Absolute Racing has taken a double-podium at round nine of Blancpain GT Series Asia. Alessio Picariello marked his return to the team by crossing the line second, following a storming run from himself and teammate Anthony Liu at the Shanghai International Circuit. Completing the podium in the sister Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS were Adderly Fong and Andrew Kim. The finishing positions earned the Absolute Racing squads a one-two finish in the Pro/Am class.
Martin Rump and Cheng Congfu had started the race as the highest placed of the six Audi R8 LMS entries in second, and had moved into first heading into the first corner. But the Absolute Racing pair’s lead was in tatters almost as soon as it had been claimed following a hit from the pole-sitting competitor they had passed moments earlier. They eventually crossed the line 16th, out of the points.
Rump and Cheng now sit fifth in the overall championship on 74 points. In the Pro/Am class, Liu’s category win has put him right back in the mix to be fourth in class on 116 points just 15 off the top spot with three races to go.
The runaway leaders of the Am Cup classification, KCMG’s Takuya Shirasaka and Naoto Takeda, have one hand on the class title after their eighth win of the season. The Japanese pair now sit on 180.5 category points, and will claim the title if they finish Sunday’s round 10 without incident.
“Today the Audi customer teams and drivers showed what they are capable of with overall podiums and class victories, mixing it with this talented multi-marque field. It was far from easy. Absolute Racing regrouped strongly to claim their podiums,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “It’s now extremely important that tomorrow is another strong day in order for the Audi teams to stay in the hunt for the series championships.”
In Japan, meanwhile, at the Super Taikyu Series, Phoenix Racing Asia have qualified second and fifth for Sunday’s five hour endurance race at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit. The J-Fly Racing by Phoenix Racing Asia Audi R8 LMS of Jeffrey Lee, André Couto and Shintaro Kawabata will start from the first row, with Phoenix Racing Asia’s Lim Keong Wee, Melvin Moh and Mathias Beche on row three.
Blancpain GT Series Asia round nine report
Cheng Congfu had impressed in qualifying, putting together a lap of 2:06.397 to start from second on the grid. Starting sixth was OD Racing Team WRT’s Mitch Gilbert, with Andrew Kim an eye-catching seventh – the highest qualifying bronze-ranked driver in the 32 car field – and Anthony Liu ninth.
Sun Jingzu, making his first appearance in the series this year, was to start 11th after a strong qualifying. But the Chinese privateer’s Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS did not start the race after a technical issue was discovered just prior the formation lap.
As the lights went green Cheng got away brilliantly to steal the lead heading into turn one. However, midway through the corner, disaster struck for the Audi front-runner, as he was turned around by a hit from behind. The culprit was later hit with a drive-through penalty for the incident.
Cheng rejoined near the rear of the field, and was later hit with a drive-through penalty himself for a separate incident, eventually handing the reins to Rump who took the car home out of the points.
Gilbert, Kim and Liu benefited from the turn one incident with Liu moving through the field to fourth, Gilbert fifth and Kim seventh by the time the safety car was called out on lap three for another incident to calm what was a chaotic start to the race.
Liu pitted just after the window for the enforced driver change opened, with Absolute Racing teammate Picariello emerging in fourth. The ‘Belgian Bullet’ continued Liu’s good work, and was on the power immediately, moving up to third and then second, pulling a gap to take the flag for the Pro/Am category win in his first appearance for Absolute Racing in 2018.
Another man on a mission was Adderly Fong, who emerged from the pit lane in fifth after an excellent stint from an in-form Andrew Kim. Fong continued where his teammate had left off, moving past his competitors over the next few laps and into the final podium position with 10 minutes of the 60 remaining. He took the flag third overall, second in the Pro/Am class.
Further back Aditya Patel, taking over from Gilbert, crossed the line in seventh overall.
For the Am Cup classification leaders, Shirasaka and Takeda, it was an untroubled run to the flag for yet another class win this season, leaving them one race away from the title.