A double overall podium and class wins at home
The Absolute Racing celebrated a remarkable Blancpain GT Series Asia double overall podium result at Shanghai International Circuit over the weekend, 22nd/23rdSeptember, and secured two class wins and more silverware at China’s Formula 1 circuit.
–Two Audi R8 LMS cars on the overall podium,
– “1-2” finish in the Pro-Am class in race one,
– Silver Cup podium finish in race two,
– Singha Plan B by Absolute Racing shines on Am Cup debut.
Saturday’s qualifying sessions saw Absolute Racing drivers performing strong once again. Cheng Congfu has stormed to a front row start for Round 9. The Chinese driver put together a 2:06.397 to start Saturday’s race from second.
The other story of Blancpain GT Series Asia’s first qualifying session was that of the Audi bronze-ranked drivers. Andrew Kim took Pro-Am pole (2:07.254), the highest qualifying bronze-ranked driver in the 32-car field, placing his car in seventh on the grid. Anthony Liu (2:07.631) qualified ninth overall and third of the Pro-Am field. Last but not least, Singha Plan B Motorsport by Absolute Racing’s Sun Jingzu, making his first appearance in the series this year, took Am-Cup pole (2:07.849) to start alongside teammate Bhurit Bhirombhakdi in 11thoverall.
In the second qualifying session, Absolute Racing’s Rump left it late in the session to secure third on the starting grid Round 10, carrying on his scintillating pace from practice with a lap of 2:05.801 in the morning’s second qualifying session. Series returnee Picariello posted the seventh quickest time (2:06.119), allowing the #37 Paragon Water Systems Absolute Racing entry to start from third in the Pro-Am class. Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup mentor Fong ended the session in 12th (2:06.826), with Bhirombhakdi following in 24thand third in the amateur drivers class (2:08.788).
Expectations were high in the team with Shanghai circuit having been a happy hunting ground for the Absolute Racing Audis in recent years, and race one thankfully delivered. Picariello and Liu once again put in a perfect performance with a truly professional drive to take the second place overall. Liu pitted just after the window for the enforced driver change opened, with Picariello emerging in fourth. The ‘Belgian Bullet’ continued Liu’s top work, and was on the power immediately, moving up to third and then second, pulling a gap to take the flag for the Pro-Am category win in his first appearance for the team in 2018.
Kim and Fong delivered a stunning drive, storming through the pack to take third as the flag dropped. Fong, who emerged from the pit lane in fifth after an excellent stint from an in-form Kim. The Hong Kong driver continued where his Korean teammate had left off, moving past his competitors over the next few laps and into the final podium position with ten minutes to go. He took the flag third overall, second in the Pro-Am class.
Amidst the joy, there was also agony for the team, as Rump and Cheng’s early race lead was shattered after contact from a competitor behind at turn one. The culprit was later hit with a drive-through penalty for the incident. Cheng didn’t throw the towel, however a drive through penalty for a separate incident on his stint hampered the #3 Absolute Racing’s chase eventually taking the chequered in 16th overall and eight in the Silver Cup class. The Singha Plan B Motorsport by Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS didn’t start due to a technical failure moments before the start.
The second race of the weekend took place on Sunday morning and it had other actors. The highest finishing Audi R8 LMS in round 10 was that of Rump and Chen. The Audi Sport Asia drivers fought hard and just narrowly missed the podium by seven-tenths of a second, taking the flag fourth overall and second in the Silver Cup.
The start of the race brought misfortune to two Absolute Racing entries, when a turn one melee sucked in the sister cars of Picariello/Liu and Fong/Kim. Fong was able to continue with a damaged car, and teammate Kim eventually took it home in 15thoverall, seventh in the Pro/Am class.
In the Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing entry, Bhirombhakdi had started 24th, third in class, and had an eventful opening stint that included a spin just prior to the midrace compulsory driver change. Sun took over in 21st and charged through the mid-pack to finish 16th overall; enough to secure the team’s maiden Am Cup win this season.
Commenting about the race weekend, Team Director Ingo Matter said, “It has been a weekend of mixed feelings for the team with fantastic performances from our driver line-ups. We placed two cars in the overall podium in race one, a Pro-Am class “1-2”, we celebrated a second-place finish in Silver Cup and we took an Am Cup race win today. On the other hand, we had also plenty of situations that were beyond our control that prevented even better results. We still two races to go we definitely want to finish the season on high at Ningbo.”
Absolute Racing now has less than a month break for final preparations before the season finale at the Ningbo Speedpark on October 13/14.
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