The Bend Motorsport Park’s Yasser Shahin took his maiden Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup victory, winning round three on his debut at the challenging 4.318km Zhuhai International Circuit. The Australian deftly avoided a dramatic opening-lap incident involving many of the front-runners to power to his first Cup win and shoot to the top of the 2019 championship leaderboard.
B-Quik Racing Team’s Daniel Bilski continued his superb run of form to claim second ahead of Filipino driver Vincent Floirendo of Ensport Motors by Absolute Racing, who also took the Cup’s inaugural Challenger Trophy win.
Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing driver Bhurit Bhirombhakdi had mounted a powerful recovery after spinning off the track in the early-race incident to cross the line second, having challenged Shahin all the way to the line, but was later stripped of his podium finish for overtaking under a yellow flag. That dropped him to fourth in the final classification.
“Congratulations to Yasser Shahin on his first Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup victory, a hard-fought win on an unfamiliar circuit. Congratulations too to runner-up Daniel Bilski and Cup returnee Vincent Floirendo for both an overall podium finish and the first Challenger Trophy win,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “Today, at China’s first permanent motorsport facility, our talented field once more delivered the action-packed racing that has become synonymous with the Cup.”
Cup newcomers Zun Motorsport Crew made a strong debut with fifth overall for Lin Yiming, while Li Lin of the LEO team won the GT4 Cup from Grid Motorsport’s Tommy Chan and FEA’s Sheng Yanwen after a thrilling race-long battle.
Shahin’s victory, combined with two podium finishes in the opening rounds in Adelaide in March, see him top the Audi Sport R8 LMS GT3 Cup leaderboard after three races with 58 points, 17 ahead of fellow Australian and round two winner Geoff Emery (41 points). Despite an unfortunate outing in round three, Tony Bates of Tony Bates Racing is tied in third with Bilski on 38 points.
In the GT4 classification, Australian Mark Williamson leads on 45 points, three ahead of Anderson Tanoto who rejoins the title fight in Shanghai next month. Newcomer Li lies third after his debut race with the Cup ahead of Chan and Sheng.
As the lights went out, Alex Au of CTVS Racers by Absolute led the field from pole carrying 20kg of success ballast, with Shahin, carrying 30kg, in hot pursuit. As Au braked into turn one, Shahin swerved to avoid colliding with the race leader, but consequently made contact with Bhirombhakdi.
Bates, who had started from third, went in too deep into turn one and also got caught up in the melee, making contact with Bhirombhakdi who had nowhere to go after his tangle with Shahin. Haryanto, meanwhile, took full advantage of the drama ahead to power through and take off in pursuit of Au in the lead. However, as he looked to make a move into race lead, Haryanto collided with the CTVS Racers by Absolute driver, shunting him into the gravel at turn four, and out of the race. In a matter of seconds from the lights going out to start the race, it was game over for both Au and Bates, while Haryanto and Bhirombhakdi managed to rejoin at the rear of the GT3 field.
Having stayed clear of the incidents, Shahin headed off on the hunt for his first Cup win, but Bilksi kept him firmly within range, with Floirendo running third ahead of Cup newcomer Zun Motorsport Crew’s duo of Lin Yiming and Ma Ka Chun. However, with the Audi R8 LMS GT3s of both Au and Bates stranded on track, the safety car was called out, eliminating Shahin’s advantage.
The safety car pulled off with 21 minutes left on the clock, and Shahin masterfully controlled the restart. Once again, Shahin pulled clear of Bilksi, but the B-Quik driver never allowed his fellow Australian to run away with the lead. Haryanto, meanwhile, was on a charge through the pack, passing Lin and Floirendo before homing in on Ma. Making his move on Ma, Haryanto made contact. However, Ma was able to rejoin the race, albeit at the back of the field. Haryanto, meanwhile, retired in the pits.
At the front of pack, a resolute Shahin continued to hold the lead from Bilski, but Bhirombhakdi had made a phenomenal recovery and was up to third by the end of lap seven – and closing fast. With 14 minutes remaining on the clock, the safety car was called out again, closing up the field and setting the stage for a monumental final few minutes. At the restart with 10 minutes of the 30 to go, Shahin once again controlled the pace to keep his grip on the lead, but Bhirombhakdi was immediately all over the back of Bilski, diving past and setting off on the hunt for victory.
Victory looked to be Shahin’s, but Bhirombhakdi wasn’t done, closing in and diving down the inside to snatch the lead with five minutes to go, the pair making contact mid-corner. However, just two turns later, Bhirombhakdi got on the grass and Yasser reclaimed the lead and nothing was going to stand between The Bend Motorsport Park driver and his maiden Cup victory.
A 20-minute qualifying session to set the grid for round four gets underway at 09:00 on Saturday May 4, with round four blasting off at 12:40 (all times UTC +8). On the FEA team, Sheng hands the Audi R8 LMS GT4 to team mate Qu Pengfei who will take the start of round four.
Round three winner Shahin starts round four carrying a maximum extra 50kg under the Cup’s cumulative success ballast regulations, with Bilski carrying 20kg and Floirendo 10kg.
Round four will be live streamed on the Cup’s website and Facebook page along with Chinese portals IFENG, PPTV and more.
Yasser Shahin (The Bend Motorsport Park) – winner round three
“This is one of those circuits where you lose your place by making mistakes. I was very lucky in the first corner to stay in the race. I got hit a couple of times and just managed to stay around. Then [there was] another accident in front of me, so really it was just a very eventful race, but I kept it uneventful for me.”
Daniel Bilski (B-Quik Racing Team) – 2nd round three
“Firstly, a big thank you to B-Quik Racing, Absolute Racing and the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup. It’s fantastic to be here and it’s really fantastic to be on the podium, especially after that start to the race. In the first part of the race, I just needed a box of popcorn and a footstool to watch what was going on! There were cars everywhere. I think everyone was surprised how slippery the track was. Everyone braked late and everything kicked off. For me, it was a case of stay clean, stay focussed, work on my lap times. We had a great race with the guys at the front of the field and I’m really happy to be back here.”
Vincent Floirendo (Ensport Motors by Absolute Racing) – 3rd round three and Challenger Trophy winner
“Thank you to Absolute Racing, and I’m glad to be back with the Cup. Last time I joined was in 2017, so I’m glad to be back here in this position. Yesterday in practice I was struggling. It’s my first time here in Zhuhai. This afternoon, I just kept my cool, stayed clean – didn’t do any risky manoeuvres. It worked out very well for me.’
Round three results
1.7/Yasser SHAHIN(AUS)/GT3/The BEND – Motorsport Park/31:51.839
2.27/Daniel BILSKI(HKG)/GT3/B-Quik Racing Team/+1.149
3.55/Vincent FLOIRENDO(PHI)/GT3-CT/Ensport Motors by Absolute Racing/+10.632
4.59/Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI(THA)/GT3/Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing/+30.531
5.777/LIN Yiming/GT3-CT/Zun Motorsport Crew/+33.538
7.11/CHAN Hung Wai(HKG)/GT4/Grid Motorsport/+41.831
9.77/MA Ka Chun(HKG)/GT3-CT/Zun Motorsport Crew/+2 laps
DNF.28/Andrew HARYANTO(INA)/GT3/Absolute Racing
DNF.178/Alex AU(HKG)/GT3/CTVS Racers by Absolute
DNF.24/Tony BATES(AUS)/GT3/Tony Bates Racing
Fastest lap: Bhurit Bhirombhakdi/Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing/1:37.638/130.093 km/h
Championship points after round three
Audi Sport R8 LMS GT3 Cup classification after round three (top five)
1. Yasser SHAHIN/58
2. Geoff EMERY/41
3. Tony BATES/38
4. Daniel BILSKI/38
5. Alex AU/29
Audi Sport R8 LMS GT4 Cup classification after round three (top five)
1. Mark WILLIAMSON/45
2. Anderson TANOTO/43
3. LI Lin/26
4. Tommy CHAN/18
5. SHENG Yanwen/15
Audi Sport R8 LMS Challenger Cup classification after round three
1. Vincent FLOIRINDO
2. LIN Yiming
3. MA Ka Chun
The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup is operated by Audi Sport customer racing Asia.