Seeking out the stars of the future, the Super Trofeo Asia series arrived this weekend (23-25 June. 2017) at the Suzuka Formula One venue, a welcome but challenging experience for all four drivers in the FFF Racing Team by ACM.
Carrie Schreiner and Richard Goddard teamed up once again in the #50 Pro-Am Lamborghini, with Jack Bartholomew and Armaan Ebrahim in the sister #5 entry and it proved to be a mixed weekend with some strong results and some heartbreak at this iconic venue.
Free practice ahead of the double race event saw both sides of the garage quickly getting up to speed, confident of a good showing in the all-important qualifying sessions.
Goddard, clearly enjoying the challenge of Suzuka, was very much on the pace in qualifying as he set the sixth best time, but unfortunately a track flag infringement meant that his qualifying time was deleted. Schreiner meanwhile made best of a red-flag interrupted session to record the 11th best time for race two.
Over in the #5 car garage, things got off to a tricky start as a mechanical issue ensured that Bartholomew was unable to take part in the qualifying session - very much putting him and teammate Ebrahim much on the back foot for the remainder of the weekend. As a result, the duo would have to start both races from the tail of the field.
The first race saw both cars make a great start as the #5 and #50 battled for position, seeking a way to move towards the front of the field. Goddard soon however got the jump in the #50 to pull away from Ebrahim, but sadly the former however was soon to retire with a water leak.
Progress continued for the #5 squad as Ebrahim handed over to Bartholomew and in what was a charging drive, he finished in a strong fifth position, a gain of no less than 12 positions from their grid position.
The second race of the weekend was held in wet conditions, always a massive challenge at this narrow and high-speed Suzuka circuit.
Bartholomew, starting at the back once again in 17th position, made a blinding start to his race, carving through the field in the tricky conditions and underlying his pure pace and inclusion in the Squadra Corse program with Lamborghini.
The British racer gained an impressive ten spots before handing over to Ebrahim in seventh position in what he described as ‘his best race of the season.’
While all looked rosy for a strong result – potentially a podium – Ebrahim released the pit lane speed limiter a fraction of a second – 0.07s in fact – early and this resulted in a drive-through penalty, dropping him back to 11th position.
Over in the #50 Lamborghini, Schreiner started 11th and opted to pit at the earliest opportunity in the wet conditions to allow her more experienced teammate, Goddard, to push forward. This is precisely what he did, gaining another four spots to finish seventh overall and second in the Pro-Am class.
“This was a very testing environment for all of our four drivers,” began FFF Racing Team Owner Sean Fu Songyang. “The weather conditions deteriorated and we had some mechanical issues. Equally, some of the Stewards decisions went against us, but that’s racing.
“Despite this I think all four got the best out of what was a difficult race weekend at a very special circuit and this is all part of the learning curve for the future. Now we look ahead and we’re delighted to be back in Japan in August for the next round at Fuji Speedway.”