Reigning Audi R8 LMS Cup champion Alex Yoong of Malaysia stormed back to form today, taking a win in Round 2 in front of his home fans at the Sepang International Circuit. The Team Audi R8 LMS Cup driver snatched the lead from pole-sitter Alessio Picariello of MGT by Absolute off the start and never looked back, crossing the line more than a second clear of the Belgian youngster who was carrying 50kg success ballast thanks to his victory in Round 1.
Taking his first Cup podium in only his second race was Malaysian-born Mitch Gilbert, 22, a well-earned reward for him and OD Racing Team after the disappointment of retirement in Round 1 while running in second. Jeffrey Lee took the Am+ win for Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan after 13 laps of the challenging Sepang International Circuit.
Picariello’s consistency over the weekend sees the MGT by Absolute racer atop the championship standings. The youngster has enjoyed an almost faultless start to the Cup’s sixth season with points collected from his second place in Round 2 combined with his Round 1 win and bonus points for pole position in each race giving him a healthy 45 point total. In second overall lies Yoong, on 31 points, with Martin Rump of Champion Racing Team in third, after his fifth place finish in Round 2, on 28 championship points.
“Five different drivers on the podiums over the weekend shows how evenly matched the Audi R8 LMS Cup is this season,” said Bernd Goeres, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “Our mixture of hungry young racers, experienced professionals and ambitious gentlemen drivers is what the Audi R8 LMS Cup is all about.”
Local hero Yoong was determined to reward his home fans for their enthusiastic support this weekend, the successful Malaysian driver showing the class that has seen him win three Cup titles when the lights went out for the standing start. He launched from second on the grid, pounding past Picariello and setting off on an uninterrupted run to the flag. Despite carrying the maximum success ballast, Picariello continued his impressive form, holding on to the back of Yoong throughout the race and fighting hard to catch him, incredibly setting the fastest lap of the race in the process, despite his ballast disadvantage, earning him the award from new Cup tyre partner Pirelli.
Behind Yoong, Picariello and Gilbert, Cheng Congfu of FAW-VW Audi Racing Team also made a strong getaway at the start, storming up to fourth behind Gilbert from fifth on the grid. The second battle of the race also began right off the start, with Audi Hong Kong driver Marchy Lee attempting to duck down the inside of Rump, the pair making contact as the Estonian fought back against the former champion. Rump, carrying 35kg ballast, engaged his Push-to-Pass in an attempt to put space between the pair, but this was a battle that would rage almost to the flag.
Audi TEDA Racing Team’s Shaun Thong, 21, of Hong Kong lost out at the start. Thong is contesting his first full Cup season and is therefore unused to dealing with the 20kg of success ballast he was carrying after his superb podium finish in Round 1.
As the race unfolded, Yoong held Picariello at bay at the front, Gilbert and Cheng ran strongly in third and fourth, and Marchy Lee continued to try to reel Rump in close enough to get by.
For KCMG’s Akash Nandy, impact with Team Audi Korea’s Kyong-Ouk You saw the Malaysian spin before rejoining the race at the back of the order. You was later handed a 30-second time penalty for the incident putting him 11th in the final standings, while Nandy finished ninth.
Jeffrey Lee had a trouble-free run to the flag, the 2016 Amateur Cup champion taking the Am+ honours and collecting full points. KCMG’s Rick Yoon had a less successful outing following his Am Cup victory in Round 1, forced to retire on the opening lap.
In a field packed with both proven success and fledgling talent, Round 2 illustrated the thrilling intrigue of pitching youth against experience. For Yoong, his undisputed class earned him the win, while Rump successfully resisted one of the region’s most accomplished racing drivers.
Round 2 brought to a close a successful start to the sixth season of the Audi R8 LMS Cup. New innovations such as the return of Push-to-Pass, this time with visible exterior LED counters, and separate qualifying sessions for each race, have been hailed by both drivers and fans.
Next month the Audi R8 LMS Cup 2017 is back in action when it makes its debut at the iconic Suzuka Circuit in Japan. The 5.807km track is home to the Japanese Grand Prix, and is where former Formula One driver Will Stevens will make his Cup debut for Rounds 3 and 4 from June 10 – 11.
Rounds 3 and 4 will be live streamed to Cup fans around the world. To watch the races in English, please go to www.audir8lmscup.com , while the Chinese live stream will be available atwww.audir8lmscup.com/cn.
Quotes after Round 2:
Alex Yoong (Audi R8 LMS Cup)
“I’m thrilled to have taken the win. Lots of friends and family came out, so it’s very special and nice to repay their support. I struggled a little bit yesterday but the car was better today. I knew I had to get Alessio off the start because I knew he’d be very fast, even with 50kg. So once I’d done that, I just tried to settle down and get into a rhythm, which was also a little tricky and took me a little longer than usual. I think we still have to understand how to the most out of the new tyres.”
Alessio Picariello (MGT by Absolute)
“My team did such a great job all weekend long, they worked so hard. With the ballast, I was expecting to struggle at the start, and that was the case. Alex got the better start and was just stronger than me, but I could keep up with him. The goal was a podium, so P2 is a great result.”
Mitch Gilbert (OD Racing Team)
“Yesterday was tough, so with all our Malaysian support, it was important to be on the podium here. I got a good start, but Alex and Alessio had a bit of an edge over me, which was a bit annoying! Alessio and I work well together at Absolute Racing, who are my service team, and I’ve learned a lot from him. I think Absolute Racing has a bit of an edge, but I’m sure the other teams will catch up quickly.”
Jeffrey Lee (Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan)
“It was a nice weekend and I managed to keep up with the pros.”
Round 2 – Results
1. 1/Alex YOONG(MAS)/Audi R8 LMS Cup/26:53.686 (13 laps)
2. 15/Alessio PICARIELLO(BEL)/MGT by Absolute/+1.275
3. 86/Mitch GILBERT(MAS)/OD Racing Team/+4.989
4. 31/CHENG Congfu (CHN)/FAW-VW Audi Racing Team/+7.170
5. 18/Martin RUMP(EST)/Champion Racing Team/+8.303
6. 88/Marchy LEE(HKG)/Audi Hong Kong/+10.851
7. 8/Shaun THONG Wei Fung(HKG)/Audi TEDA Racing Team/+14.664
8. 11/Stéphane RICHELMI(MCO)/G/Castrol Racing Team/+15.258
9. 29/Akash NANDY(MAS)/KCMG/+21.436
10. 7/Jeffrey LEE(TWN)/Am+/Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan/+34.645
11. 13/Kyong-Ouk YOU(KOR)/Team Audi Korea/+50.215
DNF. 77/Rick YOON(HKG)/Am/KCMG
Fastest Lap: Alessio PICARIELLO/2:02.826/lap 2
Am = Amateur Cup competitor
Am+ = Amateur+ Cup competitor
G = Guest driver
Overall classification after Round 2 – Top 10
1. Alessio PICARIELLO – 45
2. Alex YOONG – 31
3. Martin RUMP – 28
4. CHENG Congfu – 24
5. Shaun THONG Wei Fung – 21
6. Marchy LEE – 18
7. Mitch GILBERT – 15
8. Akash NANDY – 12
9. Kyong-Ouk YOU – 5
10. Rick YOON – 2
Am+ Cup classification
1.Jeffrey LEE – 27
Am Cup classification
1.Rick YOON – 27
Team classification after Round 2 – Top 10
1. MGT by Absolute – 45
2. Audi R8 LMS Cup – 31
3. Champion Racing Team – 28
4. FAW-VW Audi Racing Team – 24
5. Audi TEDA Racing Team – 21
6. Audi Hong Kong Team – 18
7. OD Racing Team – 15
8. KCMG – 12
9. Team Audi Korea – 5
10. Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan – 2