Davies and Constantini Victors in China as Championship Battle Tightens

James James Davies and Andrea Constantini gave BMS Scuderia Italia their second victory of the season at the 2019 GT Super Series Round of China at the Zhuhai International Circuit.

It is Davies’s second overall victory in the series, coming more than a year after he got his first at the 2018 Round of France, with today’s victory being the first for the rookie Andrea Constantini. The pair showed the most confidence in moving to the front of the leading group throughout the race, including passing both Carson Speedworks Corvettes early on consecutive laps to lead the field. And even though the pair of Factory Corvettes would assume the top two positions at the start the middle stint with Darren Older Jr. leading the way on the final stint, Davies and Constantini would both charge back to the lead in the following stints after Davies made his presence known at the start of the race. This was due to Carson Speedworks electing to use the undercut for the car driven by Chinese national Li Qi and Oliver Jones.

Getting on fresh tires the earliest would give Jones on the middle stint, and Qi in the final stint, an advantage of ten seconds over the chasing group. Leading that group would be Jacques Malenfant in the middle stint after a quick pit stop leapt him ahead of Constantini, and Darren Older Jr. in the final stint after the MacMillan team elected to pit at the end of the window while Markus Jacobson still had clean air. The Briton in the lone remaining MacMillan Ford after their team car retired early with a gearbox failure would not waste any time catching Qi, and caught the leading Carson Corvette after just five laps of the final stint had passed. Constantini, in third overall, would let Older Jr. do the bulk of the work chasing down Qi, and the pair would make quick over of the now struggling Qi. After failing to take the lead on lap 72 and 73 at turn one and eleven, Older Jr. would make the pass stick for the lead at turn eleven with Constantini moving up to second a lap later.

With Li Qi in a free fall behind on worn tires, it meant that Constantini and Older Jr. were free to fight for the win. With five minutes remaining Older Jr. had a slow exit out of the final corner which opened the door for the Italian to make a move at turn one. The pair would be side by side on exit of turn one with the Italian powering ahead to take the lead. Ahead of them was the backmarker of Gerard LeBlanc to put two laps down, and while the front two would deal with the Canadian making his first start with ease, the pack behind suffered a major shake up when it was their turn to lap the People’s Republic Racing Ferrari.

After rallying to third overall, the second Scuderia Italia Ferrari being driven by Denis van Walwijk understeered wide exiting turn ten in the wake make by the LeBlanc car, clipped the grass and spun in front of the group behind. Walwijk got ran into by Li Qi who had no where to go with both being forced to retired once they limped their cars back to the pit lane, in what was a heartbreaking end to Qi’s home race. In the chaos of the incident, it gave the Gulf Racing Aston Martin of Matteo Rossi a opportunity to move up to third even though he, and Jacques Malenfant, both suffered minor front end damage trying to avoid the wreck. Malenfant got blocked in being the first car to reach the scene of the accident which allowed Rossi to better assess the situation to secure the final spot on the podium behind race winner Constantini and second place finisher Older Jr.

This was the most important third place finish for the pairing of Rossi and Davidson, and puts their championship bid back on track combined with the points leading pair of Chris Winter and Morgan Le Fay finishing outside of the top ten for only the second time this season. Late in the first stint, Winter clipped the grass on the outside of the entry to the final turn and spun his Solvalou Lamborghini, before getting run into by the GP Racing Lister of Fabian Rei. Both would need to do a entire lap before pitting for repairs which resulted in Winter and Le Fay’s chances for points effectively over after a slow in-lap and extended repair time. Fabian Rei and Ryota Wong were able to rally and salvaged a strong sixth place result on the back of strong fresh tire pace. It means that the points gap between the Solvalou and Gulf drivers is down to four points with just two races left in the season, with the Ravenwest duo of Nathan McKane and Andrej Kremnicky an additional two markers behind.

Taking their second straight victory in the Independent’s Class was the Tom Douglas Racing pair of James Douglas and Joel Melrose.  It was the smoothest sailing for any of the Independent’s Victors this year, with the pair going lights to flag with the only resistance coming in the final stint of the race. In the final run to the finish Joel Melrose had to deal with the chasing pair of Koyomi Setou in the Best In The World Lamborghini and Carlton Cho in the LKM Lamborghini, but the never had enough pace to mount a real attack on the brother of former World Champion Daniel Melrose. Finishing fourth in class, another five seconds behind the Independent’s Trophy podium finisher was Independent’s Trophy points leaders in Melanie Bourne and Marie Alberta Luisa.

Crucially, they finished two positions in class ahead of main rivals Peter Oliver and David Simmons, which means that their advantage in the championship has grown to an even ten. This has put the Boutsen Ginion pair with a high probability to put the Independent’s Trophy out of realistic reach come the next round in Sepang, even though there are still thirty points left on the table. Ten of those points are for Independent’s Trophy cars that finish in the top five overall, and it’s a bonus that’s only been attained twice this season each time only for an additional point.

Race Results – After 78 Laps

128MJJ.Davies/ConstantiniScuderia Italia2:01:55.724
243MOlder Jr./JacobsonMacMillan+0.486
614MRei/WongGerald Pereria+8.394
915MTravesen/SparksGerald Pereria+11.608
1155IDouglas/MelroseTom Douglas+20.436
1241ISetou/HortinBest In The World+21.638
143IBourne/LuisaBoutsen Ginion+27.859
1601MWinter/Le FaySolvalou+32.727
204IDiaz/ShideharaBoutsen Ginion+1:11.397
22007IMagnus/GieszlerFalken Tire+1:14.387
2330IJenkins/BrunoGlobex Scorpio+1:18.662
24555IA+V Reyna-SanchezTom Douglas+1:19.081
2532IAxelsen/PedersenRMR+1 Lap
2627MRestov/Van WalwijkScuderia Italia+2 Laps*
2764MQi/JonesCarson+2 Laps*
2899IBlack/LeBlancPeople's Republic+2 Laps
2970ITime/ManciniAstanaSpun Off

Fastest Lap – Car 03 (Solvalou Lamborghini – Pescatore/Fazio) – 1:29.459

Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race – Fabian Rei and Ryota Wong: Making lemons out of lemonade like that is pretty remarkable.

Reject of The Race – Chris Winter: And then there’s the whiff from the championship leaders.