Hot on the heels of a fantastic victory for Turkey in the FIA GT Nations Cup in Bahrain, Salih Yoluc looked set for another podium position as he concluded his current run of races with the Asian Le Mans Series heading to Fuji Speedway for the second round of the championship (7-9 December) last Sunday.
Ultimately, he and the team were left disappointed with a fifth-place finish, two weeks after a debut podium position in the category. Salih again teamed up with Patrick Byrne and Guy Cosmo in the #23 United Autosports LMP2 Ligier. It may have been just his second outing in the car, but Salih was right on the pace from the get-go. However, a strategy error and a late-race safety car dashed hopes of another top three result overall, with Patrick taking the chequered flag in fifth position.
“My stint was good, I was a little bit cautious at the start because there were already spots of rain so felt the need to check on the grip levels first few laps, but after that I was kind of happy with my pace. It was enjoyable,” Salih said. “Guy did a good job in the middle stint, but a wrong call was made on the tyres when I pitted in.
“We lost over two-minutes with that mistake which cost us an overall podium, so it is a bit disappointing to head into the Christmas break knowing that we could have been on the podium for the second time. Still, we look forward to the remaining two races with confidence – we have shown good pace and that will translate into better results next time out.”
Salih took part in the unofficial practice and then in the official Friday afternoon showing good pace. The team worked through the programme with Guy going on to qualify in fourth position.
Race day was especially cold with rain in the air for much of the four-hour race. Salih took the start, battling wheel to wheel with Matthieu Lahaye in the #35 entry before the race set into more of a rhythm. Salih pushed on and with the weather conditions deteriorating, was able to close the gap to just eight second on third position, before pitting and handing over to Guy.
It was a long stint for Guy who was forced to make a second pitstop for wet tyres early in his run. This cost the team a lap on those ahead, but race came his way later on as he passed the #35 to run in third position.
The final hour of the race saw Patrick back out, but a safety car with 40 minutes remaining closed up the field and he was powerless to stop the recovering #4 Bratislava car and the #35 retaking the position on the run to the chequered flag.
Salih takes a short break for the festive period but will be back in action in Thailand for the third round of the Asian Le Mans Series in January.