The eighth season of the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup will blast off the starting blocks this weekend at the Superloop Adelaide 500 in South Australia where the new 2019 evolution of the Audi R8 LMS GT3 will make its eagerly-anticipated Cup and Australia debut. The weekend’s double header marks the start of a 10-race, five-circuit season over which the all-privateer line-up will vie for the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup titles.
Both the reigning Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup GT3 and GT4 champions are back to defend their crowns, supported by Audi Sport Asia professionals under the Cup’s mentor programme. In Adelaide, China’s Cheng Congfu, young Estonian talent Martin Rump and Malaysia’s FIA WEC star Weiron Tan form the professional mentoring trio.
“It’s always exciting to start a new season, and even more so on a challenging street circuit like Adelaide. We have a competitive grid and the new Audi R8 LMS GT3. All is set for another great season of customer racing in Asia-Pacific,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia.
Returning as GT3 Cup champion is Absolute Racing’s Andrew Haryanto of Indonesia. Haryanto sealed the championship in a nail-biting season finale last year, snatching the title from on-track rival and off-track friend Bhurit Bhirombhakdi by five points. Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing’s Bhirombhakdi is back for another crack at the title, as is The Bend Motorsport Park’s Yasser Shahin, who made his Cup debut last season and finished third in the championship. Another strong GT3 title contender in 2019 will be China’s Sun Jingzu, who won two races in 2018 and was a regular on the podium.
Also making a return are former Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup Am Cup champions Alex Au and Daniel Bilski. Au turned in impressive performances in his Shanghai appearance in the Cup last season, recording one pole position and two podiums at the double-header. Bilski’s return, meanwhile, means that the Australian privateer will have appeared in six of the Cup’s eight seasons, earning himself two championship titles along the way: the Masters Cup in 2016 to go with his 2015 Am Cup title.
Back for another taste of the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup this weekend is the winner of round two in Adelaide last season, Tony Bates, a familiar face around the race tracks of his native Australia.
Making his Cup debut this weekend will be Geoff Emery, a five-time Australian Commodore Cup Champion and two-time Australian GT Champion, who took both GT titles in an Audi R8 LMS.
Heading up the GT4 entry is 2018 standout newcomer Anderson Tanoto of Indonesia. In his first full season of motorsport competition, the Absolute Racing driver quickly secured the Cup’s first GT4 championship title with two wins and three podiums across just six races. However, the man who twice denied Tanoto victory in Shanghai last season is back with the Cup for a full assault on the title: newly-appointed Audi Sport customer racing Asia Ambassador Liu Zexuan. Also competing in an Audi R8 LMS GT4 in Adelaide is experienced Australian driver Mark Williamson.
Qualifying for round one of the 2019 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup gets underway at 15:35 (UTC+ 10:30) on Friday, March 1. Qualifying for round two follows at 09:55 on Saturday with round one starting at 13:20. Sunday’s round two begins at 11:10.
Both rounds will be live on television in Australia and New Zealand on Fox Sports, and live streamed to the rest of the world on the Cup’s website, as well as on the Cup’s Chinese media partner IFENG and more Chinese portals.
The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup is operated by Audi Sport customer racing Asia.
The Asian Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup is starting its eighth season with an attractive events calendar in 2019. New incentives are complementing the diversified promotion program that in recent years helped many drivers make the leap into international racing.
Since 2018, privateer drivers have exclusively been racing in the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup and enjoying special support. A comprehensive driver development program helps them improve their driving and technical skills during every race weekend. As part of a mentoring program, professional race drivers are involved in training the participants, setting reference laps on every race track and instructing the drivers by means of video and data analysis. “Audi Sport customer racing Asia has systematically been developing the one-make cup for many years in a way that has set standards in Asia,” says Chris Reinke, Head of Audi Sport customer racing.
In the 2019 season, the one-make cup provides a new incentive for GT3 rookies. “The new Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup Challenger Trophy complements our efficient driver development activities that define our one-make cup,” says Martin Kühl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. Only drivers promoted from lower categories with little experience in GT3 sports cars score points for this trophy. At the end of the year, the three best participants in this classification, who competed in at least three full race weekends, can look forward to receiving vouchers for spare parts packages worth 15,000, 10,000 and 5,000 euros. In addition, these drivers score points in the GT3 overall classification of the one-make cup. The overall winner takes home a special edition of the road-going Audi R8 as a prize. In addition, there is a separate classification for drivers of the Audi R8 LMS GT4.
Last year, four participants won the “Road to Spa” prize: Andrew Haryanto, Bhurit Bhirombhakdi, Yasser Shahin and Jeffrey Lee will contest the 24 Hours of Spa in an Audi R8 LMS, the world’s major GT3 race, on July 27 and 28, 2019. This year, the series continues this idea with a new aim: Three drivers will again be able to win a seat, now for the 10 Hours of Suzuka in 2020. This year’s winner of the GT4 classification will contest the Shanghai SIC endurance race in an Audi R8 LMS GT4, alongside two pros, in 2020.
All of the cup participants will again enjoy comprehensive media coverage this year, including live broadcasts of the races that were watched by a total of 45 million people last year. Naturally, the one-make cup will also be present on social media platforms, which are used by more than 1.2 million subscribers. The attractive calendar this year includes two continents. The season will again open in Australia. 270,000 spectators visited the street circuit in Adelaide last year. Subsequently, two circuits in China – Zhuhai and Shanghai – are on the calendar before the one-make cup will race as part of the supporting program of the 10 Hours of Suzuka in Japan. For the finale, the participants will travel to Sepang in Malaysia.
2019 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup calendar
March 02–03: Adelaide (AUS), rounds 1 and 2
May 04–05: Zhuhai (CN), rounds 3 and 4
June 01–02: Shanghai (CN), rounds 5 and 6
August 23–24: Suzuka (J), rounds 7 and 8
November 23–24: Sepang (MAL), rounds 9 and 10