Ye Hongli put in a commanding performance on the Guia Circuit to claim the 2020 Macau GT Cup on Sunday.
The TORO Racing Mercedes driver was in a class of his own, his cause helped by weekend-long pacesetter Darryl O’Young from Hong Kong starting back in 11th due a Qualification Race penalty.
That left Ye with clear air in front and breathing room to O’Young in the crucial early stages of the race. Ye was able to quickly lap second-placed Marchy Lee Ying-kin from Hong Kong at the start, although his progress was halted less than a lap in thanks to the first-lap safety car. The cause of the caution was Hong Kong’s Lo Pak-yu crashing his car on the run out of the first corner.
When the race resumed on Lap 4, Ye was able to again pull away from Lee and the rest of the chasing field. From there he was able to control the race, his lead blowing out to around eight seconds before mainland China’s Yao Liangbo hit the wall on the way out of Mandarin on Lap 10.
The subsequent red flag led to the race being cut short, Ye deservedly declared the winner. “I just controlled the pace and made sure Marchy [Lee] couldn’t catch me,” said Ye. “It was good fun – I’d like to drive a lot more laps. I could keep driving [around Macao] forever. I’ll come back next year.”
O’Young, meanwhile, managed to make good progress on the notoriously narrow circuit, with the Craft-Bamboo Racing driver making it up the seventh before the safety car appeared on the first lap. He then worked his way through to fifth on the first lap after the restart, before following the mainland’s Chen Weian past fellow mainlander Min Heng at Lisboa on Lap 6.
Chen and O’Young spent the next few laps locked in combat, the former’s defence holding out until they got to Lisboa on Lap 10. Once in front, O’Young was quickly able to climb onto the back of Lee in second; however, that battle was cut short by the red flag moments later. The results of the shortened race were taken from the end of Lap 9, dropping O’Young back to fourth behind Chen in the final classification.
That Chen ended up on the podium was made even more remarkable by a post-race revelation that he was battling a slow puncture during the race. “I had a slow puncture on the front right, which is one of the reasons I was slowly losing pace,” he explained.
Speaking to reporters after the race, Ye said that this was the most intense race he had ever run and this result should be considered as his best so far. When Ye was asked about O’Young’s penalty after the race, he said that the official’s decision was “reasonable”.
Ye, 28, also said that he didn’t feel too much pressure when leading the race and he was able to enjoy it. This time, he said, one could say that he achieved his dream.
It was the first time Ye, whose racing career started in 2014, has competed in Macao.