The stakes are high as the Audi R8 LMS Cup thunders towards the Korea International Circuit for its mid-season double header this weekend. Alessio Picariello of MGT by Absolute leads the championship after four rounds of action so far this season with two race wins and two second place finishes.
The intriguing battle between the established stars and up-and-coming youngsters which has been the signature of the season looks set to intensify. In the four rounds so far this season three different drivers have tasted victory, while seven have visited the overall podium after four races, demonstrating the depth of talent in the international field.
“The Korea International Circuit’s unique layout with the longest straight on the Cup calendar and a tight final sector has provided some great racing in the three years the Cup has raced there,” commented Mark Turner, Audi R8 LMS Cup Series Manager. “Entering the mid-point of the season the drivers behind championship-leader Alessio Picariello will be pushing hard to narrow the points gap before the season closes out with four races in China.”
While 23-year-old championship leader Alessio Picariello built on his points advantage at Japan’s legendary Suzuka Circuit last month with a Round 3 win, FAW-VW Audi Racing Team’s Cheng Congfu of China was the star of the show in Round 4, sweeping to his first victory of the season on one of the most difficult race tracks on earth.
Many of the drivers have been busy since the Cup’s Suzuka debut in June. Malaysian-born Australian Mitch Gilbert of OD Racing Team arrives in Korea in scorching form after a podium in the Blancpain GT Series Asia Suzuka weekend. He sits third on the Cup leaderboard ahead of Champion Racing Team’s Martin Rump, fresh from his victorious China GT Championship debut in Zhuhai last weekend.
Audi TEDA Racing Team’s Shaun Thong, 21, is another driver who has been making waves around Asia in the last month, taking victory in Round 5 of the Blancpain GT Series Asia at Suzuka with Phoenix Racing Asia teammate Marchy Lee of Audi Hong Kong.
Triple and reigning Cup champion Alex Yoong in the Audi R8 LMS Cup entry will be due for a change in fortunes in Korea having suffered more than his fair share of ill luck since his win in Round 2. Monegasque driver Stéphane Richelmi is back at the wheel of the Castrol Racing Team WRT-run car and will be one to watch after his podium finish in Suzuka.
Looking to make their mark on home turf this weekend will be the two Korean drivers; Cup regular Kyong-Ouk You of Team Audi Korea and Andrew Kim, standing in for Marchy Lee at Audi Hong Kong. You is 10th on the overall leaderboard after an eventful start to the season, while Kim returns to the Cup after a two-year absence and will compete in the Am+ class.
Jeffrey Lee of Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan leads the Am+ championship ahead of Cup newcomer David Chen of China, who impressed on his debut in Japan with a class win in Round 4. Anthony Liu returns to the Cup for Korea with Absolute Racing after taking a convincing Round 3 Am+ victory in Suzuka.
Thailand’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi, who topped the amateur class podium in both races in Suzuka, leads the Am Cup category in his Singha Plan-B Motorsport entry.
Round 5 will see Cheng start with 50kg of race success ballast, courtesy of his Suzuka win, while Picariello carries 35kg and Gilbert 20kg. The Push to Pass turbo boosts will add to the excitement at a circuit with one of the longest straights in Asia.
Round 5 gets underway on Saturday, July 15 at 14:45, while Round 6 will start at 12:45 on Sunday (all times UTC+9).
Both races will be available on live stream 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 at www.audir8lmscup.com/cn