Dillan Tan was at it again. The reigning champion masterfully controlled proceedings at the first round of the Asia Sprint Series’ 2023 opener. Imola Circuit is hardly ever a fruit basket of overtakes, but the Singaporean cut a calm, solitary figure from lights out to the chequered flag.
Ferris Stanley and Sota Muto remained competitive on race pace, however, and one wonders how Philippa Boquida would have fared should rogue internet have not interfered with her opening laps. Donington Park was next up on the docket, offering similar challenges to a grid desperate to beat the man known as Tan.
Half the challenge seemed to be complete for many very early on in the event. A truly nightmarish qualifying session for the points leader saw him starting from fourteenth on the grid; seventh in class. This was, of course, music to the ears of Stanley and Boquida who sat on the front row, first and second respectively.
Behind them was an all Silver-class trio led by Daffa Boediharjo who claimed his second class pole of the season. Where as his race had completely combusted, for Rialto Ristofani and Russel Reyes they were eyeing up second consecutive podiums.
Luke Addison had struggled to put together a lap, ending up fourth in class but four places away from his rivals.
Impressively, the opening corners were neatly navigated by all fourty-four drivers. An entanglement was bound to appear at some point, though, and so it did through the Old Hairpin. Of anybody to make the most of the scuffle, it had to be Dillan Tan.
Having started firmly in the upper midfield, a brave and steady rise up the order had the championship leader ninth by the end of the first lap. Reyes had also enjoyed progress, sliding past Ristofani out of Redgate. His early pace was electric, keeping Boedihjaro glued to his rear view mirrors.
The assault lasted some earnest ten minutes before the Philippino simply sent it at the Melbourne Hairin. It was risky, with a little elbow out on the way in, though well worth the investment as Ristofani had been looking for a passing opportunity behind.
Unfortunately for the new class leader, he failed to pull away from his opponent as most had expected. This would prove to be extremely damaging as the stewards deemed his move too aggressive, punishing Reyes with a five-second time penalty.
As the pitstop phase came and went, he had been demoted potentially as low as fourth in class thanks to an Addison undercut.
His blushes were saved somewhat by an unseen issue for Boediharjo. For the second race running, his strong early stint had been undone.
Reyes could count himself lucky that both Addison and Ristofani were both within range over passing as the final twenty minutes arrived. The trio had to dice their way through traffic somewhat perilously, though Reyes was willing to throw caution to the wind in the right moment.
Caught on the outside of a backmarker through Redgate, Addison (and indeed everyone watching) were caught gasping at the sheer bullishness of Reyes to dive down the inside of both cars; in doing so retaking second in class.
Sadly, the stewards were not in favour. Whether it be for that outlandish call or a previous incident, Reyes got shackled by yet another five-second penalty. Ristofani’s defences were eventually breached but by that stage it was all too late to build a gap. After a storming race, the ‘Fast Philippino’ was set for third in class.
But up front, Stanley had been enjoying a rather more comfortable affair. Much like Tan at Imola, he had controlled the immediate threat from Boquida to take his first win of the season.
- Ferris Stanley – 1st – 42 Laps
- Philippa Boquida – 2nd – +5.119
- Daffa Nabiel – 5th – +13.842
- Dillan Tan – 7th – +19.069
- Sota Muto – 8th – +22.170
- Rialto Ristofani – 3rd – +12.604
- Luke Addison – 4th – +13.352
- Russel Reyes – 6th – +15.766
- Taariq Adam – 10th – +29.998
- Damario Haznam – 11th – +33.011