Joey and Jack share spoils in final day of F3 AC season-opener


Joey Alders takes second consecutive victory with BlackArts Racing in Race 2 from Hitech Grand Prix’s Nikita Mazepin

Flawless pole-to-flag run to victory by Pinnacle Motorsport’s Jack Doohan in Race 3 ahead of Devlin DeFrancesco and Alders

Double wins and podium put Alders top of Drivers’ Classification after Sepang triple-header

BlackArts Racing’s Joey Alders continued his phenomenal start to the 2020 F3 Asian Championship certified by FIA today with a second consecutive victory in Race 2 at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit. A podium finish in Race 3 puts the 20-year-old at the top of the Drivers’ Classification at the end of Round 1 and edges him closer to the 18 super licence points for this year’s champion. Championship runner-up last season, Red Bull Racing Junior driver Jack Doohan, took a flawless pole-to-flag run in Race 3 for a strong finish to the opening weekend for the 16-year-old Pinnacle Motorsport driver.


Race 2 saw an unstoppable Alders plough past pole-sitter DeFrancesco into the first turn and snatch the lead, after which the Dutch driver was never headed. Behind him though, an epic battle saw Nikita Mazepin and Absolute Racing’s Daniel Cao duke it out for the remaining podium positions all the way to the flag, with the Russian holding resolutely on to second despite the best efforts of the Chinese driver.
Starting from pole in Race 3, Doohan blasted away from the field off the start and headed off unchallenged to the flag. There was redemption for DeFrancesco after the Canadian pounced on Alders on the final lap of the race to snatch second after the Dutchman fell victim to the tricky wet track conditions.
In the Masters category, Paul Wong took the Race 2 win after Thomas Luedi was unable to take the start. However, the BlackArts Racing driver was back with a vengeance in the final race of the weekend, to take his second class win of the new season.
After the first three races of the 15-race 2020 season, Alders tops the Drivers’ Classification with 65 points, 18 ahead of Doohan with Mazepin third on 40 points. DeFrancesco’s strong debut weekend puts him fourth in the points ahead of Absolute Racing teammate Cao. In the Team Classification, BlackArts Racing tops the leaderboard with an impressive 26-point lead from Absolute Racing.
The F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA continues next month with its debut in the Middle East. Two back-to-back Rounds start with Races 4 to 6 at the Dubai Autodrome from January 10 and 11, followed by Races 7 to 9 at the F1 Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. With 18 valuable super licence points for the 2020 champion, the competition is expected to intensify further as the hottest single-seater championship in Asia expands its horizons yet further.
Race 2
After morning downpours, Race 2 was declared wet and the field lined up on wets for the first time this weekend. With the fastest laps in Race 1 setting the grid, DeFrancesco started on pole and the opening race winner Alders alongside, with reigning champion Ukyo Sasahara and Doohan on the second row. Two sighting laps gave the drivers a chance to assess the track conditions before proceedings got underway, and the race was therefore reduced to from 30 to 27 minutes.
As the lights went out, DeFrancesco got away well but Alders had an even better launch, immediately pulling alongside the Canadian before inching ahead and snatching the lead into Turn 1. DeFrancesco was swamped by the charging pack, dropping down to fourth as Mazepin rocketed from his P6 starting position and up into second with Cao giving chase. Mazepin’s teammate Jake Hughes was another driver on the move, up from P8 to fourth on the opening lap.
Seven GP’s Tatiana Calderón wasn’t wasting time either, the Colombian ploughing through the field from P13 and up to 8th behind Yu Kanamaru and Yu Kuai by the end of lap 2.
With 20 minutes remaining on the clock, Mazepin began closing in on Alders and the race lead, coming within half a second of the BlackArts Racing driver. The Russian was pushing hard in the tricky track conditions, as Cao kept the pair in front within striking distance, and the trio pulled clear of the rest of the field. Behind them, Hughes led from Yu Kanamaru while Calderón continued her climb, getting past Yu Kuai and up to sixth.
As Mazepin fought to get close enough to Alders to make his move, Cao managed to close up to the Hitech Grand Prix driver, tucking into his slipstream and eyeing a move. As the pair battled, with Mazepin keeping the Chinese driver expertly at bay, Alders was able to take a breather and pull a gap of more than a second from the pair behind.
The cat and mouse battle continued, with Mazepin never losing sight of the main prize ahead, closing up to Alders before once again being forced to switch focus and defend from an increasingly frustrated Cao.
In the closing laps, Cao ensured Mazepin was not able to mount a serious challenge for the win, the pair fighting hard but fair all the way to the flag. Fourth across the line was Calderón, an impressive result from her start from the back of the grid, with Alders’ teammate Yu Kanamaru fifth ahead of Zen Motorsport’s Yu Kuai.
Hughes finished seventh after a mid-race pitstop ahead of Doohan, DeFrancesco, Jamie Chadwick, Tommy Smith, Pietro Fittipaldi and Alessio Deledda. 
Race 3
The field shod with slicks, the damp circuit gave the drivers starting on the dryer right-hand side of the track an advantage off the line, and Doohan was away like a rocket, immediately pulling out a gap. Across the track from the Australian, Sasahara made a slower getaway and was immediately overhauled by Alders who had started behind Doohan, and then Yu Kuai. Behind the Japanese driver, DeFrancesco, Fittipaldi and Smith gave chase.
Cao also lost out at the start, dropping down the order from P6 to tenth but immediately starting a fightback, briefly getting past Hughes before the Briton reclaimed 8th behind Tommy Smith.
Mazepin was on a charge from the rear of the grid, storming up to 10th by the end of the second lap and continuing to pick his way through the field to cross the line an impressive fifth.
Doohan continued to pull away at the front, extending his advantage from Alders, Sasahara, DeFrancesco, Yu and Fittipaldi who was running a strong 6th. However, a lap later the Brazilian appeared to experience a return of the technical problems which had plagued his weekend, dropping him down the order and seeing him eventually cross the line in 11th behind Smith.
With seven minutes remaining on the clock, Mazepin got past Hitech Grand Prix teammate Hughes to climb to sixth. Moments later, there was drama for Sasahara when, lining up for a move on second-placed Alders, the Japanese driver lost the back end and tipped the car into a spin. His retirement put DeFrancesco in podium contention just as rain was reported at Turns 3 and 7.
In a last-lap thriller, and with the chequered flag almost in sight, Alders locked up as he struggled to maintain control in the slippery conditions. As he ran wide, DeFrancesco needed no second invitation, diving past and up to second just moments before the finish. Doohan, too, almost lost it at the final turn before the flag, but he was not to be denied his first victory of the new season.
It was another strong finish for Zen Motorsport’s Yu Kuai who was sixth in Race 2, fourth in Race 3 ahead of Mazepin, Hughes, Cao, Chadwick, Calderón and Smith in 10th ahead of Fittipaldi and Deledda.
Driver Quotes
Joey Alders (BlackArts Racing) – winner Race 2
“I woke up this morning and opened the blinds, and it turned out to be wet which I didn’t expect. I made a good start – tried not to get too much wheelspin. Went side-by-side into Turn 1. Devlin missed his braking point a little bit so I could cross him back, and from there on I just tried to manage to pace and bring it home for the team.”
Nikita Mazepin (Hitech Grand Prix) 
– 2nd Race 2
“Friday wasn’t an easy day for us. Qualifying didn’t go to plan, so I was starting from the back so there was a bit of work to do. For Race 2, I had a very good start. The main thing was to avoid the wheelspin and that worked well for me. I overtook quite a few cars from the beginning. I was sitting behind Joey and Devlin. From that point on I was second. I had a very good pace for the first half of the race. I pushed quite hard to try and overtake, especially when I got close. As you know, when you get close you’re in dirty air. I think it was a good thing to push as hard as I did, but obviously I knew it would compromise my performance towards the end of the race. [At the end] it wasn’t so much about trying to overtake to be first but just to protect to be second. It was a fun race and I’m happy to finish second for Hitech Grand Prix.”
Jack Doohan (Pinnacle Motorsport) – winner Race 3
“It’s good to finish on the top step again. I underestimated the start a bit. I thought it wasn’t going to be as slippery as it was, so I didn’t get the launch I could have but it was good to get away from the rest. The pace was good for the first five or six laps and I was able to get into a rhythm and not stress the car too much. There were constant sprinkles [of rain] throughout the race, but then it started to get heavier so I kept pushing to an extent. I saw Joey made a mistake and I knew I still had limit in the bag and I wanted to try and extend the lead. My engineer had to keep telling me to try and back off the pace. At the end there were few unexpected moments!”
Devlin DeFrancesco (Absolute Racing) 
– 2nd Race 3
“It was quite hectic. Being on the left side made the start quite difficult and I must have dropped back to 7th or 8th on the first lap. After that, I was pushing like a madman to recover. I made some quite good moves and was able to come back through. The speed actually got better and better towards the end as the conditions got worse. It’s nice to come back with a podium and finish on a high.”