HitechGP’s Rinus van Kalmthout took the FIA Asian F3 Winter Series championship beating Absolute Racing’s Ye Yifei in the final round at Sepang International Circuit.
Van Kalmthout came into the final Asian F3 weekend with 29 points advantage over Yifei but the Chinese racer’s double win got him closer to the Dutchman, as the title fight was stretched into the final race of the season where van Kalmthout managed to take it home.
The Race 1 on Saturday saw Yifei make a good start from pole as he led the way with HitechGP’s Jack Doohan behind him. The race was then neutralised after an incident for BlackArts Racing’s Vivien Keszthelyi and B-Max Racing Team’s Tairoku Yamaguchi.
The two retired immediately as Yifei continued to lead the way upon re-start from Doohan and van Kalmthout. The Chinese racer was comfortably ahead of Doohan but van Kalmthout came under pressure as the race progressed.
An incident between Pinnacle Motorsport’s Akash Nandy and Absolute Racing’s Eshan Pieris got the second period of safety car but Yifei kept a calm head again to lead the way on re-start as mayhem ensued behind the Chinese racer.
Van Kalmthout tried a move on Doohan in the opening sequence where he lost momentum which allowed HitechGP’s Alessandro Ghiretti and Pinnacle Motorsport’s Victor Martins to close in with van Kalmthout and Ghiretti making contact then.
Martins gained places to third with van Kalmthout dropping back to sixth and Ghiretti to 12th as Yifei took the win from first-time podium finishers, Red Bull junior Doohan and Renault junior Martins in second and third respectively.
Behind the Top 3, Super License’s Tomoki Takahashi was fourth with Pinnacle Motorsport’s Christian Lundgaard in fifth ahead of van Kalmthout, who managed to keep off teammate Pavan Ravinshankar at bay.
BlackArts Racing’s Joey Alders and Charles Leong were eighth and ninth respectively with B-Max Racing’s Miki Koyama and Motoyoshi Yoshida in 10th and 11th, while Ghiretti rounded out the 12 finishers.
The Race 2 had Yifei once again taking control from pole with Doohan slotting in second from van Kalmthout and Pieris and Nandy. Unlike the first race, the second one on Saturday was more of plain sailing at Sepang circuit.
The order at the front stayed pretty much the same with Yifei winning his second race of the weekend with Doohan scoring another podium in second with van Kalmthout in third. The Dutchman’s podium finish helped him keep the points lead over Yifei.
In fourth was Martins after the Frenchman managed to clear Pieris but the Sri Lankan managed to hold off Ghiretti, who got ahead of Nandy early on with the Malaysian finishing seventh from Lundgaard and Alders.
The Top 10 was then rounded out by Takashi. Position 11-16: Ravishankar, Leong, Tairoku Yamaguchi, Koyama, Yoshida and Keszthelyi. It was a gritty start to Race 3 on Sunday as Doohan took charge from Pieris with pole-sitter Yifei dropping to third.
At the same time, points leader van Kalmthout found himself seventh at the end of Lap 1. With Doohan leading, Yifei managed to get Pieris out of the way as van Kalmthout took Lundgaard to be sixth midway in the race.
The fight for victory raged on between Doohan and Yifei as the two had multiple wheel-to-wheel battles – which ended up being a bit too many as a small tag from Yifei sent both into retirement with Pieris sneaking through to score his first win in a dramatic end.
Martins ended up second with van Kalmthout clearing Ghiretti to finish third and take the 2019 Asian F3 Winter Series title with 184 points to his name as Yifei ended up second with 155 to Ghiretti’s 106 to cover the Top 3 in the drivers’ standings.
The Frenchman was fourth in the final race with Ravishankar in fifth, followed by Takahashi, Nandy, Leong, Alders, Keszthelyi in the Top 10. Despite the off, Doohan and Yifei were classified 13th and 14th behind Koyama and Yoshida. DNF: Lundgaard & Yamaguchi.
Check out what went on during Round 2