In the shared double-header season finale weekend of the Blancpain GT Series Asia and China GT Championship at China’s 3.139km Zhejiang International Circuit, Audi customer teams and drivers took all four GT3 wins.
In Blancpain GT Series Asia, an heroic performance by Mitch Gilbert and Aditya Patel saw the Absolute Racing-serviced OD Racing Team drivers close to within a single point of winning the inaugural series title, the duo becoming the first double-winners of the season in Rounds 11 and 12. Marchy Lee and Shaun Thong clinched the Blancpain GT Series Asia Silver Cup in the rain-soaked season finale. The class win offset, somewhat, the Phoenix Racing Asia-serviced Audi Hong Kong pair’s disappointment at missing out on the overall GT3 title after coming into the weekend as series leaders and ultimately finishing third overall.
The race to become the first Blancpain GT Series Asia champion was closely fought all season, with Gilbert and Patel finishing second (160 points) just two points ahead of Lee and Thong, who were third (158 points). In the Pro/Am championship, Alex Yoong and Alex Au of Team Audi R8 LMS Cup finished second overall on 147 points, just one point ahead of third-placed Jeffrey Lee of J-Fly by Absolute Racing, who finished on 146.
Xu Jia secured the China GT Championship title with a Round 11 win and third place in Round 12 alongside teammate Dries Vanthoor, with their team, Kings Racing, also winning the Team championship.
Xu Jia’s weekend points haul sees him finish on 189 points, 14 clear of his nearest challengers. Wang Liang was fourth overall on 162 points with Martin Rump fifth on 160 after the Kings Racing pair finished fourth in Round 11 and won Round 12.
“Congratulations to all of our Audi drivers and teams in both the Blancpain GT Series Asia and the China GT Championship,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “This season we have seen more Audis competing across the region than ever before.”
Blancpain GT Series Asia
Patel and Gilbert ensured they stayed right in the championship title mix with a superb victory in the penultimate race of the season, while Lee and Thong fought hard to retain their points advantage to lead the charge going into the final round.
On a wet track, the hour-long Round 11 started behind the safety car, which was quickly called out again after an incident shortly after the start. Patel, starting from second, immediately came under attack once racing resumed. He shook off his rival and made a courageous move in the testing conditions to claim the race lead. Lee, meanwhile, was on maximum attack further back having qualified seventh. The Hong Kong ace had climbed to fifth in the order when the pit window opened and maximised the clear track advantage to power the Audi R8 LMS GT3 to third when Thong took the wheel.
Four Audis were on the move after the pit stop, with Cheng Congfu, Alex Yoong, Rump and 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup champion Alessio Picariello all climbing up the order. However, Yoong and teammate Alex Au took a blow when they were handed a one-second drive through penalty for a pit stop infringement.
Gilbert took the flag for OD Racing Team, crossing the line more than 5.6 seconds clear of his rival, with the Audi Hong Kong pair of Lee and Thong fourth, winning the 2017 Silver Cup in the process. Cheng’s blinder of a charge after taking over from teammate Sun Jingzu saw Milestone Racing finish sixth ahead of the J-Fly by Absolute Racing pair of Jeffrey Lee and Picariello, and Rump and Rick Yoon of KCMG by Champion Racing.
Round 12 saw an Audi lock-out of the first two rows of grid with OD Racing Team on pole, KCMG by Champion Racing alongside, and J-Fly by Absolute and Milestone Racing behind. Lee and Thong lined up eighth on the grid for the final, championship-deciding race of the season with a single point advantage at the top of the tables.
With the wet conditions continuing, the field was once again led away by the safety car. As the pack was released onto a treacherously tricky track with minimal visibility, an error by Gilbert into turn one saw him forfeit the race lead to Rump, who set about pulling a gap. Further back, a rival made contact with Thong after the young Hong Kong ace had moved into seventh, nosing him into a spin and dropping him down to 12th and out of the points.
At the driver changeover, Audis held the top three positions with Rump leading from Gilbert and Picariello, while Yoong had climbed to fifth, Cheng in seventh and Thong up to 10th in the order.
Patel, taking over from Gilbert, quickly closed in on Yoon, who had taken the reins from Rump, snatching the race lead after the amateur driver made an error and spun, putting OD Racing firmly in championship contention. Lee took the wheel from Thong and set about throwing all he could into their title hopes, quickly climbing to sixth in the order. However, neither the race win by OD Racing Team nor Lee’s monumental push was enough to take the championship. After Rump’s strong opening stint, Yoon put in an impressive effort to take third and a season-closing podium for KCMG by Champion Racing.
Having arrived in Zhejiang 15 points behind in the title chase, Gilbert and Patel had closed the gap to a single agonising point and become the first team to win both races in a Blancpain GT Series Asia weekend.
China GT Championship
Xu lost his pole advantage at the start of Round 11 almost immediately, giving Wang the lead in the sister Kings Racing entry. Xu recovered quickly, regaining the lead and pushing hard to pull a gap.
While Xu handed the car over to Vanthoor in the lead at the changeover, an additional four-second pit stop penalty due to series regulations regarding driver classifications, saw the Belgian rejoin second on track. Vanthoor quickly reclaimed the lead though and, despite briefly dropping to second before a safety car period closed up the pack, he thundered to the flag and the race win. Rump did well to power up to fourth after taking over from Wang, challenging for the final podium spot but ultimately running out of time.
Yang Yuan, in the third King Racing entry brought his car over the line in sixth in the GT3 race.
Having to fight all the way to the final race of the season, Xu started in second needing to finish in fifth or higher to secure the championship. Wang was just behind in third with the race starting behind the safety car due to the worsening conditions.
Rump, taking over from Wang, emerged from the pit lane in overall race lead – a position he wasn’t to give up, powering to his third victory of the season.
Vanthoor, serving the longer pit stop after taking over from Xu, emerged just behind the sister Kings Racing entry in second. The young Belgian brought the car home safely in third place, continuing his podium run in China that began at the Audi R8 LMS Cup’s Shanghai rounds, to secure the title for his partner and team principle, Xu.
2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia
1. 86/Aditya Patel/Mitch Gilbert/OD Racing Team/1:00:03.329
4. 5/Marchy Lee/Shaun Thong/Audi Hong Kong/+12.433
6. 13/Sun Jingzu/Franky Cheng/Milestone Racing/+16.366
7. 7/Jeffrey Lee/Alessio Picariello/J-Fly by Absolute Racing/+16.734
8. 18/Rick Yoon/Martin Rump/KCMG by Champion Racing/+18.645
11. 6/Alex Au/Alex Yoong/Audi R8 LMS Cup/+34.349
13. 16/Kim Keong Wee/Melvin Moh/Phoenix Racing Asia/+49.057
1. 86/Aditya Patel/Mitch Gilbert/OD Racing Team/1:00:32.093
3. 18/Rick Yoon/Martin Rump/KCMG by Champion Racing/+15.068
6. 5/Marchy Lee/Shaun Thong/Audi Hong Kong/+36.248
8. 6/Alex Au/Alex Yoong/Audi R8 LMS Cup/+01:00.5
10. 7/Jeffrey Lee/Alessio Picariello/J-Fly by Absolute Racing/+ 1 Lap
12. 13/Sun Jingzu/Franky Cheng/Milestone Racing/+ 1 Lap
13. 16/Kim Keong Wee/Melvin Moh/Phoenix Racing Asia/+ 1 Lap
Final Blancpain GT Series Asia
2. Mitch Gilbert/Aditya Patel
3. Marchy Lee/Shaun Thong
9. Alex Au/Alex Yoong
11. Jeffrey Lee
12. Alessio Picariello
2017 China GT Championship
1. 7/Xu Jia/Dries Vanthoor/Kings Racing/1:01:28.326
4. 8/Wang Liang/Martin Rump/Kings Racing +9.355
6. 55/Yang Yuan/Kings Racing +1 lap
1. 8/Wang Liang/Martin Rump/Kings Racing/1:01:24.965
3. 7/Xu Jia/Dries Vanthoor/Kings Racing/+18.026
6. 55/Yang Yuan/Kings Racing +2 laps
Final China GT Championship
Audi standings (Top 5)
1. Xu Jia
4. Wang Liang
5. Martin Rump