The 2019 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup is set for a thunderous return to China’s Zhuhai International Circuit for the series’ fourth visit in eight seasons. Joining the championship contenders for the double-header are a number of new faces, adding another layer of intrigue as title fights resume over the three-day May Day holiday event.
“Following our hard-fought opening weekend in Adelaide in March, the upcoming four rounds of the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup in China represent a homecoming for our series,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “In Zhuhai, our international line-up will be joined by some of the leading privateers and race teams of China’s vibrant Greater Bay Area. All is set for a great weekend of racing.”
Having won the opening round of the 2019 season on the Adelaide Parklands Street Circuit to sit second on the GT3 championship leaderboard, Tony Bates embarks on his first full season with the Cup and, with it, his first races in Asia. Like many of the Cup drivers, this will also be his debut on the 4.319km Zhuhai International Circuit, China’s first-ever permanent motorsport facility, opened in 1996.
Just five points behind Bates is fellow countryman Yasser Shahin of The Bend Motorsport Park. Shahin, third overall in the GT3 Cup last season, finished twice on the podium in Adelaide and has earned a reputation for the extraordinary speed with which he masters unfamiliar circuits. Shahin will carry 30kg of success ballast for round three, courtesy of his double podium in Adelaide.
Alex Au, 2013 Amateur Cup champion and currently fourth in the GT3 championship standings, is back with CTVS Racers by Absolute and will carry 20kg for the opening race of the Zhuhai weekend after his second-place finish in round two.
Reigning Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup champion Andrew Haryanto of Absolute Racing will be looking to put a challenging season-opening weekend firmly behind him and get his title defence back on track. Likewise, on-track rival Bhurit Bhirombhakdi of Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing will see the Cup’s return to Asia as a chance to reboot and return to his scorching 2018 form which saw him miss out on the title by just five points.
In addition to the established rivalries amongst Cup regulars, a number of exciting newcomers for the Zhuhai weekend could turn the form book on its head. Zun Motorsport Crew makes its Cup debut with two Audi R8 LMS GT3s and Lin Yiming and Ma Ka Chun on driving duties. Teaming up with 2013 Cup champion Adderly Fong in January this year, the trio rocketed to a dominant victory in the Zhuhai Circuit Hero 700km Endurance race, taking the GT3 and overall victories for Audi and setting the fastest lap for good measure. The Zhuhai-based squad is growing into one of China’s most visible outfits and made its debut at the FIA GT World Cup in Macau in 2018.
Vincent Floirendo of the Philippines makes a welcome return to the Cup. The EN Sport by Absolute driver made his Cup debut back in 2015, contesting a full season the following year. Last season he took a podium finish in his Audi R8 LMS GT3 at the GT Asia Series opening round in Malaysia.
FEA Racing Team is another returning team, with drivers Sheng Yanwen and Qu Pengfei sharing driving duties in the Chinese team’s Audi R8 LMS GT4. The team, based in China’s Henan province, has been active in GT racing since 2016 and will be looking to build on their successful Cup debut in 2018 at the Ningbo double-header.
The Cup’s professional mentors over the weekend will be Audi Sport Asia drivers Cheng Congfu, Weiron Tan and Martin Rump, who will be on hand over the event to set benchmark data laps and provide one-on-one coaching for the Cup’s privateer field.
More entry announcements will be made soon.
Qualifying for round three of the 2019 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup gets underway at 10:45 (UTC+ 8) on Friday, May 3, with the opening race starting that afternoon at 14:25. Qualifying for round four starts at 09:00 on Saturday, with the race getting underway at 12:40.
Both rounds will be live streamed on the Cup’s website and Facebook page along with Chinese portals IFENG, PPTV and more.
The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup is operated by Audi Sport customer racing Asia.