Audi customer teams and drivers came away from the opening rounds of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series Asia with an impressive trophy haul, having made their mark amongst the competitive, international field. After the double-header in which six Audi R8 LMS GT3s lined up on the grid, Absolute Racing’s Pro/Am duo of Anthony Liu and Josh Burdon sit second in the GT3 championship after finishing second overall in round two and sixth in round one.
Burdon had caught the eye earlier on his GT3 debut race weekend after clocking the fastest lap time in qualifying with a lightning 2:02.495 at the 5.452 kilometre Sepang International Circuit.
Recently-announced Audi Sport customer racing Asia driver pool members Martin Rump and Cheng Congfu of Absolute Racing lead the Silver Cup, while back-to-back victories by KCMG’s Naoto Takeda and Takuya Shirasaka of Japan see them top the Am standings.
“It’s been a solid start to the season for the Audi customer teams and drivers,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “The field is the most competitive in Asian GT racing. The teams still have some work to do, but this weekend’s results have laid the foundations for their campaigns ahead. Congratulations to our podium finishers.”
When the lights went green on round one, Aditya Patel of OD Racing Team WRT made an eye-catching move, taking the outside line at turn one to avoid the mayhem in the field to go fourth from a sixth-place grid position.
The Indian star, runner-up alongside teammate Mitch Gilbert in the series last year, moved up to third on lap six, showing impressive race pace in the Audi R8 LMS GT3. However, his early promise came to a premature end when a technical issue forced Patel into the pits on lap seven and out of the race.
At that stage it seemed that fortune was not on the side of the four rings, with the hopes of Absolute Racing’s Andrew Kim also ending early after he was bumped by a competitor on the opening lap, putting teammate Adderly Fong’s series debut on ice until race two.
Amid the early race chaos, Liu and Burdon deftly steered clear of trouble, finishing as the highest Audi R8 LMS GT3 pairing. The newly formed driver duo crossed the line sixth overall, second in the Pro/Am class, marking a strong debut for Burdon and an impressive showing for his Chinese teammate after they worked their way forward from a starting position of eighth.
Alex Yoong and Lim Keong Wee in the Phoenix Racing Asia entry had started 15th and recovered on home soil to bring the car home 12th overall, fifth in the Pro/Am class.
Elsewhere, Takeda and Shirasaka were imperious, taking the Am Cup class victory for KCMG by a whopping margin of over 26 seconds.
In round two, Liu and Burdon started from pole position, courtesy of Burdon’s scorching qualifying lap.
Burdon dropped a place at the start, slotting into second after the first corner. The young Australian fought well to hold off further challenges to stretch a gap from the third placed runner. After the driver change, Liu put in another strong stint to keep the car clear of challengers to cross the line untroubled in second.
Rump and Cheng had lined up on the second row, with Rump starting the race. However, the Estonian got caught up in the action in the start melee and had fallen back down the order to 13th by the end of the opening lap. Unperturbed, the 22-year-old showed his class with a glorious charge through the field to sixth, before handing the reins over to Cheng.
It was then the Chinese ace’s turn to continue the team’s pursuit of a podium finish, only to narrowly miss out at the flag after moving up to fourth in the closing stages of the 60-minute race.
In Absolute Racing’s third entry, Kim took over from Fong to finish the race eighth, fifth in Pro/Am, with Patel, having taken over from Gilbert securing OD Racing Team WRT a top-10 finish. Lim took over from Yoong in the Phoenix Racing Asia entry and brought the car home in 13th position, seventh in the Pro/Am class.
The pairing of Naoto Takeda and Takuya Shirasaka of KCMG were once more dominant with a lights-to-flag Am Cup win, finishing more than one lap ahead of their nearest category rival.
The Blancpain GT Series Asia continues with rounds three and four at Thailand’s Buriram International Circuit from May 11-13.
Blancpain GT Series Asia
6. #37/Pro/Am/Absolute Racing/Anthony LIU (CHN)/Josh BURDON (AUS)
8. #3/SC/Absolute Racing/Martin RUMP (EST)/CHENG Congfu (CHN)
12. #5/Pro/Am/Phoenix Racing Asia/Keong Wee LIM(MAL)/Alex YOONG(MAL)
14. #45/Am/KCMG/Naoto TAKEDA (JPN)/Takuya SHIRASAKA (JPN)
DNF #86/SC/OD Racing Team WRT/Aditya PATEL (IND)/Michel GILBERT (MAL)
DNF #7/Pro/Am/Absolute Racing/Andrew KIM (KOR)/Adderly FONG (HKG)
2. #37/Pro/Am/Absolute Racing/Anthony LIU (CHN)/Josh BURDON (AUS)
4. #3/SC/Absolute Racing/Martin RUMP (EST)/CHENG Congfu (CHN)
8. #7/Pro/Am/Andrew KIM (KOR)/Adderly FONG (HKG)
10. #86/SC/OD Racing Team WRT/Aditya PATEL (IND)/Mitch GILBERT (MAL)
13. #5/Pro/Am/Phoenix Racing Asia/Keong Wee LIM (MAL)/Alex YOONG (MAL)
16. #45/Am/KCMG/Naoto TAKEDA (JPN)/Takuya SHIRASAKA (JPN)