Audi Sport customer team Phoenix Racing Asia took a pair of Audi R8 LMS GT3s to second and third place overall in Japan’s first 24-hour race in a decade, held at the Fuji International Speedway. Keong Wee Lim, Marchy Lee, Melvin Moh and Max Hofer recorded a superb second place, followed over the line by the #81 J-Fly Racing by Phoenix Racing Asia car of Jeffrey Lee, André Couto, Shintaro Kawabata and reigning Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup champion Alessio Picariello.
“We saw an intense Fuji 24 Hour race with lots of ups and downs for the Audi Sport customer entries,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “Phoenix Racing Asia, as well as the individual drivers, took the challenges on and always kept their spirits high. The double-podium is just reward for their dedicated performance.”
In the ST-TCR class, team Car Factory took the victory with an Audi RS 3 LMS, with Team BRP claiming a second podium for the car in third.
In the China GT Championship, Audi R8 LMS GT3s led for most of the hour-long GT3 round four at Zhejiang International Circuit, with the KINGS pair of Xu Jia and Mitch Gilbert taking second place ahead of Tianshi Racing Team’s (TSRT) David Chen and Michael Choy in the provisional results. Defending champion Xu now sits second in the provisional GT3 standings on 68 points – just five points off the lead – with Chen and Choy third on 66 points.
Meanwhile, at the GT Asia Series/Thailand Super Series round four at Thailand’s Chang International Circuit, an eye-catching comeback drive from Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi and Kantasak Kusiri saw them snatch third in the dying stages of the race. Adderly Fong also charged through the field to secure fourth with EN Sport by Absolute Racing teammate Vincent Floirendo, while Absolute Racing’s Cheng Congfu and Sun Jingzu were fifth.
It was heartbreak, though, for B-Quik Racing, whose race ended in the pits during the driver changeover. An early shunt from a competitor had seen Daniel Bilski charge back from 20th to 13th, only for the damage sustained in that contact to curtail Audi Sport factory driver Rahel Frey’s hopes of continuing the fightback.
Super Taikyu Series – Fuji Super TEC 24 Hours
As the lights went green at the rolling start, the three Phoenix Racing Asia Audi R8 LMS GT3s and the four Audi RS 3 LMS in the ST-TCR class, set off on the longest race in Super Taikyu Series history.
Unfortunately, an early blow came just 30 minutes in when Phoenix Racing Asia’s #82 Audi was involved in an incident with another car. The resulting damage was so extensive it put the car out of the race, dashing the hopes of Alex Yoong, Shaun Thong, Alex Au and Philip Ellis.
After six hours and as fireworks lit up the night sky, the #83 of Lim, Lee, Moh and Hofer was running third, followed by the #81 sister car of Lee, Couto, Kawabata and Picariello. Hunting down the race leaders, Hofer took the wheel of the #83, pushing hard in what was a grueling night stint to move up to second overall.
At the half-way point, and following a lengthy red flag stoppage, Hofer was back in the #83, setting a fastest lap in his bid for the win while the #81, in the hands of Picariello, was up to third.
As the sun rose over Mount Fuji, Phoenix Racing Asia was in the lead, the #83 Audi heading the field with six hours remaining. The #81 sister car remained in podium contention in third. Plenty more drama was to come though, and damage sustained by #83 after contact with another car was fixed quickly, but the time spent in the pits meant they forfeited the race lead. With four hours to go, the #81 had dropped to P5, while the #83 remained second in the order.
As the hours ticked down to minutes, there was no let-up as the two Phoenix Racing Asia crews pushed on, Picariello taking the #81 up to third behind the sister car. After more than 750 laps of the Fuji International Speedway, the Phoenix Racing Asia #83 Audi R8 LMS GT3 crossed the line second overall followed by the #81 Audi to claim an unforgettable double podium for the team.
The #75 Car Factory ST-TCR entry led from start to finish, recording their first series victory in their Audi RS 3 LMS.
The 2018 Super Taikyu Series continues July 14 and 15 at Japan’s picturesque mountain-top Autopolis circuit.
China GT Championship
GT3 round four report
The GT3 round four of China GT Championship was a white-knuckle thriller from start to finish, with Audi R8 LMS GT3s leading for most of the race. The KINGS team of Xu and Gilbert took second and TSRT’s Chen and Choy third after 39 unrelenting laps.
Xu, carrying 50kg success ballast, initially got away well but then ran wide and dropped down the order to fourth. The start saw the grid positions turned upside down with the ballast-free Billy Lo of TSRT, who had started from the third row, up to second ahead of Team KINGS’ Wang Liang, Xu and Michael Choy as the four Audi Sport customers headed off on the hunt for the lead.
Xu wasted no time recovering, snatching the lead on lap eight. While Xu pulled away at the front of the pack, behind him Lo and Wang were pushing hard. However, 15 minutes in, a big spin by Lo saw him stranded on the grass, Choy was forced to take evasive action and Wang was also involved in the incident. Lo managed to free his car and rejoin, but he was a lap behind the leader.
Next it was Wang’s turn to fall foul of the tricky 3.2km Zhejiang track, the Chinese driver ending his race in the barrier on lap 14 and bringing out the safety car. That saw Xu’s massive advantage evaporate into thin air. As the pit window opened the safety car continued to circulate and, as the drivers emerged, TSRT’s Chen, taking over from Choy, was the man challenging for the race lead, with Gilbert, who had taken the wheel from Xu, in fourth.
Chen stormed into the lead and, as Xu had before him, began pulling away at the front of the pack, with Gilbert up to third. With just eight minutes remaining though, a strong challenge on Chen saw him forfeit the lead, and moments later Gilbert stormed past him and up to second. Although Chen chased Gilbert all the way to the flag, he had to settle for third place.
Max Wiser, having taken over from Lo, brought the TSRT Audi R8 LMS ultra home in fifth.
GT4 round four report
It was never going to be easy for the #19 Audi R8 LMS GT4 Pro-Am pairing of Naomi Zhang and Martin Rump. Carrying the maximum 50kg of success ballast thanks to their resounding victory in round three, Zhang lined up in pole position for the second hour-long race of the weekend.
As the lights went green at the rolling start, Zhang was embroiled in the early race chaos, dropping down to eighth. Rump took the wheel at the halfway mark and was able to make up two places before the flag to cross the line in sixth.
The China GT Championship continues on July 6 to 8 at the Audi Goldenport Motorpark in Beijing.
GT Asia Series/Thailand Super Series
Round four report
It was a tough opening stint for all four of the Audi entries at the humid Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand.
Sun Jingzu, starting in fourth, fell to seventh early on, but recovered well to hand the Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 over to Cheng Congfu in sixth.
Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi had started in sixth after receiving a two-place grid penalty following Saturday’s round three. The Thai privateer did not get away as he would have liked, falling down the order to be running 13th. Immediately on the attack Bhirombhakdi made a move up the inside, coming into contact with a competitor and falling to the back of the pack.
Bhirombhakdi was hit with a drive-through penalty for the incident, which was served prior to the mid-race driver changeover, where he handed the reins to Kusiri.
Kusiri emerged from the changeover like a man possessed, carving through the field to be running fourth with just two laps to go. It was then that the Thai made his move, lunging up the inside of his opponent to go third and claim Absolute Racing’s second podium of the weekend.
Adderly Fong was another to catch the eye in the second half of the hour-long race. Taking over from Floirendo down the order, Fong charged from 10th to take the flag in fourth position for EN Sport by Absolute Racing.
One place further back was Cheng Congfu. The Chinese ace had taken over from Sun and showed his class to be in the mix for a podium place only for a spinning car ahead of him to throw him wide late in the race.
In the Thailand Super Series GTM+ class, B-Quik Racing’s Daniel Bilski was another to recover from an early setback. The Australian was forced to fight his way through the pack from 20th after being turned around by a competitor. Bilski managed to claw his way back to 13th, but the Audi R8 LMS ultra did not emerge from the mid-race driver change pit stop, with the damage sustained from the earlier contact ending its race.
Next up for the Thailand Super Series are rounds five and six at the Bangsaen Street Race on July 13-15.