Joey Alders extends championship advantage after last-lap heartbreak for title rival Jack Doohan

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BlackArts Racing’s Joey Alders strengthened his chances of lifting the 2020 F3 Asian Championship title tomorrow with victory in Race 13, after title rival Jack Doohan of Pinnacle Motorsport dramatically suffered a puncture on the final lap having led the race up to that from pole.

Hitech Grand Prix’s Nikita Mazepin was second on the road but incurred a five second penalty for a last-lap incident with Jamie Chadwick, elevating the Absolute Racing driver to second. Third was Pinnacle Motorsport’s Pietro Fittipaldi, the result elevating him from sixth to fourth on the leaderboard.

In the Masters category, classification leader Thomas Luedi of BlackArts Racing took the win in the 20-lap race at the Chang International Circuit from title rival Paul Wong of Zen Motorsport, thereby increasing his points advantage to nine points ahead of the final two races of the season.

Alders heads into the penultimate race of the season 36 points ahead of Doohan, maintaining his season-long position at the top of the championship leaderboard. Despite the title battle now between just Alders and Doohan, with Mazepin having dropped out of contention, the top nine championship finishers will all earn FIA super licence points.

In the race for Team Classification honours, BlackArts Racing has now inched ahead of Pinnacle Motorsport to the tune of 18 points, with Absolute Racing in third ahead of reigning champions Hitech Grand Prix.

Race 13

Under the blazing Thai sun, Doohan executed a wheel-perfect start as the lights went out for the first time this weekend, immediately pulled away from his rivals and heading off into the distance. Behind him though, Joey Alders also made a good getaway, up from P5 to second in the order in a matter of seconds, ploughing past Pietro Fittipaldi, Jamie Chadwick and Yu Kuai, who had already dropped down from his P2 grid position.

As the field hurtled into the opening series of turns, Nikita Mazepin was also on the move from P7, and quickly up to third after getting by Chadwick.

Further down the order, Sasahara had lost positions before an unintended tangle with Masters driver Thomas Luedi. Luedi was later handed a drive through penalty as a result, a penalty the BlackArts driver readily admitted was deserved.

At the front of the field meanwhile, Doohan had pulled a gap of more than two seconds from his title rival by the end of the second lap, with Alders leading Mazepin, Chadwick - who was close behind the Russian, Alessio Deledda, Yu Kanamaru and Yu Kuai in seventh.

Three laps later, series newcomer Mikhael Belov had found his way past Pietro Fittipaldi to go seventh, but the Brazilian was not conceding. As Fittipaldi challenged the BlackArts Racing newcomer, the pair going two abreast into Turn 4, Absolute Racing’s Tommy Smith joined the party in a thrilling three-way battle. Belov held firm though, shaking off his challengers and moving up a place a lap later after passing Kanamaru on Lap 7.

Lap 10 saw Chadwick get by Deledda, who then fell into the clutches of the determined Belov and Fittipaldi. The Brazilian passed Belov and began piling on the pressure to Deledda. Although the Italian refused to be rattled, Fittipaldi had the superior pace and was able to take him around the outside at Turn 4 to go fifth. Belov, who had been keeping a watching brief on the pair, was next to pass Deledda, demoting the Italian to seventh.

As the clock counted down on the 30-minute race, Doohan maintained his healthy margin out in front with Alders knowing the Australian had achieved an unassailable lead. Behind the Dutchman though, a quick Chadwick was homing in on Mazepin, chipping away at the gap and reducing it to just four tenths by the end of Lap 18.

Doohan crossed the line as the Last Lap board appeared with a lead of 6.7 seconds from Alders, but disaster was about to strike. A rear puncture dealt the 17-year-old Australian a hammer blow, not just to his hopes of the race victory but to his championship aspirations too.

Despite trying manfully to continue to the flag, Alders sailed past to claim the win. Mazepin and Chadwick, meanwhile, continued to battle to the line. While Mazepin won out on track, the fight was to later cost him a podium finished when he was penalized five seconds. That elevated Chadwick to second and dropped him down the order to fifth.

Fourth over the line but ultimately earning a third-place podium was Fittipaldi ahead of Belov, who made an impressive series debut. Smith was sixth ahead of Deledda, with Doohan in eighth place and still in the points. Yu Kuai took ninth with Yu Kanamaru taking a point for tenth.

The starting order for Race 14 is determined by the fastest laps in Race 13, earning Doohan pole position. Sasahara will start alongside on the front row, with Alders and Chadwick on Row 2. The penultimate race of the season gets underway at 09:50 on Sunday, February 23, with the final race of the season following at 17:00.