Audi customer teams made it a clean sweep of victories in China this weekend, with four overall wins from four races across GT Masters Asia in Ningbo and the China GT Championship in Beijing. There were wins for Audi customers in all classes entered across the two series, with 14 squads in total bearing the four rings.
In the opening round of GT Masters Asia at the Ningbo International Speedpark, Audi customers made up almost two-thirds of the 19-strong field. Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi and Kantasak Kusiri seized both victories in commanding fashion behind the wheel of an Audi R8 LMS GT3, while a pair of NewFaster Audi RS 3 LMS entries took a win apiece in the 2.0T Open class.
There were GTC class wins too at the 4.015km facility for LEO Racing’s Audi R8 LMS Cup car, with Li Lin and Bai Yaxin topping the class podium in round five before Li Lin repeated the trick, this time solo, in round six.
Meanwhile, as the China GT Championship reached its midway point at Beijing’s Goldenport Motor Park, KINGS unbeaten run this year continued with victories in rounds five and six. First it was Wang Liang and Martin Rump who topped the podium in Saturday’s race, only for Xu Jia and Alessio Picariello to do so ahead of their teammates in Sunday’s round six.
Xu leaves the weekend as he started it, in GT3 championship lead, having extended his advantage at the top to 11 points. Xu sits on 100 points, with teammate Wang’s brace of podiums taking him to second on 89 points.
GT Masters Asia
As the new season of GT Masters Asia stormed off the starting blocks at China’s Ningbo International Speedpark, it was Audi customer team Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing who took the first pole position of the year. The quick Thai pairing of Kantasak Kusiri and Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup star Bhurit Bhirombhakdi topped the qualifying time sheets, setting the scene for what was an Audi-dominated round one GT3 winners’ rostrum.
Bhirombhakdi led the #59 Audi R8 LMS GT3 across the line in first place after 33 laps of the Ningbo International Speedpark ahead of Absolute Racing teammates, Chinese Audi ace Cheng Congfu and Sun Jingzu.
Completing the Audi clean-sweep of the opening race podium were reigning Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup Am+ champion David Chen and Macau’s Billy Lo for the Tianshi Racing Team (TSRT) in their Audi R8 LMS ultra. Starting from third on the grid, the pair were in P2 right up until the last lap when an unlucky puncture dropped them a place in the final run to the flag.
LEO Racing took victory in the GTC class, Bai Yaxin and Li Lin taking the win ahead of the Jingwei Yuguo pair of Xu Lingxiao and Zhang Zhiqiang. TSRT’s all-Chinese line-up of Cao Muhua and Wang Yilu made an impressive debut, just missing out on a GTC podium finish in fourth.
Reigning TCR China Series champions NewFaster made it a one-two finish in the 2.0T Open class in their two Audi RS 3 LMS entries. A brilliant run by Terry Huang and Andy Yan saw them sweep to the class win, an impressive ninth overall amongst the 19-strong, three-class field. Teammate Wang Hao, driving solo, finished second in class.
Billy Lo started the #999 TSRT Audi R8 LMS ultra from pole position, but an unlucky spin early in the race dropped him to the back of the pack. An heroic comeback, first by Lo and then Chen, saw the pair climb up the order to fifth by the flag.
The setback for Lo saw the Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing #59 Audi R8 LMS GT3 elevated to second in the order but, following the mandatory pit stop, the ever-impressive Thai Pro/Am pair of Bhirombhakdi and Kusiri took the lead, leaving their rivals in their dust and powering across the line to take their second GT3 win of the weekend.
Second were Sun and Cheng for Absolute Racing, with TSRT’s Jiang and Wiser fourth ahead of teammates Chen and Lo. Vincent Floirendo and Adderly Fong were sixth for EN Sport by Absolute Racing.
In the GTC class, One Team’s Zhang Yaqi started from pole position but it was LEO Racing’s Li, driving solo in round two, who took the win from Zhang and Xu at Jingwei Yuguo. TSRT’s Cao and Wang in the #777 Audi were fifth in class.
NewFaster continued its impressive performance in the 2.0T Open class, though this time it was the #21 Audi RS 3 LMS of Wang Hao – joined this race by Martin Cao – which took the win. For the NewFaster #81 of Andy Yan and Terry Huang, there was disappointment in race two after a retirement in the dying minutes of the 60-minute sprint.
China GT Championship
In unusually cool temperatures and with clouds gathering ominously overhead, round five kicked off with an all-Audi front row with Xu on pole ahead of Wang. Both got away well when the lights went green.
As a fine rain started to coat the track and the clock ticked towards the 20-minute mark, disaster struck. First Wang spun, dropping down the order to be running fifth, then soon after, Xu came into the pits with a technical issue. He was unable to make it back out, so the lone hopes of an Audi R8 LMS victory rested with Wang and Rump.
They delivered. Wang had fought back, with Rump emerging from the mid-race driver changeover and powering up to third before a safety car was called out with 20 minutes left in the 60-minute race, bunching up the field.
Rump got away well at the restart and moved up to second where he crossed the line. The pair were later promoted to first after their rival was served with a post-race penalty.
With the previous round’s results setting the grid for round six, Xu started second-last, with Wang on pole.
Xu got away superbly and was running fourth before the end of the first lap. It then looked a matter of time until the Chinese privateer would claim the race lead, doing so 10 minutes into the race.
That put Wang into second, where he spun again, dropping to 5th once more. Martin Rump took over and worked his way up to third to claim the pair’s second podium of the weekend.
Out in front, Xu had stretched a lead before handing the reins to Picariello. The reigning Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup champion took over with the bit between his teeth, extending his advantage lap after lap. The Belgian crossed the line an astonishing 1 minute and three seconds ahead of his nearest challenger to put teammate Xu back atop the GT3 leaderboard.