Aston Martin Racing clinched a dominant victory in the second race of the inaugural Asian Le Mans Series event at Okayama in Japan. The team's LMP1 Lola, driven by Stefan Mucke and Harold Primat, moved into the lead in the first 20 minutes of the three-hour race and held the position from there on.
The race became a little strung out in the middle, but closed up significantly in the last hour, building to a dramatic climax for honors behind the lead car.
Mucke started the Aston fourth but made short work of getting to the front. The German moved around the outside of Nicolas Lapierre in the ORECA before Turn 1, and then disposed of Christophe Tinseau in the Pescarolo and Jonathan Cocker in the Lola to lead early on. Cocker kept Mucke in sight for most of the stint, but the Aston came out best from the first round of pit stops and Primat was soon 30 seconds clear of Shinji Nakano, who inherited the Pescarolo from Tinseau.
By the time Mucke got the car back for the final hour, it was nearly a minute ahead and he could afford to control his pace to the end. Even a splash-and-dash stop for fuel with 10 minutes to go passed without drama as the second-placed Pescarolo had to do the same.
The Pescarolo's late stop, however, gave a flicker of hope of pinching second place to Loic Duval in the ORECA. The Frenchman had taken over from Lapierre and began the final hour just 15 seconds ahead of Oliver Jarvis in the Kolles Audi R10, but he was able to pull comfortably clear of the threat from behind. Tinseau brought the Pescarolo back out just 1.7 seconds ahead of Duval, but was able to edge away and was 8sec clear at the flag.
A bigger contest raged behind for fourth as Cocker – who ran second early on and set the fastest lap of the race – took the Lola back from Paul Drayson in fifth place, 24 seconds behind Jarvis with an hour to go.
At first, Jarvis had the pace to increase the lead slightly, despite his car's best lap being 1.5 seconds slower than the Lola's. But Cocker stepped up his charge in the final 20 minutes and closed onto the rear wing of the Audi with four minutes to go. He had a brief look inside Jarvis at the penultimate Mike Knight Corner when his fellow Briton was briefly delayed by a backmarker, but Jarvis sharply swept across the front of the Lola. Jarvis fought on as long as he could, with Cocker swarming around behind, but eventually succumbed on the final lap of the race. He ran a fraction wide exiting Turn 1 and that was all the invitation Cocker needed to dive ahead.
Hideki Noda brought the sister Audi home two laps behind in sixth place to complete the LMP1 runners.
The LMP2 class was a familiarly thin contest at the front, with the Oak Racing Pescarolo left alone when its only rival, the Ibanez Courage had to pit for lengthy repairs mid-way through the race. It mattered little that Richard Hein had to bring the in Pescarolo for late repairs, losing three laps with 15 minutes to go.
The Team Nova Aston Martin was a comfortable winner in the GT1 class, but the battle for second was the closest of the race. The Larbre Saleen spent the last hour chasing down a 15-second deficit to the JLOC Lamborghini Murcielago of Atsushi Yogo and Hiroyuki Iiri but Stephane Lemeret was an agonizing 0.180sec adrift as the flag fell.
The Farnbacher Ferrari was left with a handy lead in the GT2 class when Rahal Letterman Racing's visiting ALMS BMW lost three laps an hour into the race, and Dominik Farnbacher stretched clear of the Felbermayr-Proton Porsche of Christian Ried and Marco Holzer in the closing stages.
Pos Driver Class Car Laps
1. Mucke/Primat LMP1 Lola-Aston Martin 128
2. Tinseau/Nakano LMP1 Pescarolo-Judd 128
3. Lapierre/Duval LMP1 Courage-ORECA-AIM 128
4. Drayson/Cocker LMP1 Lola-Judd 127
5. Jarvis/Bakkerud LMP1 Audi 127
6. Cressoni/Noda/Albers LMP1 Audi 125
7. Nicolet/Hein/Lahaye LMP2 Pescarolo-Mazda 118
8. Tsuzuki/Tsuchiya GT1 Aston Martin 115
9. Yogo/Iiri GT1 Lamborghini 114
10. Berville/Lemeret/van Dam GT1 Saleen 114
11. Farnbacher/Simonsen GT2 Ferrari 114
12. Ried/Holzer GT2 Porsche 113
13. Yamanishi/Sakamoto GT1 Lamborghini 113
14. Aoki/Fujii GT2 Ferrari 113
15. Kinoshita/Kageyama GT2 Porsche 112
16. Muller/Milner GT2 BMW 110
17. Robertson/Robertson/Murry GT2 Ford 105
18. Lee/Ma/Enge GT2 Aston Martin 93
19. Toulemonde/da Rocha/Ibanez LMP2 Courage-AER 92
20. Kojima/Hori/Kimura GT2 Porsche 69
Tanaka/Hiranaka GT2 Ferrari 62
Lieb/Henzler GT2 Porsche 13