Scores of fans flocked to the 4.01km Ningbo International Speedpark for the final day of the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup debut, where Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi took a dominant victory in round six of the championship. The Thai driver snatched the lead from pole-sitter Andrew Haryanto of ProMax Team in the early stages of the 16-lap race, putting himself more than 11 seconds ahead of the Indonesian, who crossed the line in second.
The final podium place went to Yasser Shahin in The Bend Motorsport Park Audi R8 LMS GT3, the Australian once again forced to fight his way back from an early race setback.
“The Ningbo International Speedpark has proven to be the perfect battleground for the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup’s privateer field,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “The championship is on a knife-edge as is the race for the third seat on our 2019 24 Hours of Spa team ahead of our upcoming double-header in Shanghai.”
The weekend double-header saw Haryanto’s points advantage in the battle for the 2018 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup championship title reduced to just six points with the Indonesian on 105 points and Bhirombhakdi on 99. Very much in the title race, Shahin lies third on 73 and round five winner Sun Jingzu of Absolute Racing is just eight points behind him on 65. Cup star Jeffrey Lee (35 points) of Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan is fifth in the GT3 standings, 30 points adrift of Sun.
Absolute Racing’s Anderson Tanoto took his second GT4 Cup victory of the season in round six, propelling up to the top of the category leaderboard (67 points). Chinese singer and movie star Han Geng (36 points) sits fourth in the class after his Cup debut.
Cup newcomer Jeffrey Zee took home GTC honours once more in round six in the Spirit Z Racing Team Audi R8 LMS Cup car.
The race for the Road to Spa seat from the China rounds remains wide open and will be decided next month in Shanghai, with the highest combined GT3 points scorer from rounds five to eight joining Haryanto and Bhirombhakdi on the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup team for the 2019 24 Hours of Spa. Sun is currently in pole position to claim it with 37 points scored in China thus far, but Shahin is just a whisker behind on 33 and Jeffrey Lee placed third (22 points).
Round six report
Having secured pole in the final lap of the morning qualifying session and carrying 10kg of success ballast from his third place in round five, Haryanto led the field away as the lights went out for the final time this weekend. Right off the start though, Bhurit was on a charge from the second row, audaciously diving down the inside of Shahin and setting off on the hunt for Haryanto. The gritty Indonesian managed to hold his equally-determined Thai rival at bay, firmly closing the door on any attempts to pass.
Meanwhile, Sun, who had started on the second row alongside Bhirombhakdi, had lost a place at the start to Lee, who was tackling the tricky 22-turns with lightning speed. Lee had closed right up to Shahin in third when disaster struck, an attempt to dive up the inside of Shahin saw contact made, dropping the Australian down the order to fifth behind Sun. Lee was handed a drive-through penalty for the incident.
Up at the front, Bhirombhakdi had sliced through Haryanto’s advantage, looming large in his mirrors and snatching the lead. From there the Thai pounded out a series of fastest laps to pull clear of all challengers and sail to the flag taking the Pirelli best lap trophy in the process.
Thanks to the incident with Lee, Shahin had it all to do again, first making his way past Sun on lap five, then homing in on Lee in third, diving by three laps later and into podium contention. Lee had no answer for the flying Shahin and was also passed by Sun before the flag, crossing the line in fifth. Absolute Racing’s Yang Xi of China was sixth, making up for the disappointment of a round five retirement, ahead of GTC Cup driver Jeffrey Zee of Spirit Z Racing Team. Tian Li Ying of Absolute Racing was eighth on his Cup debut, ahead of GT4 drivers Tanoto and Han.
The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup resumes next month, with rounds seven and eight at the Shanghai International Circuit on October 5-6, followed by the invitational SIC888 endurance race on October 7. Drivers who enter the 888km endurance race will earn 10 Cup points towards their respective championship campaigns.
The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup is operated by Audi Sport customer racing Asia.
Quotes after round six:
Bhurit Bhirombhakdi (Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing) – winner GT3
“Yesterday wasn’t my day, but today was! Yesterday I was carrying 50kg success ballast, which made it very hard to drive. It was very difficult for me, so today made a big difference.”
Andrew Haryanto (ProMax Team) – 2nd GT3
“Congratulations to Bhurit, Yasser and Anderson. They all drove a very good race, especially Bhurit – when a tornado’s behind you with so much turbulence you can’t do anything. In terms of the championship, it’s going to be tough but we’re going to just try our best to fight cleanly to the end.”
Yasser Shahin (The Bend Motorsport Park) – 3rd GT3
“I always feel you need a lot to go right to win a race. And hats off to the guys who drove a great race. Unfortunately, I got hit yesterday and again today. But I’m happy to be here.”
Anderson Tanoto (Absolute Racing) – winner GT4 Cup
“First and foremost congratulations to the gentlemen in GT3. It was a very tough race for me today, much tougher than yesterday actually. I managed to drive very smoothly to get pole again and the podium. It wasn’t easy, but I believe a well-earned victory. I think the circuit doesn’t get as much credit as it should. The circuit is brand-new. The first section is very wide and very open. The second section tightens up with a number of chicanes, and the third section is very technical. I think the track has a lot of potential. It’s good to be back!”
Round six results
1.59/Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI(THA)/GT3/Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing/31:12.176
2.28/Andrew HARYANTO(INA)/GT3/ProMax Team/+11.589
3.74/Yasser SHAHIN(AUS)/GT3/Absolute Racing/+12.466
4.13/SUN Jingzu(CHN)/GT3/Absolute Racing/+19.653
5.7/Jeffrey LEE(TPE)/GT3/Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan/+1:29.347
6.3/YANG Xi(CHN)/GT3/Absolute Racing/1:40.459
7.98/Jeffrey ZEE(CHN)/Cup/Spirit Z Racing Team/+1:49.902
8.5/TIAN Li Ying(CHN)/Absolute Racing/+1 lap
9.89/Anderson TANOTO(INA)/GT4/Absolute Racing/+2 laps
10.9/HAN Geng(CHN)/GT4/Hard Memory Hero Super Car Team/+ 2 laps
Fastest lap: Bhurit Bhirombhakdi/Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing/1:46.743/123.373kph
GT3 = GT3 Driver (either Ultra or New R8)
GT4= GT4 Driver
Cup = 2015 Cup Specification
Audi Sport R8 LMS GT3 Cup overall classification after round six (Top 10)
1. Andrew HARYANTO/105
2. Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI/99
3. Yasser SHAHIN/73
4. SUN Jingzu/65
5. Jeffrey LEE/35
6. Theo KOUNDOURIS/30
7. Carsten TILKE/30
8. Tony BATES/26
9. YANG Xi/20
10. Dirg PARHOFER/16
Audi Sport R8 LMS GT4 Cup overall classification after round six (Top five)
1. Anderson TANOTO/67
2. Stefan WIENINGER/51
3. Carlos CHECA/37
4. HAN Geng/36
5. Jean-Luc WEIDT/25