On-form Sun Jingzu of China took his second Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup win of the season today, sweeping to victory in round eight at the Shanghai International Circuit. The Absolute Racing driver did not put a wheel wrong after snatching the lead off the start from pole-sitter and Cup returnee, Alex Au of KCMG. Just over three-tenths of a second behind Sun across the line was The BEND – Motorsport Park’s Yasser Shahin, concluding an impressive Shanghai debut for the Australian.
Shahin’s points haul across the four China rounds of the Cup secured him the penultimate seat on the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup team for the 2019 24 Hours of Spa – a reward on offer to the highest points scorer in each nation on the Cup’s 2018 calendar. Shahin beat his race-winning rival Sun to the coveted prize by just a single point, scoring 63 points in China, compared to Sun’s 62.
Taking his second podium in what has been a strong return to the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup this weekend was Au, with Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi fourth. Cup newcomer Bao Jinlong of China, who was prevented from making his debut in round seven by technical issues, finished fifth on his debut ahead of cup star Jeffrey Lee of Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan.
GTC Cup class honours were won by Jeffrey Zee of Spirit Z Racing ahead of teammate Jacky Wu. With his fourth class win from four races, Zee has an unassailable lead in the category, becoming the Cup’s 2018 GTC category champion.
Absolute Racing’s Ryan Liu wrapped up a dream Cup debut with a second GT4 pole-to-flag run, but this time points-leader and teammate Anderson Tanoto made it a tougher race for the young pretender. Third in class was the 852 Challengers’ Sam Lok, crossing the line ahead of Cup debutant Shang Yanwen of FEA Racing.
“Congratulations on Sun Jingzu on a superb second win of the season in round eight today,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “His incredible rise in pace this season is testament to both his dedication and to the success of the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup driver mentor programme. Our congratulations too to Yasser Shahin on securing his seat alongside Bhurit Bhirombhakdi and Andrew Haryanto on the Audi Sport customer racing Asia team at the 2019 24 Hours of Spa.”
With November’s Malaysian double-header remaining, Bhirombhakdi tops the GT3 leaderboard on 137 points, 11 points ahead of title rival Andrew Haryanto of ProMax Team (126 points). Shahin sits on 103 points and Sun on 90 points, leaving a four-way battle for the title with two rounds remaining.
With all Cup drivers who take the start of Sunday’s SIC888 endurance race earning 10 points towards their championships, when Tanoto climbs into the Audi R8 LMS GT4 he will share with fellow Indonesians Andrew Haryanto and former F1 driver Rio Haryanto, he will seal the first-ever Audi R8 LMS Cup GT4 championship title.
Qualifying for the SIC888 was completed following the Cup’s round eight. In the GT qualifying session that will set the front of the SIC888 grid, Audi customers will fill the first two rows. Official Audi Sport Asia driver Martin Rump took pole for himself and Absolute Racing teammates Yuan Bo and Bao Jinlong with a lightning lap of 2:04.042. Reigning Cup champion Picariello starts from second alongside J-Fly Racing teammates Andre Couto and Jeffrey Lee (2:04.518).
Absolute Racing’s Adderly Fong, Cheng Congfu and Sun Jingzu will line-up third (2:05.270) with Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing’s Kantasak Kusiri and bothers Bhurit and Piti Bhirombhakdi rounding out an Audi R8 LMS GT3 top four (2:06.070).
The Indonesian Super Team’ of former F1 driver Rio Haryanto, Andrew Haryanto and Anderson Tanoto will start seventh in an Audi R8 LMS GT4.
Meanwhile, just a few hundred kilometres away from Shanghai at the FIA WTCR Race of China-Wuhan event, Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team driver Jean-Karl Vernay converted his pole position for race one into victory, as teammate Gordon Shedden claimed his first podium in third. The event features six Audi RS 3 LMS entries and is taking place on the Wuhan International Street Circuit as part of the China Automobile and Motorcycle Sports Festival.
After a typhoon passed by overnight without incident, the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup drivers lined up under clear skies and in markedly higher temperatures, with a track temperature of 32 degrees.
As the lights went out on the rolling start, Sun and Shahin were away like bullets, soaring into the lead with Shahin firmly closing the door on pole-man Au.
As the drivers emerged from the start line melee, Yasser was keeping Sun firmly in his sights while Au, Bhirombhakdi, Bao, Haryanto and Lee gave chase.
In the GT4 runners, Liu got away well but spun at the hairpin. Manfully, he fought to rejoin and, with Tanoto bearing down on him, powered the car back and continued to lead the Indonesian all the way to the flag.
While more used to battling at the front of the pack, the rivalry between Bhirombhakdi and Haryanto was alive and kicking as the pair battled for fourth midway through the race, the Indonesian, Haryanto, having found his way past Bao. However, with just four laps remaining, Haryanto dropped down the order.
Sun continued, untroubled, to his second Cup victory of the season pounding out quick, consistent laps. While Shahin knew better than to push too hard for the win and jeopardise his Road to Spa seat, the closing stages saw Au creep ever closer to the Australian. But Shahin was too quick for Au, and sailed across the line a whisker behind Sun.
While the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup will not be back in action again until November, with what promises to be a truly epic season-closer at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, the China weekend is far from over for Audi Sport customer racing Asia.
Five Audi Sport customer racing Asia teams will line up for the SIC888 endurance race, which gets underway at 10:30 (UTC +8), Sunday October 7, and will cover 163 laps of the 5.451km Shanghai International Circuit.
Quotes after round eight:
Sun Jingzu (Absolute Racing) – Round eight GT3 winner
“Yesterday I retired from the race and got no points, so today has made up for that disappointment. All I could think today was to keep on driving. I hope for the next races in Malaysia I can get more points on the board.”
Yasser Shahin (The BEND – Motorsport Park) – Round eight GT3 2nd
“Firstly, I’d like to say I’ve had a great time this weekend. The better driver won today. He didn’t make a mistake. There would have been opportunities to have a dive, but I don’t think it was really there to safely do it and guarantee it. Hats off to Jingzu, he drove really well today.
“For me [new circuits] has been half the fun of coming to Asia. Really stretching myself to drive as I hadn’t been to these circuits before. I felt like I was quicker except at the parabolica. Every time we’d leave that, Sun would pick up three tenths on me. I felt like I had his measure everywhere else except just there.”
Alex Au (KCMG) – Round eight GT3 3rd
“The feelings are mixed. To start from pole and finish third is never a good feeling. Congratulations to Jingzu and Yasser for a very strong pace today. I would say I had trouble keeping up with them at the beginning of the race, but later I settled into a rhythm and was catching up a little bit. They had to fight each other, but I had 20kg (success ballast).
“The amateur standard has improved a lot in the Cup. I like to think I’ve improved myself a little over the last couple of years, but I’m just on the pace with the leaders in the Cup. I think a lot of the amateurs who are racing there, with the open data, they improve a lot.”
Jeffrey Zee (Spirit Z Racing) – Round eight GTC Cup class winner
“First of all, thank you Audi, thank you everyone – it was a very exciting race! I started quite far back and had to catch up. There was an incident on the first lap, but it was fortunate it wasn’t serious. Then I just focussed on keeping my place.”
Ryan Liu (Absolute Racing) – Round eight GT4 Cup class winner
“Today was more challenging for me. At the start Tanoto followed me very closely. But he spun at T7, so I felt free to push more until I spun. My car spun in the wrong direction and I could see Anderson was very close. I just turned the steering all the way, pressed full throttle and hoped I could create some wheel spin. I didn’t know if the car would understeer or was going to make it. Fortunately, the car spun back and I was back in the race. Otherwise I’d be second place!”
Round eight results
1. 13/SUN Jingzu(CHN)/GT3/Absolute Racing/27:56.268
2. 74/Yasser SHAHIN(AUS)/GT3/The BEND – Motorsport Park/+0.345
3. 12/Alex AU(HKG)/GT3/KCMG/+1.177
4. 59/Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI(THA)/GT3/Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing/+12.964
5. 55/BAO Jinlong(CHN)/GT3/Absolute Racing/14.388
6. 7/Jeffrey LEE(TPE)/GT3/Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan/+20.452
7. 28/Andrew HARYANTO(INA)/GT3/ProMax Team/+22.556
8. 98/Jeffrey ZEE(CHN)/Cup/Sprit Z Racing/+1:13.158
9. 97/Jacky WU(CHN)/Cup/Spirit Z Racing/+2:09.629
10. 666/Ryan LIU Zexuan(CHN)/GT4/Absolute Racing/+1 lap
11. 89/Anderson TANOTO(INA)/GT4/Absolute Racing+1 lap
12. 36/Sam LOK Chi Kit(HKG)/GT4/852 Challengers/+1 lap
13. 6/SHENG Yanwen (CHN)/GT4/FEA Racing/+1 lap
Fastest lap: Sun Jingzu/Absolute Racing/2 :07.807
GT3 = GT3 Driver (either Ultra or New R8)
GT4 = GT4 Driver
Cup = 2015 Cup Specification
Audi Sport R8 LMS GT3 Cup classification after round eight (Top 10)
1. Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI/137
2. Andrew HARYANTO/126
3. Yasser SHAHIN/103
4. SUN Jingzu/90
5. Jeffrey LEE/43
6. Alex AU/34
7. Theo KOUNDOURIS/30
8. Carsten TILKE/30
10. YANG Xi/20
Audi Sport R8 LMS GT4 Cup classification after round eight
1. Anderson TANOTO/103
2. Ryan LIU/52
3. Stefan WIENINGER/51
4. Carlos CHECA/37
5. HAN Geng/36
6. Jean-Luc WEIDT/25
7. ZHANG Ran/24
8. WANG Dengjia/12
9. SHENG Yanwen/12
Audi Sport R8 LMS GTC Cup classification after round eight
1. Jeffrey ZEE/103
2. Jacky WU/37