The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup returns to its home at the heart of Chinese motorsport for rounds five and six at the 5.5km Shanghai International Circuit this weekend, its 12th visit in eight seasons. Leading the field comprised of some of Asia Pacific’s finest privateers into a crucial mid-season double header is Australian Yasser Shahin of The Bend Motorsport Park.
Shahin’s maiden Cup victory at Southern China’s Zhuhai International Circuit earlier this month built on two podium finishes at the Adelaide season opener. The Australian’s points-tally puts him top of the GT3 standings after four races (70 points), 22 points ahead of his closest challenger.
In the race for the first awarded “Road to Suzuka” seat of the season, Shahin is also a front-runner, but there is nothing separating him and Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi. Part of the unique rewards on offer in 2019, the highest points-scorer at the Cup’s (1) China rounds, (2) Japan rounds and (3) Australia & Malaysia rounds combined wins a fully-funded seat on a three-strong Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup team at the 2020 Suzuka 10 Hours event. After the Zhuhai double-header, Shahin and Bhirombhakdi are tied in the race for the ‘China seat’ on 37 points apiece. Not far behind though is Ensport Motors by Absolute Racing’s Vincent Floirendo (30 points) after an impressive Cup return last month.
“It’s always good to come home. The Shanghai circuit is where the Cup started, we have visited in every season since, often multiple times each year, it has a special place in our history and our hearts,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “Over the years, we’ve seen great racing here. Our field is extremely well matched and at this pivotal time of the season everyone will be on the hunt for victory.”
The Shanghai double-header sees the welcome return to the Cup of one of Asia’s most formidable privateers, Anthony Liu who is entered with Absolute Racing. An outright race-winner at Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia, GT Asia Series and China GT, Liu’s last Cup appearance came in 2017, where he took an Am+ class victory at the Korea International Circuit.
The man with the steepest learning curve when the Cup arrives at the tricky Herman Tilke-designed circuit will be Shanghai-rookie Tony Bates of Australia, currently third in the GT3 standings. Continuing to rise to the challenge of his first season of international competition, the Tony Bates Racing driver will be looking to reclaim his place at the top of the standings after a run of bad luck in Zhuhai.
However, Zhuhai proved that the Cup’s Asian driver contingent is fast gathering pace and will be on the prowl for points in Shanghai. Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi stormed to victory in round four, the Thai driver chased across the line by reigning champion Andrew Haryanto of Absolute Racing, who took a seemingly-impossible second place from the back of the grid. While the on-track rivals and off-track friends may be on scorching form, their wings will be clipped somewhat by the Cup’s levelling success ballast which sees Bhirombhakdi start round five carrying 30kg, and Haryanto with 20kg.
Vincent Floirendo is the other driver carrying success ballast after he made a spectacular Cup return, taking two consecutive podium finishes in Zhuhai for his Ensport Motors by Absolute Racing team. The Filipino driver’s successful Cup comeback sees him carry 20kg into the first of the two Shanghai races. Floirendo will once more be vying for Challenger Trophy honours in Shanghai.
CTVS Racers by Absolute driver Alex Au will be one to watch in Shanghai too. After a strong showing in Adelaide, Au’s results did not reflect his pace in Zhuhai and he will be looking to set the record straight this weekend.
Absolute Racing’s Sun Jingzu of China returns to the wheel of his Audi R8 LMS GT3 this weekend. Also having dropped points by missing the Zhuhai rounds, Sun will be keen to reunite with friend and professional Cup mentor Cheng Congfu to continue his impressive development.
The Zun Motorsport Crew duo of Ma Ka Chun and Lin Yiming both made a strong impression on their Cup debut in Zhuhai and, with the support of long-time professional Audi driver Adderly Fong, more can be expected from the ambitious outfit in Shanghai. Both drivers will also compete for the Challenger Trophy class.
Making his Cup debut this weekend behind the wheel of an Audi R8 LMS GT3 is Italian privateer Angelo Negro, entered with Absolute Racing. Negro has competed extensively in the Asia region, finishing 2nd in the Ferrari Challenge Asia-Pacific in 2017. This season the Italian has contested races in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia and the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia.
In the GT4 Cup FEA enters two Audi R8 LMS GT4s, each with two drivers who will share driving duties over the weekend. Sheng Yanwen, who took a class podium in round three, returns and is joined by teammate Zhang Dongqi, while the second car will be piloted in one race by Yang Zhiyi and the other by Wang Dengjia.
Qualifying for rounds five of the 2019 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup gets underway at 11:15 on Saturday, June 1 with the opening race starting at 16:40 later that day. The 15-minute round six qualifying session then starts at 9:05 on Sunday, June 2 with lights out for round six at 15:00 that afternoon (all times UTC +8).
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.