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Ukyo Sasahara leads Asian F3 field in Sepang season opener

by Steve Whitfield

Ukyo Sasahara leads the Asian Formula 3 standings after winning two of the three races at the Sepang season opener.

The Japanese 22 year-old, previously a winner in the Formula Renault Eurocup, received a late call-up to drive Hitech GP’s third car for the weekend. He led home team-mate Jack Doohan in both of Saturday?s races, before the Red Bull junior struck back to win Sunday’s sole race from pole.

Reigning Asian Formula Renault champion Daniel Cao took pole for the first race of the weekend for Absolute Racing, but a slow start dropped him to third behind Sasahara and Doohan.

Thereon the podium order stayed the same, with Sashara winning by 2.5 seconds. Brendon Leitch took BlackArts Racing’s best Asian F3 result in fourth, and Cao’s team-mate Pieris.

MRF Challenge champion Jamie Chadwick, competing at Sepang to gain experience of the regional F3 car ahead of her W Series debut, qualified fourth but also made a poor start and could only recover her Hitech car to sixth.

Sasahara completed a lights-to-flag victory in race two, again leading Doohan home by over 2.5s, despite a late safety car period briefly reducing his advantage. Toyota Racing Series regular Leitch finished third, ahead of the two Absolute drivers.

Chadwick finished down in 12th after contact with Leitch led to her pitting for a new front wing.

Doohan started from pole in race three, and held off Sasahara to win by 0.9s. Super License driver Tomoki Takahashi was a distant third, while Leitch rose from ninth on the grid to finish fourth.

Chadwick had her strongest race of the weekend, making up two places on the opening lap from sixth on the grid, before being overtaken by Leitch in the closing stages to finish in fifth. Pieris and Cao were not far behind, with the latter coming through from 15th on the grid.

B-MAX Racing team principal ‘Dragon’ won the Masters Class in both of Saturday?s races, with Tairoku Yamaguchi taking the win in race three after a collision between ‘Dragon’ and Thomas Leudi – the latter having failed to finish the first two races.

Sasahara, who is competing in Porsche Carrera Cup Japan this season, leads Doohan by seven points in the standings, with Leitch in third. It’s unclear who will partner Doohan at Hitech for the rest of the season.

Results round-up
Race 1 (15 laps)
1 Ukyo Sasahara Hitech GP 30m53.738s
2 Jack Doohan Hitech GP +2.512s
3 Daniel Cao Absolute Racing +3.666s
4 Brendon Leitch BlackArts Racing +5.069s
5 Eshan Pieris Absolute Racing +14.853s
6 Jamie Chadwick Hitech GP +21.594s
7 Tomoki Takahashi Super License +25.692s
8 Yu Kanamaru Super License + 26.212s
9 Akash Gowda M-Sport Asia +36.338s
10 Jordan Dempsey Pinnacle Motorsport +38.223s
Pole: Cao, 2m00.536s
Fastest lap: Sasahara, 2m01.696s

Race 2 (14 laps)
1 Sasahara 31m28.295s
2 Doohan +2.656s
3 Leitch +2.825s
4 Cao +3.480s
5 Pieris +4.304s
6 Kanamaru +6.751s
7 Takahashi +8.663s
8 Gowda +9.368s
9 Dempsey +10.109s
10 Tom Beckhauser BlackArts Racing +11.731s
FL: Sasahara, 2m03.715s

Race 3 (15 laps)
1 Doohan 31m25.876s
2 Sasahara +0.939s
3 Takahashi +8.830s
4 Leitch +9.324s
5 Chadwick +15.568s
6 Pieris +16.677s
7 Cao +16.924s
8 Kanamaru +18.637s
9 Dempsey +27.389s
10 Beckhauser +28.348s
Pole: Doohan, 2m06.232s
FL: Doohan, 2m04.702s

Championship Standings
1 Sasahara 68 ??2 Doohan 61 ??3 Leitch 39 ??4 Cao 33 ??5 Pieris 28 ??6 Takahashi 27 ??7 Chadwick 18 ??8 Kanamaru 16 ??9 Gowda 6 ??10 Dempsey 5