GT ASIA SHANGHAI 2016
Rnd#9/10, 2016 GT Asia Series
Shanghai International Circuit, China (19-21 August, 2016)
After a three year sabbatical since Solomon and Hakkinen claimed their emphatic victory at Zhuhai in October 2013, AMG were back for the Shanghai round of the GT Asia Series and as they did in 2013, they arrived with a single goal in mind, victory.
With two cars - one for Solomon and Nico Bastian, the other for new car owner Zhang Wenhe and the ‘King of Macau’ Maro Engel - the AAI Motorsport supported Customer Racing outfit were looking for the win.
This would be the first time the new Mercedes-AMG GT3 had competed in the GT Asia Series, and the thunderous naturally-aspirated 6.3-litre V8 powered machine was quickly on the pace, running inside the top five through practice, before qualifying delivered Engel P4 and Bastian P5 in opening qualifying, Solomon matching his team-mate with P5 in session two despite campaigning used tyres.
Bastian started the opening race and was quickly onto the tail of Engel as the cars made their way down pit lane for their compulsory pit stop, and despite an additional nine-second parity penalty for the team over many of their rivals, Solomon emerged from the pits to set what at that stage were the fastest laps of the race to catch championship contender Anthony Liu in a Ferrari 488.
Sadly though, almost as soon as he tucked in under the rear wing of the Ferrari, a technical issue emerged with the car and the gearbox started selecting different gears after a gear potentiometer failed. Ultimately that forced Solomon to drop his pace, and heading into the final lap, retire the car, the team forced to replace the part overnight to be ready for the second race.
“I’m pretty devastated actually,” Solomon admitted post-race. “I had the speed early to catch and I think overtake Liu who went on to win the race, we would have been a podium finisher at worst, no problem at all, but when a technical issue like this occurs, there’s not much you can do but try and nurse the car around for the finish.”
Starting Sunday’s second 60-minute race, Solomon was again immediately in the thick of the action, but carrying the challenge of driving on older rubber he was forced to spend much of his stint defending from New Zealand’s Jono Lester in the Porsche. Ultimately he hit the pits for his compulsory pit stop from fifth, but as soon as he hit pit lane another challenge emerged.
“It was my error, I missed the pit lane timing button that starts the counter for the pit stop time we’ve been allocated,” Matt explained. “Unfortunately the back up system we had in place also had an issue, so we weren’t 100% sure how long we’d been in the pits, and by the time Nico left pit lane, we’d lost an extra 23-seconds. To add to our frustration, we finished 23 seconds behind the winner, but that was eighth place, so we were left to lament what might have been..”