackArts Racing’s Tom Beckhäuser and series newcomer Ayrton Simmons of Pinnacle Motorsport. 

There was opening lap drama too for Simmons’ team mate Smith when an alternator belt broke, bringing an early end to his race. 

As Cao began to climb back through the field, an intense three-way battle was brewing between Beckhäuser, Simmons and the Chinese driver, with the Czech losing out after spinning off. He eventually managed to rejoin the race, crossing the line in 11th.

Cao was now up to fifth and on the hunt to catch Leitch and Pieris up ahead, who were engaged in their own battle for position. With 20 minutes to go, Cao had caught the pair, pulling out of Leitch’s slipstream and diving past and up to fourth. Next it was Pieris who fell to the unrelenting Absolute driver, who regained his starting position but was unable to make any headway on the leading pair. 

Simmons crossed the line sixth in his maiden F3 Asian Championship race and on his Asian debut, followed over the line by W Series driver Miki Koyama, Zen Motorsport’s Yu Kuai of China and Super License driver Yu Kanamaru of Japan. However, post-race both Koyama and Yu Kuai received 10 second penalties for track limits infringements.

That dropped Koyama down to ninth and Yu to tenth. Leitch was another driver to receive the penalty, although it did not affect his fifth-place finish. The penalties promoted M-Sport Asia’s Akash Gowda up to eighth in the classification. 

Driver Quotes Race 4:

Ukyo Sasahara/Hitech GP/Winner – Race 4

“The start was not really perfect and I had to defend from Jack on the first couple of corners. It was really tough, but luckily I could manage in the front. In the first few laps I pushed for the fastest lap and managed it. After that, I tried to see how the tires would be for the end of the race. I think we managed well, so I have to thank all the Hitech GP team members.”

Jack Doohan/Hitech GP/2nd – Race 4
“[Ukyo and I are] team mates and we’re fighting for position, but there’s a lot of respect as well. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to pass him in Turn 1, so I kept it to try down into Turn 3. I got the run but Ukyo braked later and got the inside again.

Then I tried up into Turn 4 around the outside but there’s not too much grip out there so I ran wide and Ukyo got the place back. I tried to go for a quick lap for the next session, but it wasn’t ideal but it was still good enough to get P2. Ukyo definitely had more pace than me, so I just tried to see how the degradation would be and try to maintain a good lap time for the whole race without stressing the tires.”

Daniel Cao/Absolute Racing/3rd – Race 4
“I think I’ve improved a little bit (since Round 1). I had a little bit of a problem with my clutch at the start, so the first sector of the first lap I couldn’t get a good position. But finally, I overtook some cars and finished third.”

Paul Wong/852 Challengers/Winner – Masters Round 4
“I had a good race. I had a bit of a fight with the car in front. Unfortunately, he had a technical problem so I could take first place.”

Results – Race 4