A decisive move by The Bend Motorsport Park’s Yasser Shahin saw the Australian take victory in the penultimate round of the 2019 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup to move one step closer to clinching the final GT3 title of the championship’s history at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit. A spirited run to second by Alex Au in the safety car-interrupted, 11-lap night race ensured the CTVS Racers by Absolute driver remains in the title fight. B-Quik Racing’s Daniel Bilski claimed the final podium place.
Defending Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup GT4 champion Anderson Tanoto ensured that the title will also go down to the wire in Sunday’s historic final race, snatching the round nine victory from points-leader Sheng Yanwen of FEA, with Sheng’s teammate Qu Pengfei taking third.
Ensport Motorsport by Absolute Racing’s Vincent Floirendo took the Challenger Trophy win, crossing the line an eye-catching fifth.
The points gap between GT3 leader Shahin and title rival Au stands at 18, and GT4 counterparts Sheng and Tanoto at 16, ahead of the final showdown on Sunday afternoon.
“Overcoming truly challenging conditions, our drivers more than delivered tonight, putting up a clean, hard fight under the lights of Sepang for the final Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup titles,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “The stage is set for a fitting finale to the Cup.”
There was heartbreak for GT3 title hopefuls Andrew Haryanto of Absolute Racing, Bhurit Bhirombhakdi of Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing and Tony Bates of Tony Bates Racing. The trio all fell victim to the challenging conditions, with defending champion Haryanto the top finisher of the trio in fourth but now out of championship contention, Bhirombhakdi sixth after a trip into the gravel in the dying moments of the race, and Bates losing out on a tyre gamble after picking slicks over wets for the drying track.
The race for the final seat on the Audi Sport Asia team in the 2020 Suzuka 10 Hours is now between four drivers. Combining the total points tally from the opening rounds in Adelaide and this weekend, Shahin now leads with 58 points, 12 points ahead of Au, but with Bates and Bilski still in mathematical contention on 38 and 35 points respectively.
After dramatic tropical thunderstorms all afternoon, the field took to the drying track behind the safety car, with Andrew Haryanto on pole but carrying the maximum 50kg of success ballast ahead of Yasser Shahin, Bhurit Bhirombhakdi and Daniel Bilski.
As the safety car released the field, Haryanto got away cleanly but rival Shahin was off like a bullet, despite almost zero visibility from the cloud of spray created by the hard-charging Indonesian ahead. Right on Haryanto’s tail, Shahin made a potentially-championship-securing manoeuvre around the outside at turn 10 to snatch the lead. The Australian didn’t look back, powering ahead and pulling out a gap from the chasing pack.
Tony Bates, the only driver to take the brave gamble of slicks over wets, paid a heavy price, immediately struggling for control on the slippery track surface and dropping down the order.
As Shahin continued to increase his advantage at the front of the field, he was soon to have it all to do again when Bates hit the wall, bringing out the safety car.
At the restart on lap 10, Yasser got away cleanly and set off towards his second Cup victory of the season. However, it was a different story for reigning champion Haryanto. Struggling after the restart, his rivals didn’t need a second invitation. First Bhirombhakdi then Au dived past, and then Bilski did likewise, demoting Haryanto down to fifth and out of championship contention.
Au kept the pressure on Bhirombhakdi and it eventually took its toll with the Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing driver making a trip into the gravel. He was able to extricate the car and continue to eventually cross the line sixth but, like Haryanto, he is now out of title contention.
As Au headed off in pursuit of Shahin, the clock continued to count down. Despite closing the gap to a little over a second by the flag, Au had to settle for second, with Bilski claiming the final podium spot.
Vincent Floirendo continued his successful Cup return with another Challenger Trophy win, fifth overall behind Haryanto.
Bilski’s B-Quik Racing teammate Henk Kiks was seventh overall ahead of Absolute Racing’s George Nakas of Australia, the Cup and GT3 competition newcomer once again impressing in challenging conditions as he had on his debut at Suzuka. Cup debutant Paul Kanjanpas of Thailand crossed the line in ninth.
The final day of the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup begins with qualifying for round ten at 11:00 on Sunday, with the final and title-deciding race beginning at 14:00 (all times UTC +8).
The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup is operated by Audi Sport customer racing Asia.
Yasser Shahin (The Bend – Motorsport Park) – winner round nine
“We took off and as we exited [turn] two I thought [Haryanto] was a bit slow to get off the pace and I had a look on the inside at [turn] four, it wasn’t going to stick then. We came out of [turn] eight I wasn’t close enough, we came out of [turn] 10 and he just ran a little bit wide, which meant I could pull up alongside. I was literally side-by-side and I thought, I reckon he’ll brake a bit early. I went around the outside and went for it. I figured he was struggling for grip a bit and as the race went on that wasn’t going to stay that way, so take it now and move on.”
Anderson Tanoto (Absolute Racing) – winner, GT4 round nine
“It’s nice to be back in the GT4. I raced in Adelaide and this is the last race of the season. It took a while for me to get back used to the car. This is the first time for me racing in the rain, so it was difficult to keep the pace up. On the second or third lap, my pace slowed a little bit and Sheng caught up. I started picking up the pace again. Actually, I was behind him when the safety car came out, so I was a little worried. I had to pass him on that lap as, if the race had finished under the safety car, I would have come in second. Overall, it was good experience. It’s nice gain experience of the GT4 in the rain. It’s a good car in the rain; the tyres are good, and the weight helps a lot and the traction control was really helping us.”
Results round nine
1. 7/Yasser SHAHIN(AUS)/GT3/The BEND – Motorsport Park/33:06.935
2. 178/Alex AU(HKG)/GT3/CTVS Racers by Absolute/+1.057
3. 27/Daniel BILSKI(HKG)/GT3/B-Quik Racing/+5.687
4. 28/Andrew HARYANTO(INA)/GT3/Absolute Racing/+7.103
5. 55/Vincent FLOIRENDO(PHI)/GT3-CT/Ensport Motors by Absolute Racing/+7.857
6. 59/Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI(THA)/GT3/Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing/+8.903
7. 26/Henk KIKS(THA)/GT3/B-Quik Racing/+18.885
8. 14/George NAKAS(AUS)/GT3-CT/Absolute Racing/+24.199
9. 60/Paul KANJANAPAS(THA)/GT3/Absolute Racing/+26.365
10. 89/Anderson TANOTO(INA)/GT4/Absolute Racing/+46.896
11. 6/SHENG Yanwen(CHN)/GT4/FEA/+50.938
12. 66/QU Pengfei(CHN)/GT4/FEA/+1:03.066
DNF. 24/Tony BATES(AUS)/GT3/Tony Bates Racing
Fastest lap: Alex Au/CTVS Racers by Absolute/2:26.048/Lap 11
Championship points after round nine
Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup GT3 Classification after round nine (top 10)
1. Yasser SHAHIN/133
2. Alex AU/115
3. Andrew HARYANTO/106
4. Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI/97
5. Tony BATES/74
6. Vincent FLOIRENDO/63
7. Daniel BILSKI/63
8. Anthony LIU/52
9. Geoff EMERY/41
10. SUN Jingzu/34
Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup GT4 Classification after round nine (top 5)
1. SHENG Yanwen/85
2. Anderson TANOTO/69
Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup Challenger Trophy classification after round nine (top 3)
1. Vincent FLOIRINDO/63
2. Angelo NEGRO/27
3. MA Ka Chun/26