Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing driver Bhurit Bhirombhakdi thundered to his fourth victory of the 2018 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup season, winning round seven at the 5.451km Shanghai International Circuit and soaring to the top of the championship leaderboard with three races remaining. Second was KCMG’s Alex Au, the 2013 Am Cup champion making his presence felt on his return to the series, with ProMax Team’s Andrew Haryanto claiming the final podium place.
Cup newcomer Ryan Liu of China, at the wheel of an Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4, made an impressive debut with a class win from points-leader and teammate, Anderson Tanoto of Indonesia and another series returnee, Hong Kong driver Sam Lok of the 852 Challengers. Tanoto was carrying the full 50kg success ballast having taken both class victories in Ningbo last month.
Finishing fourth in the GT4 Cup were FEA Racing, debuting their new Audi R8 LMS GT4 in the series with Wang Dengjia at the wheel.
Spirit Z Racing’s Jeffrey Zee of China took the GTC Cup win, crossing the line sixth overall and ahead of teammate and fellow countryman Jacky Wu.
In an exciting week for Audi Sport customer racing Asia during China’s traditional national day ‘golden week’ holiday, many of the Cup drivers are also taking part in Sunday’s SIC888, the circuit’s first endurance race. The Audi RS 3 LMS was also out on track in Shanghai with Champ x T.A Motorsport for three rounds of the TCR China Series. Having made their championship debut in Ningbo last week, Felipe de Souza took fifth in race one, while teammate Ryan Wong finished seventh in race two. In the final, 60-minute race, de Souza and Wong teamed up together to take a superb second place finish.
“We saw extremely close racing today in the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup, starting from qualifying when only half a second separated the top six,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “Bhurit Bhirombhakdi took round seven glory and the series lead with an impressive drive, but with a lead of just five points, the title race continues to be wide open.”
After round seven Bhirombhakdi sits atop of the GT3 Cup standings (125 points), having overtaken Cup title rival Haryanto (120 points). The BEND – Motorsport Park’s Yasser Shahin, making his debut on the tricky Shanghai F1 track, lies third on 85 points. Absolute Racing’s Sun Jingzu is fourth in the GT3 Cup on 65 points. Four drivers – Bhirombhakdi, Haryanto, Shahin and Sun remain in GT3 title contention as the title stakes rise ever higher
With three of the four China-rounds of the Cup over, Shahin leads the race for the China Road to Spa seat heading into the final Shanghai race with an eight-point advantage over Sun. The highest points-scorer from the Ningbo and Shanghai rounds will join Haryanto and Bhirombhakdi on the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup team on the 2019 Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Under angry skies as a passing typhoon brought strong winds, the lights went out for the start of the 13-lap race and Haryanto immediately challenged pole-sitter Bhirombhakdi from the second row of the grid, the pair two-abreast in an opening lap thriller.
Behind them, Shahin was another driver away like lightning at the start, rocketing up the order from sixth on the grid and challenging Sun for third. However, Au was on a charge too, making a move up the inside of Shahin at turn six. Shahin ran wide and Au moved up to fourth behind Sun. Next it was Lee to pass Shahin, while up ahead Bhirombhakdi had reeled in Haryanto and reclaimed the lead.
While ‘Thai Tornado’, Bhirombhakdi, was not to relinquish his lead, with a wheel-perfect run to the flag once past his on-track rival and off-track friend Haryanto, Au was intent on making his mark on his Cup return. Fastest man on track, Au swept past Sun before the Chinese driver made an error, spinning and dropping down the order to sixth behind Shahin.
As Bhirombhakdi fought to pull out an advantage from the chasing pack, Au had homed in on Haryanto, flying past and up to second.
Sun, meanwhile, was recovering well from his spin, challenging Lee for fifth. Locking doors, their fierce rivalry reignited, it was Sun who lost this particular battle, retiring shortly after the contact with damage to his car.
With eight laps remaining, Au was flying – as he put it, “pushing like a madman to the end” – but couldn’t catch the more consistent Thai up ahead. Despite having a margin of more than a second, Bhirombhakdi would sense the oncoming challenge and upped his pace, taking the flag by more than half a second from the Hong Kong driver.
Fourth in the GT4 class behind Liu, Tanoto and Lok was Cup newcomer Wang Dengjia, sharing driving duties at FEA Racing with Sheng Yan Wen, who will take the wheel for round eight.
It was disappointment for Cup newcomer Bao Jinlong of Absolute Racing. The Porsche Carrera Cup Asia 2018 Pro-Am leader had impressed on his debut after qualifying fifth for both rounds seven and eight. Technical issues prevented the talented Chinese driver from taking the start in round seven, but all eyes will be on him for the final race of the Shanghai weekend.
Round eight of the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup begins at 13:15 local time on Saturday, October 6, with Au starting from pole, Sun alongside and Haryanto and Shahin making up the second row. The race will be live streamed on the Cup’s website and Facebook page along with Chinese portals PPTV, Youku, LeSports and more, with coverage starting at 13:00 (all times UTC +8)
Quotes after round seven:
Bhurit Bhirombhakti (Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing) – Round seven GT3 winner
“The start wasn’t that great as Haryanto got in front of me, but I tried to manage it and get in front of him back and keep my distance. This track is very difficult. You can’t push that much. If you push, you ruin the whole lap so you have to be very gentle with the car. I feel great to be leading the championship.”
Alex Au (KCMG) – Round seven GT3 2nd
“Qualifying one didn’t go as planned. It took me a while to get used to this car again. I’ve been driving Audi GT3, but the specification is open, with different springs, different dampers and all that in the Cup.
“In Q2, I did a good lap, so I was confident I could make up some places in this race, and I did. I was quite close to a couple of cars a couple of times, so I’m very glad there were no incidents. Sun Jingzu was very big in the mirrors a couple of times, so I’m thankful I didn’t get taken out. When I passed Andrew, I’m sorry I crashed the little party here and took some points out of his championship. I’ll try and return the favour tomorrow by winning and taking some points off Bhurit!”
Andrew Haryanto (ProMax Team) – Round seven GT3 3rd
“I really admire Bhurit – he made no mistakes at all out front. It was a really good race for him. On the second lap, I lost it a bit at the parabolica so that’s where Bhurit gained momentum. Then I saw Alex catching up really fast, and I thought ‘let him catch Bhurit’. But the ‘Tornado’ was really fast, so it didn’t work out as planned today.”
Ryan Liu (Absolute Racing) – Round seven GT4 winner
“Mostly I took this race as an opportunity to learn more about this GT4 car. I think it’s a great car. At the beginning of the race, I was looking for some challenges – be more aggressive, play with some GT3 and Cup cars. Overall, I had a really great experience.
“I think for round eight, I will keep the same strategy; have some fun at the beginning, then keep consistent in the middle and the end of the race. It’s a really good car – I like to drive it. I’ve driven some other GT4 cars, but I think the Audi is definitely the best.”
Round seven results
1.59/Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI(THA)/GT3/Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing/27:53.888
3.28/Andrew HARYANTO(INA)/GT3/ProMax Team/+8.925
4.74/Yasser SHAHIN(AUS)/GT3/The BEND – Motorsport Park/+17.749
5.7/Jeffrey LEE(TPE)/GT3/Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan/+29.914
6.98/Jeffrey ZEE(CHN)/Cup/Sprit Z Racing/+1:22.421
7.97/Jacky WU(CHN)/Cup/Spirit Z Racing/+1:51.294
8.666/Ryan LIU Zexuan(CHN)/GT4/Absolute Racing/+2:14.841
9.89/Anderson TANOTO(INA)/GT4/Absolute Racing+1 lap
10.36/Sam LOK Chi Kit(HKG)/GT4/852 Challengers/+1 lap
11.18/WANG Dengjia (CHN)/GT4/FEA Racing/+1 lap
DNF.13/SUN Jingzu(CHN)/GT3/Absolute Racing
DNS.55/BAO Jinlong(CHN)/GT3/Absolute Racing
Fastest lap: Alex Au(HKG)/KCMG/2:07.389 kph
GT3 = GT3 Driver (either Ultra or New R8)
GT4 = GT4 Driver
Cup = 2015 Cup Specification
Audi Sport R8 LMS GT3 Cup classification after round seven
1. Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI/125
2. Andrew HARYANTO/120
3. Yasser SHAHIN/85
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. Alex AU/18
11. Dirg PARHOFER/16
12. Bernhard HENZEL/14
13. Mark WILLIAMSON/14
14. James KOUNDOURIS/12
15. Steve McLAUGHLAN/11
16. Marc CINI/10
17. Daniel BILSKI/8
18. LI Xuefeng/8
19. TIAN Liying/6
20. Berthold GRUHN/6
Audi Sport R8 LMS GT4 Cup classification after Round seven
1. Anderson TANOTO/85
2. Stefan WIENINGER/51
3. Carlos CHECA/37
4. HAN Geng/36
5. Ryan LIU/26
6. Jean-Luc WEIDT/25
7. ZHANG Ran/24
8. Sam LOK/15
9. WANG Dengjia/12
The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup is operated by Audi Sport customer racing Asia.