The Chinese lucky number eight proved to be just that today as the #888 Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Audi Sport Asia driver Martin Rump and Chinese talents Bao Jinlong and Yuan Bo took victory from pole in the inaugural SIC888 endurance race in Shanghai. Absolute Racing teammates Adderly Fong, Cheng Congfu and Sun Jingzu crossed the line in second, making it an Audi customer team one-two.
The Indonesian ‘super team’ of Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup stars Andrew Haryanto, Anderson Tanoto and former Formula 1 driver Rio Haryanto came home fifth overall, first in class with their Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4. On his Audi debut, and in his first race since F1, Rio Haryanto impressed with his scorching pace.
SIC888 is an official part of the 2018 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup calendar as an invitational race, with all competing Cup drivers earning 10 points towards their Cup campaigns. That extra bonus was enough for Tanoto to secure the Cup’s first-ever GT4 championship. The Indonesian clinched his debut motor racing title after two victories and three additional podiums in the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup so far this season.
“Congratulations to Martin Rump, Yuan Bo and Bao Jinlong on a superb demonstration of skill, consistency and endurance today,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “With a one-two GT3 finish and a GT4 class win, the Audi Sport customer race cars proved again that they are quick and reliable in both sprint and endurance competition. Our congratulations also go to Anderson Tanoto for becoming our first ever Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup GT4 champion.”
The Thai trio of Cup series leader Bhurit Bhirombhakdi, his brother Piti Bhirombhakdi and professional Kantasak Kusiri of Singha Plan-B completed the GT3 class podium in third. It was heartbreak though for early race leaders, reigning Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup champion Alessio Picariello, André Couto and Cup star Jeffrey Lee of J Fly Racing after a technical issue saw them retire.
At the WTCR Race of China-Wuhan, race two saw Comtoyou Racing’s Nathanaël Berthon take his first series podium in the Audi RS 3 LMS with a third place finish. In race three, Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team’s Gordon Shedden won a captivating battle with fellow Audi driver Frédéric Vervisch to claim his first victory in the final WTCR race on the Wuhan International Street Circuit. Denis Dupont made it a clean sweep of the podium taking third for Audi Sport Team Comtoyou.
Also taking place on the streets of Wuhan was the China Endurance Championship, with a two hour race. Audi customer team Tianshi Racing Team started the weekend in style by claiming pole, but were forced to retire from the race while leading.
Although Rump had secured pole position for the #888 Audi R8 LMS GT3, Picariello threw down the gauntlet early, tearing past Rump’s teammate Yuan who had taken the opening stint, and snatching the lead for the #77 car. The Belgian led away Yuan, Fong in the #13 car and Kusiri in the #59 Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing entry. Andrew Haryanto took the opening stint for the Absolute Racing Indonesian trio in the Audi R8 LMS GT4, running seventh overall in the opening stages.
Having built up a 15 second lead in the opening 30 minutes, a left rear puncture saw Picariello nurse the car back to the pits. Just as it looked as though Picariello’s hard work had been in vain, the safety car was called out after a car was left stranded on track at the parabolica. This worked in the team’s favour and he joined the field, which was now led by Fong, at the back of the 22-car pack.
As the field was released, Picariello was immediately on the move, reclaiming the race lead just minutes later. However, drama once more stuck as, this time, Fong picked up a right rear puncture and had to nurse the car back to the pits. With the opening stints coming to an end, Fong handed the wheel to Saturday’s Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup race-winner Sun as several teams changed drivers.
Next it was the Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing team’s turn to pick up a puncture, pitting while running third with Kusiri handing over to Piti Bhirombhakdi at the same time. Tanoto took over the #89 Audi R8 LMS GT4 from Andrew Haryanto in seventh after a strong opening stint, while Yuan handed the #888 to Bao in second place, and Picariello passed the #77 leading car to Lee with a 50 second advantage.
Ninety minutes in, Lee held the lead from Bao, Bhirombhakdi and Sun in an Audi R8 LMS GT3 top four, with Anderson sixth overall in the GT4.
At the half way point, disaster struck the race-leading #77 when a technical issue saw Couto limp into the pits and retire not long after he had taken the wheel from Jeffrey Lee.
Rio Haryanto climbed in to the Audi R8 LMS GT4, and immediately powered up to fifth overall in the order.
With 35 laps to go, Bao led the race from Fong in the #13, with Bhurit Bhirombhakdi in the Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing GT3 pushing towards a podium finish, with Andrew Haryanto in sixth overall in the GT4.
With just 19 laps to go, Bhurit Bhirombhakdi brought the #59 in to hand over to Kusiri. However, it was game over for the Thai team, who retired with technical issues.
Bao led the race in the #888 Absolute Racing Audi with Cheng powering towards second in the #13 GT3, and the Audi R8 LMS GT4 fifth overall with Andrew Haryanto at the wheel. As the #888 pitted for the last time, Bao handed over to Rump for the final stint. A splash of fuel and a new set of tyres, and the Estonian took off on the hunt for an historic first SIC888 victory. Cheng, however, had gained a lap on the leaders during their pit stop. Both Cheng and Rump were flying as the laps accumulated towards the final race distance of 888km.
Rump powered the #888 Audi R8 LMS Cup GT3 across the line to take the inaugural SIC888 victory for Absolute Racing and teammates Yuan Bo and Bao Jinlong of China, etching their names in the history books of Chinese motorsport.
Martin Rump (Absolute Racing) – overall winners
“I’m very pleased with the work of the two lads beside me and the team, and Audi of course. Everything was reliable for us and that’s how you win endurance races. I haven’t done many, but it was a completely different approach this time. Being used to sprint races, the mindset has to be rebooted completely. I think we delivered that well and it’s good to win the first-ever SIC888, in #888. I guess it must have been good luck, right?
Adderly Fong (Absolute Racing) – 2nd overall
“I think the key was just staying out of trouble. There were many different classes, so finding the gaps and keeping something in reserve was key. There were lots of classes of cars. This race is a first, and I like it. It gives people who have just started racing an opportunity to experience what it would be like to be on track with a GT3 car. We were one of the quickest cars out there, and it was just trying to pick our way up and try to lose the least time.”
Rio Haryanto (Absolute Racing) – 5th overall, GT4 winners
“It was my first-ever endurance race. I think the three of us did really well. We stayed out of trouble and came home in the top five and won our category. Overall, I’m really happy.
Andrew Haryanto (Absolute Racing) – 5th overall, GT4 winners
“Of course, we’re all at our own speed. Rio’s at his own level! Overall, the car works for all three of us, the set-up works for all three of us. We can definitely learn a lot from what Rio is doing. We can see the data. Who would have thought I’d be driving with an ex-Formula 1 driver? It’s impossible!”
SIC888 Audi results
1.888/Martin RUMP(EST)/Yuan BO(CHN)/Bao Jinlong(CHN)/Absolute Racing
2.13/Adderly FONG(HKG)/CHENG Congfu(CHN)/Sun Jingzu(CHN)/Absolute Racing
5.89/Rio HARYANTO(INA)/Andrew HARYANTO(INA)/Anderson TANONO(INA)/Absolute Racing