It proved to be an impressive debut for Red River Sport by TF Sport in the Asian Le Mans Series Sunday (25 November) in Shanghai, claiming a solid podium position and further underlying the British-based team’s pedigree on the international stage.
Johnny Mowlem and Bonamy Grimes teamed up for this event and the partnership worked well between the Pro and Am driver, with Johnny coaching and advising Bonamy throughout the four days of running. This ultimately culminated in the third-place finish, having led the class outright for significant portions of the four-hour race.
The team took part in the unofficial practice session on Thursday, making changes to the #5 Aston Martin Vantage heading into the first practice session on Friday. The setup work continued after recording the fifth fastest time, the team trying to get a better balance on the car and to iron out the car’s characteristic understeer.
The duo were again fifth fastest in final practice before Bonamy was given the opportunity to qualify the car Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately for the Am racer, his best lap was disallowed, despite losing time running wide at the exit of the final turn and the team had to be content with P5 in the GT class for the early Sunday morning start.
Race day saw Red River Sport by TF Sport adjust it’s planned run programme, a strategy that paid dividends as the race unfolded. Bonamy took the first stint, making a great start and utilising the grip that the fresh Michelins provided, to run third immediately behind the #88 and #11 entries. Soon after this became second place before pitting under the safety car after 15 laps.
Johnny was right up to speed immediately, maintaining and then extending his advantage over the #11 behind. The leader meanwhile had a problem in the pits and this elevated Johnny to the head of the GT class by lap 30 with a handy margin over the #66 Mercedes.
Bonamy was next in, and as the stops shook out, ran second behind the eventual race winners in the #11 Ferrari. It was another strong performance from rookie as he maintained his position prior to the stop, before handing over to Johnny.
The #51 Spirit of Race made ground in that final stop to move second, with Johnny pushing hard close behind. Third position on the team’s debut was the reward with the combination of driver pace, strategy and flawless teamwork.
TF Sport now prepare for the next challenge which comes up very shortly at the second round of the Asian Le Mans Series at Fuji in two weeks’ time.
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“That was good, better than we thought it would have been after qualifying. The race pace was decent, and the strategy was very good and it was especially nice to lead the race at one point. So to come away with a podium is positive.
“We switched the strategy a little to give further opportunities towards the end of the race – had there been another safety car – but other than that it was a fairly straight-forward race, so first go and a podium is a good reward.”
“It was a good first stint, I really enjoyed that. I was fortunate in that I had new tyres and some of my rivals didn’t, but after the start I got my head down as I knew I had to make progress and pass some of the slower cars in front.
“We talked a lot about strategy and we wanted to do something that gave us option. Fortunately, one option came up and I was able to pit under the safety car after 30-minutes for a driver change. I was very pleased to come in second and to finish the race on the podium.
“We still need to work hard, to extract some more raw pace from the car, so we know we need to look at that if we are to be competitive in the subsequent rounds. We’ll take third, and we’re not far off second place with the factory race drivers in that car.”
“It’s a great result and a brilliant strategy by Red River Sport by TF Sport. We had a plan and then Mike Pickup and the boys changed things which was a really good call. It worked out really well and we got some good fortune in when the yellows came.
“In terms of race pace, the car was definitely better, closing the gap on our main rivals, so all-in-all a good race. Bonamy drove absolutely beautifully so a deserved podium at our first attempt in the Asian Le Mans Series!”