Rinus VeeKay won the inaugural Asian Formula 3 Winter Series championship despite a late fightback from rival Yifei Ye during the final round at Sepang.
Hitech GP’s VeeKay led the championship by 29 points from Ye before the weekend, but that gap was reduced to 12 points after Ye won Saturday?s first two races in dominant fashion, whilst VeeKay struggled.
In race one, Ye led away from pole position and secured a comfortable lights-to-flag victory ahead of debutant Jack Doohan, despite the race being interrupted by two safety car periods. Ye repeated the feat from pole in race two, again finishing comfortably ahead of Doohan.
VeeKay started from a lowly fifth in race one and, despite moving up to third on the opening lap, finished in sixth place after a collision with teammate Alessandro Ghiretti while they battled for the final podium spot. Ghiretti retired from the race as a result of the clash, ending his slight title hopes. In race two VeeKay started on the front row but lost out to Doohan at the first corner and went on to finish in a distant third place.
Ye again started in pole position for the third race on Sunday, with VeeKay starting in third and needing a top three finish to guarantee the title. ?Ye got a slow start, with fellow front row starter Doohan taking the lead. Ye and VeeKay dropped down to third and seventh respectively after the title rivals almost made contact at the first corner.
After quickly passing his Absolute Racing teammate Eshan Pieris, Ye closed in on Doohan. The pair spent several laps in a very close battle for the lead, before touching wheels on the approach to Turn 4, resulting in both cars retiring from the race and ending Ye?s title hopes.
Pieris profited from the incident to take his first F3 win, while VeeKay clinched the title in third place.
Renault Formula 1 juniors Victor Martins and Christian Lundgaard had mixed fortunes on their series debuts for Pinnacle Motorsport. ?Martins had a solid weekend, with two podiums and a fourth place, while Lundgaard could only manage a best result of fifth. Neither were eligible for points.
Miki Koyama, who is contention for a drive in W Series this year, also made her series debut, managing one top 10 finish for B-Max Racing.
Tairoku Yamaguchi clinched the ?Masters? crown after a class win in race two, the other two races won by his B-Max Racing team-mate Motoyoshi Yoshida.
Race 1 (13 laps)
1 Yifei Ye Absolute Racing 31m17.280s
2 Jack Doohan Hitech GP +1.897s
3 Victor Martins Pinnacle Motorsport +3.069s
4 Tomoki Takahashi Super License +5.119s
5 Christian Lundgaard Pinnacle Motorsport +7.372s
6 Rinus VeeKay Hitech GP +8.127s
7 Pavan Ravishankar Hitech GP +9.117s
8 Joey Alders BlackArts Racing +10.597s
9 Charles Leong BlackArts Racing +10.775s
10 Miki Koyama B-Max Racing +14.263s
Pole: Ye, 2m 00.817s
Fastest lap: Ye, 2m 01.151s
Race 2 (15 laps)
1 Ye 30m45.067s
2 Doohan +8.433s
4 Martins +13.254s
5 Eshan Pieris Absolute Racing +16.040s
6 Alessandro Ghiretti Hitech GP +16.552s
7 Akash Nandy Pinnacle Motorsport +22.336s
8 Lundgaard +25.430s
9 Alders +26.955s
10 Takahashi +29.808s
FL: Ye, 2m01.999s
Race 3 (15 laps)
1 Pieris 30m51.871s
2 Martins +2.095s
3 VeeKay +3.123s
4 Ghiretti +4.926s
5 Ravishankar +13.530s
6 Takahashi +15.862s
7 Nandy +17.086
8 Leong +29.435s
9 Alders +29.974s
10 Vivien Keszthelyi BlackArts Racing +35.629s
Pole: Ye, 2m 00.468s
FL: Ye, 2m 02.037s
1?VeeKay 184? ?2?Ye 155? ?3?Ghiretti 106? ?4?Takahashi 80? ?5?Ravishankar 73? ?6?Pieris 67? ?7?Nandy 62? ?8?Schumacher 43? ?9?Dan Ticktum 38? ?10 Amaury Cordeel 22