MONDAY 2 NOVEMBER 2009
SIMONSEN WINS IN OKAYAMA TO TAKE ASIAN LE MANS GT2 TITLE
If ever there was a race Allan Simonsen wanted to win, Okayama was it! The three day event, held in Japan, would get a great deal of attention, with many of the top European teams fighting it out for the honour.

Not since the beginning of the decade, have so many factory teams made a big push in Asia – Adelaide held "The Race of 1000 Years" on New Years Eve 2000. After that, the knock on effect of 9/11 curtailed the growth of what Don Panoz had envisaged as the Asia Pacific Championship. Now the ACO is runnin g the gig and fully behind the Asian series and after the success of this event, its bound to expand.


Impress, he certainly did, taking 3rd place in the Saturday race and the GT2 win on Sunday, alongside Dominik Farnbacher, to clinch the Asia Le Mans Series GT2 title. And in front of the Hankook Management. Well timed!

This year the Asia Le Mans Series arrives at the Okayama International Circuit (formerly known as TI Circuit Aida) – a 2.301-mile (3.7 km) private motorsport race track in Mimasaka, Okayama Prefecture, Japan.

TI is abbreviation of "Tanaka International" after the name of the holding company, though the name of the circuit was officially "TI Circuit Aida".

The course was built in 1992 as a private race track for the wealthy. Soon, it hosted its first race, staged by veteran British drivers (which explains the circuit's corner names, such as Hobbs and Attwood).


Team Hankook Farnbacher was a real wild card at the beginning of the season in Europe. A podium at the opening round in Barcelona for Allan and Christian Montinari set the stage for a great year. But mechanical problems and a streak of bad luck meant the rest of the season would be podium-less. Yet, considering here was a German team with an Italian car using Korean rubber against the likes of Michelin, Dunlop and Pirelli, throughout Europe, it all looked pretty good for their 1st year.


Hankook had come a long way with their race tyre technology and branding in a single year. To take victory at Okayama, the season closer, was the best possible way to finish and allow preparation for 2010.

The GT2 class was by far the biggest at Okayama, with no less than five marques being represented: Porsche 997 GT3 RSR, Ford GT MK7, BMW E92 M3, Aston Martin with the new Vantage GT2 and of course Ferrari with the now ageing 430 GT2.


First practice put the Hankook Ferrari in 5th place (1.32.441) with the class lead (1.31.556) going to an identical Japanese Ferrari pairing. Little improvement was made in P2 so it would be up to the qualifying to deliver. And it didn't get any better with Allan only managing 8th fastest time, with the Aston taking class pole.

But it wasn't for long – the Vantage was deemed to have a technical infringment with the rear wing and had its time disallowed, elevating Simonsen to 7th. There were similar dramas in the P1 class with the Aston Coupe being disqualified for as well, for wing issues – not good!

After the session was over, Allan Simonsen explained the #89 Hankook Ferrari’s lowly qualifying pace the previous day – only eighth out of ten runners (before the pole-sitting Vantage was demoted to the back of the grid); “It was very frustrating,” began the Dane, “ because we knew we had a car that was capable of taking pole.

“The problem was that because we have such a narrow window during qualifying to get the best out of the tyres, because of the wear you get round here – one or two laps at best – you have to get it just right. But when I was on my fast lap the BMW had its off, bringing out the yellows. Once it went green again, the tyres were past their peak and the six or seven tenths it cost me was the difference between a good grid slot and where we ended up.”

The Saturday warm up showed more promise – 2nd fastest behind the Rahul/Letterman BMW of Tom Milner Jnr and Dirk Müller.
As the first race on Saturday unfolded, Simonsen found himself progressing through the field and by L11 was pressuring David Murry for 4th. By L26 he'd made the move to 4th.

Dominik Farnbacher took over at the pitstop and drove perfectly to take 3rd place and the first podium since Catalunya.

Sunday's race was at the unusually early time of 9am, which made sense as the World Tour Car Championship round was taking place at the same event.

Farnbacher took the start and made stong progress towards the front, buoyed on no doubt that the pace of the car on Saturday was very good. By the time he handed over to Allan, they were lapping in the 1.32's - considerably quicker than the rest of the GT2 field.

Earlier, Wolf Henzler had led in the Felbermayr Porsche, but on L14, it slowed and was out. The sister Porsche took the lead but was being hassled by the Ford GT. At the 42 minute mark the Ford took the lead, only to have the position revert at the 65 minute mark, with a driveline failure.

Now, Simonsen was in 2th, closing on Milner's BMW, with Christian Reid behind in 3rd. With 58 minutes to go, Milner pitted for fuel and a driver swap. But the starter motor failed and with LMS rules stating that the car must start on its own accord, Simonsen took the lead. Ironically, the same problem befell the Hankook boys earlier in the year, forcing them to retire. Allan swapped out for Dominik at the second stop, holding the lead until the end.
The combination of 3rd and 1st gave the pair the Asian Le Mans Series GT2 title. Nice to see on your CV!

"We managed the tyres very well today," said Allan Simonsen. "We may have had a bit of luck with the other cars, but we definitely had the pace and would have been up there anyway. Dominik drove well and the car was great today. I'm very happy for the team; it's important for them to finish the year as champions and this will give them a big boost."

It will be party time for Team Hankook Farnbacher in Japan before Allan jets to Adelaide to relax for a few days before starting his Classic Adelaide recce, where he will pilot a Mitsubishi EVO 9 in the Competition S category. Whilst its a demonstration class, since the latest vehicle allowed is a 1990 car, expect Allan to be setting the fastest times, just quietly. You can't keep a racer down, especially when he's won his first 2 tarmac rallys as a rookie!

Classic Adelaide start on November 18 and goes through to the 22nd.