The Thunderhead Carlin Racing team leave Malaysia this weekend buoyed by a spectacular win in the Asian Le Mans Series. Jack Manchester Manchester, Harry Tincknell and Ben Barnicoat came back from sixth on the grid and a puncture to take victory, with Manchester taking both the start and the chequered flag.
Torrential rain and a thunderstorm directly over the Sepang International Circuit delayed the race start for almost two hours while organisers tried to fix lighting, timing and camera issues resulting from a direct lightning hit. When the race did finally get underway it was behind the safety car, with little chance for Manchester to make progress from a sixth place starting position.
After a couple of laps behind the safety car the green flag was finally shown, and Manchester wasted no time in making up positions. The 21-year-old set off on a mission, moving up to fourth almost immediately in the damp and greasy conditions. By lap 13, Manchester was catching third place and pulling away from the cars behind.
Manchester made his first stop on lap 18 during the race’s first full course yellow. Sticking with wet weather tyres, Manchester made the most of all the grip available on the Michelins, pushing hard to put the #45 car into the top three. The British racer duly took third on lap 21, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process.
Manchester was soon up to second, then claimed the lead on lap 23. The Thunderhead Carlin car was relegated to second on lap 25 by Thong with Manchester pitting a lap later after a stunning first stint to hand over driving duties to Barnicoat.
Barnicoat’s stint in the middle of the race was a rapid one, taking the #45 car back into the lead despite having to pit out of sequence with a puncture. On lap 65, Tincknell took over, the team losing out slightly to a badly timed full course yellow and Tincknell returned to the track in second place. The fight for the race win was truly underway at this point, with Tincknell pushing hard to catch #36 car – the gap 24 seconds on lap 81.
With just under 45 minutes remaining of the four-hour race, Tincknell pitted from second to hand back to Manchester for the final stint. Manchester immediately pushed hard, reducing the gap to the leader to 16.9 seconds on lap 95, but mindful of looking after tyres and fuel economy had to manage his pace.
As the race drew to a close, Manchester was more than three minutes clear of P3, with the leader just over 20 seconds ahead. As the chequered flag was shown, Manchester crossed the line second on the road after a stunning performance, but more was to come. The leading #36 car had ignored instruction from race control to pit to repair rear lights that weren’t working, resulting in a 36-second post-race penalty. That handed the victory to Manchester and team, their first official win in the series and only the second LMP2 victory for manufacturer Dallara.
The team will have little time to celebrate with focus already turning towards next weekend’s ALMs season finale in Buriram, Thailand, with the LMP2 title Championship still to play for.