Anderson Tanoto and Mark Williamson took their Absolute Racing-entered Audi R8 LMS GT4 to a debut podium finish in today’s round five of Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia. Tanoto crossed the line third in class following a strong fightback from the pair after falling to dead last on the first lap of the race at the legendary Suzuka Circuit in Japan.
An opposite fate befell Audi R8 LMS GT3 drivers Martin Rump and Weiron Tan after a puncture less than 20 minutes into the one-hour race wiped out their overall race lead. Starting from pole, Rump had built a lead of over six seconds but the pit stop to change the offending tyre dropped the Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute pair down the field, with Tan later crossing the line out of the points in 11th.
The highest finishing Audi R8 LMS GT3 was driven by Audi Sport Asia driver David Chen and Andre Couto who took their Audi Sport Asia Team TSRT machine to eighth at the flag.
In the Pro/Am class, Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute’s Cheng Congfu and Sun Jingzu finished fifth, 12th overall, while it was a tough outing for the Thai pair of Kantasak Kusiri and Bhurit Bhirombhakdi, who crossed the line 22nd.
“Anderson Tanoto and Mark Williamson equipped themselves extremely well at this challenging circuit to finish ahead of experienced series regulars on their very first race together,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “The Audi R8 LMS GT4 has been right in the mix across all of the sessions and they will be aiming to build on this momentum in tomorrow’s round six.”
In the morning’s first qualifying session, Rump had snatched pole, keeping his focus commendably in a session that was red-flagged three times. The Estonian, like the majority of the field, was only able to clock two laps in the session and his time of 2:02.681 saw him lead out the 28-strong field at the iconic Suzuka Circuit for round five.
It was the Audi Sport Asia driver’s second consecutive pole at the circuit having won from the front of the grid in Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia’s corresponding 2018 race, however a different fate was to lie in store this time around.
Having started the race well, holding off a strong attack for the lead at turn one, Rump pumped out consistently quick times to build a healthy lead in the opening eight laps. It was on lap nine that disaster struck, with the puncture and subsequent pit stop seeing the Estonian emerge in 11th. Rump stayed in the car until the very end of the driver change pit window, and teammate Weiron Tan took over in ninth. The Malaysian Audi Sport Asia driver eventually crossed the line in 11th, just out of the points.
Audi Sport Asia Team TSRT’s David Chen had started in eighth, but lost three places on a challenging opening lap. The Chinese ace fought back well before handing the wheel to Andre Couto, who emerged from the pits in eighth – a position he held to the finish line.
In the Pro/Am class, Sun Jingzu put in an impressive stint, holding his starting position of 13th until he handed the reins to Cheng Congfu. Cheng advanced a place to finish 12th in the #13 Audi R8 LMS GT3, fifth in class.
Further back, Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup star Bhurit Bhirombhakdi had started in 11th, but an early spin saw him concede positions, handing over to compatriot Kusiri in 17th. The Thai’s Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 was then hit with some damage late in the race, slowing his pace and taking him into the pits. He emerged to cross the line 22nd overall.
It was left to Williamson and Tanoto in the Audi R8 LMS GT4 to claim a podium for the four rings, and they delivered. Having qualified third in class, Williamson fell to the very rear of the field on the opening lap. There the Australian stayed until he handed over to Tanoto fifth in class at the halfway point.
Making his first appearance at Suzuka Circuit, Tanoto put in an eye-catching performance to move his Absolute Racing entry up to fourth in class before a late-race penalty for a competitor saw him advance one place further with just two laps to go. The Indonesian held on for a memorable podium on both his and the Audi R8 LMS GT4’s series debut.
Round six gets underway at 11:10 (UTC +9) on Sunday 23rd June at Japan’s Suzuka Circuit.