Salih Yoluc was all set to conclude his debut season in the Asian Le Mans Series with a second podium from the four rounds, but cruel luck forced the team to retire the #23 United Autosports entry in the final hour following a gearbox failure. Still for Salih, it has been a successful campaign and once again in Malaysia showed his adaptability and talent at the wheel of LMP2 machinery.
The Turkish racer teamed up once again with Guy Cosmo and Patrick Byrne, working through the setup programme in the unofficial practice and then the official practice sessions. Qualifying saw Guy qualify sixth fastest overall, setting the stage nicely for the final round of the championship.
It was a good start for Patrick, gaining a position on the opening lap from the #24 of Ate Dirk De Jong to run fifth. Despite a call to the pits to receive a penalty for a technical infringement, Patrick regained lost ground to ensure that after his second stop, Salih was able to resume in sixth position.
Salih soon found himself chasing the #25 Algarve of Christopher McMurray and just as he was about to claim the position, the Safety Car was deployed. Now running in fifth, Salih continued his stint, again catching the Algarve ahead before pitting for fuel.
As the stops shook out, Salih was now fourth on track which soon became third when the #35 of Jean-Baptiste Lahaye peeled into the pits. A further Safety Car jumbled the order a little after Salih handed over to Guy on lap 67 following a double-stint, but all was going to plan as the team continued to run third. This came to an abrupt halt on lap 99 and despite the best efforts, the race was over with just over 30-minutes remaining.
“It was a hard stint to begin with as there was so much LMP3 traffic,” Salih explained. “I was soon into the rhythm though and it got a lot better. I made a small mistake under the Safety Car and we lost little time due to this, but it wouldn’t have affected the overall result. I’m happy with my race pace, especially as I had only 20 laps of practice and it was my first time at this track!
“I’ve really enjoyed the season and my first taste of LMP2 cars,” he continued. “It was so hot in the car and to do the double-stint in 45-degree temperatures was tough. It’s a shame we couldn’t end the Asian season with another podium, but we take a lot away from the four races as a whole.”
Salih’s next race is in Florida next month as the FIA World Endurance Super Season resumes at Sebring.