The battle for the 2018 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup GT3 championship title goes down to the wire this weekend with a double-header season finale at Malaysia’s 5.54km Sepang International Circuit. Four drivers remain in contention for the title – points leader Bhurit Bhirombhakdi of Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing, ProMax Team’s Andrew Haryanto, The Bend Motorsport Park’s Yasser Shahin and Sun Jingzu of Absolute Racing, with the winner receiving a one-of-a-kind production Audi R8.
The intriguing, all-amateur field has produced tight, electrifying battles throughout the field in the championship’s seventh season. Following double-headers in Adelaide, at Germany’s iconic Nürburgring, and in Ningbo and Shanghai in China, the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup heads to its fourth country and final destination on November 23-25.
At Saturday’s round nine night-race and Sunday’s round ten, another glittering prize is on offer – the final seat for the Cup’s “Road to Spa” programme. The top-scoring driver at each country in which the Cup has raced this season wins the opportunity to be part of the unique Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup team that will race in next year’s Total 24 Hours of Spa. With three seats already secured by Haryanto, Bhirombhakdi and Shahin, the race for the fourth and final place on the team is on.
“With just 11 points separating the top two drivers, the scene is set for a season finale befitting a hugely competitive season,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “It has been a pleasure to see the passion of the drivers and how they have developed their talent over the season. This is customer racing at its best.”
Coming into the finale, Thailand’s Bhirombhakdi leads rival Haryanto by just 11 points. Bhirombhakdi took his fourth win of the season in Shanghai and he’ll be looking to repeat that success this weekend in Malaysia. Attempting to stop the Thai driver in his tracks is Haryanto, with the Indonesian driver having scored consistent podium finishes throughout the season.
A further 33 points back, but still in mathematical contention, is Australian Shahin. Despite celebrating on the podium several times this season, Shahin is still chasing his debut Cup victory. Sun Jingzu is a further three points adrift, but after scoring his second win of the season in round eight in Shanghai, the season has been one of consistent growth for the Chinese privateer.
Of all the drivers competing at Sepang only Sun Jingzu and Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan’s Jeffrey Lee have had the experience of competing in a Cup race at night. Both participated in the Cup’s inaugural race under lights back in 2014 at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit.
Having sealed the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup GT4 title in Shanghai, Absolute Racing driver Anderson Tanoto will compete in an Audi R8 LMS GT3 for the final two rounds of the season. The championship also welcomes the return of Thai-based Cup stalwarts B-Quik Racing, which fields two cars in Malaysia: the second-generation GT3 of team boss Henk Kiks and the Audi R8 LMS ultra of Hong Kong-based Australian Daniel Bilski.
Making a Cup debut at the weekend will be Axle Motorsport’s Zen Low. The Malaysian’s Audi R8 LMS GT3 will be sporting the livery for Team Malaysia’s entry into the GT Nations Cup race, which takes place in Bahrain on December 1. Low is entered into the inaugural GT Nations Cup with fellow Malaysian Mitchell Cheah. The team will be led by triple Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup champion and Axle Motorsport team principal, Alex Yoong, with the Cup’s Sepang double-header proving the perfect run-out for the car.
Martin Berry of Absolute Racing is another driver making his Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup debut in the GT3 category this weekend, while Rick Yoon returns to the Cup with KCMG.
While the championship battle rages throughout the weekend, the Cup also looks ahead to 2019, which will see the debut of the new evolution of the Audi R8 LMS GT3. The new car makes its Asian premiere at Sepang, and customers will have a first opportunity to take the car through its paces on track during a three-day test following the conclusion of the 2018 season.
Cup mentors for the Sepang weekend are official Audi Sport Asia drivers Cheng Congfu, Martin Rump and Adderly Fong, who arrives in Sepang fresh from contesting last week’s FIA GT World Cup at the 65th Macau Grand Prix.
The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup Sepang weekend gets underway with qualifying for round nine on Saturday, November 24 at 11:20, with the 13-lap race starting nearly 11 hours later at 22:10 local time. The final race of the season will take place on Sunday, November 25. A 15-minute qualifying session will take place at 10:15, before round 10 gets underway at 13:40 (all times UTC+8).