Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute’s Weiron Tan and Martin Rump took an impressive round seven Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia podium in the shadow of Mount Fuji, Japan. Tan’s getaway when the lights went green launched the Audi Sport Asia pair immediately into podium contention despite starting seventh on the grid. A well-managed pit stop and stint from teammate Rump swept the duo to their second series podium and highest finish of the season at Fuji International Speedway.
In a strong showing for the Audi R8 LMS GT3s on track, Audi Sport driver Rahel Frey marked her return to Asia with a top five finish alongside Audi Sport Asia Team TSRT teammate David Chen.
“Today the Audi Sport customer teams showed what they are capable of: strong pace through all the sessions and challenging for the overall race win,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “With the second half of the season now fully underway, we are confident that they will build on this in the remaining five races, starting with tomorrow’s round eight.”
In the second Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute entry, Sun Jingzu impressed. The Chinese privateer and Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup driver jumped eight places in the first three laps to be running 11th overall, fifth in the Pro/Am class. Teammate Cheng Congfu brought the team’s Audi R8 LMS home in 12th, sixth in class.
Philip Tang of X Works was another privateer to catch the eye in the first stint, advancing four places in the early stages of the race from a starting position of 23rd. Teammate, and 2017 series Silver Cup champion, Shaun Thong took over and crossed the line 19th, ninth in Pro/Am.
Audi Sport Asia driver Tan had clocked the second quickest time of the morning’s first qualifying session, but the Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute entry was carrying over a five-place grid penalty after an incident in the previous Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia round.
That saw Tan drop to seventh, with fellow Audi Sport Asia driver David Chen bumped up one position to fourth on the round seven starting grid. Further back, a tough session for Sun and Tang saw them line up at the foot of Mount Fuji in 19th and 23rd respectively.
When the lights went green Tan, who had taken a memorable LMP2 win at his previous appearance at the circuit, was away like a rocket, up the inside as the 31-car field hurtled into turn one. The Malaysian came out of the right-hander in fourth, wheel-to-wheel with the third placed competitor, but backed off as he was squeezed to the edge of the track in the run into turn four.
Chen on the other hand got caught in the middle of the melee at the start of the race and fell back to seventh after turn one. The Audi Sport Asia driver then showed the tenacity and race craft that have defined his first season in the series to recover to fifth by lap five.
Chen then set about reducing the gap to less than a second to fellow Audi Sport Asia driver Tan, who was just ahead in fourth. There both drivers remained until the pit window opened for the compulsory driver change.
Further back, Sun Jingzu had got away superbly, advancing through the mid pack to hand over to compatriot Cheng Congfu seven places better off than where he had started in 12th. Audi Sport Asia driver Cheng took the wheel and steered the #13 Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute entry home in 12th, sixth in the Pro/Am class.
X Works’ Philip Tang was also one on the move off the start, advancing from P23 to hand over to teammate Shaun Thong in 17th. Thong had a tough stint caught up in traffic, taking the car home in 19th, ninth in Pro/Am.
Up ahead, Frey had taken over from Chen in fifth and held off a late challenge for position to claim a top five finish for Audi Sport Asia Team TSRT.
For Tan and Rump, the mid-window pit stop proved key. Rump emerged from the pit lane just ahead of the Porsche that had led the first half of the race, in third.
The Estonian then got his head down and set his sights on the Ferrari further up the road. Rump reeled him in and passed him with 22 minutes to go, taking the flag a comfortable second, just half a second behind the winner.
Round eight of Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia gets underway at the Fuji International Speedway at 13:05 (UTC +9) on Sunday 7th July.