Absolute Racing clean sweeps Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup races at Shanghai
Absolute Racing’s Anthony Liu took two wins in the 2019 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup weekend at the Shanghai International Circuit as the Shanghai-based team drivers bagged the GT4 Cup and Challenger Trophies in both races.
- Anthony Liu wins both races and gets a ticket to Suzuka 10 Hours
- Double win for Angelo Negro in the Challenger Trophy
- Sheng Yanwen wins GT4 Cup category twice
The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup returned to its home at the heart of Chinese motorsport for rounds five and six at the 5.5km Hermamn Tilke designed track this weekend, its 12th visit in eight seasons. Absolute Racing crew provided technical support to nine (9) Audi R8 LMS GT3 and two (2) Audi R8 LMS GT4.
The Shanghai double-header saw the return to the Cup of last year’s Absolute Racing Blancpain GT Series Asia campaign driver Anthony Liu and the comeback of Sun Jingzu who had dropped points by missing the Zhuhai rounds. Making his Cup debut this weekend behind the wheel of an Audi R8 LMS GT3 was Angelo Negro from Italy.
In the GT4 Cup, Absolute Racing-run FEA team entered two Audi R8 LMS GT4s. Sheng Yanwen returned to the Cup after taking a class podium in round three, while the second car was piloted in one race by Wang Dengjia and the other by Zhang Dongqi.
Following Friday’s free practice sessions, the first 15-minute qualifying session took place on Saturday morning. Making his first Cup appearance this season, Liu was not shy and achieved the pole-position (2:06.043), 1.002 seconds ahead of Alex Au. Andrew Haryanto, Angelo Negro, Yasser Shahin and Sun Jingzu qualified next fastest as Sheng Yanwen (2:20.416) was the quickest in the GT4 Cup.
After an exciting race one on Saturday, the second qualifying session got underway on Sunday morning. Liu has secured another pole-position (2:05.873) in front of Au. Negro, Haryanto and Bhurit Bhirombhaki and Shanin lined up in the second and third rows. Ever-improving Sheng was the fastest (2:19.267) in the GT4 Cup.
As the lights went out for race one on Saturday Liu was swamped by the charging pack, dropping him down to fourth. Even carrying 20kg of ballast, he was quickly back up to second before retaking the lead after seven corners. He stayed there until the end of the race, conquering his first overall win in the Cup.
Bouncing back from an unlucky weekend at Zhuhai, Au kept his sights firmly on the championship and settled for second after defending late-race pressure from Haryanto. Starting from fourth on the grid, Negro crossed the line fourth to take the Challenger Trophy win. The Italian overtook championship leader Shanin for fourth at the first corner of the final lap.
Singha Plan B by Absolute Racing’s Bhirombhakdi had recovered after a difficult start, beating Shanghai track debutant Bates for the sixth place. After a week of birthday celebrations, the Australian qualified ninth before making three spots with a brilliant start, and setting into a nice rhythm. Further in the field, Sun Jingzu dropped away at the start after an incident on the first lap. The Chinese driver had to work hard from 10th to 8th. Ensport Motors by Absolute Racing’s Vincent Floirendo crossed the line tenth, finishing third in the Challenger class.
Sheng Yanwen beat Wang Dengjia to the flag in the GT4 Cup by a 1.6 second margin.
On Sunday race Liu wrapped up a perfect weekend, converting his pole position into a lights-to-flag victory. Leading the way off the line, the Chinese headed Au and Negro to the flag Liu proceeded to build a large early lead over Au, who was managing his race with the championship in mind, going almost twenty-five seconds clear of his rival after the fifteen laps.
The Absolute Racing driver’s maximum points haul from two wins and two pole positions secures him the first seat on the Audi Sport Asia team at the 2020 Suzuka 10 Hours via the Cup’s Road to Suzuka programme.
Behind the leader, Negro overtook Au, but on lap two the Hong Kong driver took advantage of his opponent mistake, snatching back second place which he would hold to the flag. Behind Negro, who ended up crossing the finish line in third and won the Challenger Trophy, Bates was coming under pressure from Haryanto, before the he managed to pull clear and set his sights on catching Negro up ahead. Unfortunately a technical issue suddenly slowed down Bates on the very last lap and the #24 Tony Bates Racing entry driver had to settle for eighth.
There was more drama to come before the flag when the last lap saw Haryanto spin on the slippery surface, opening the door for Sun to get by and claim fourth.
Further down the order, Floirendo had an immaculate race to finish seventh. Championship title contenders Bhirombhakdi and Shahin made contact for a second time this weekend early in the race. Both managed to rejoin at the rear of the field but Bhirombhakdi was later disqualified for his culpability in both incidents, while Shahin was forced to make a pit stop before rejoining to finish eleventh.
Sheng Yanwen took the second consecutive win in the GT4 Cup category as he finished ahead of teammate Zhang Dongqi, who was delighted to take a GT4 podium finish on his debut Cup weekend.
Despite a challenging race weekend for Shahin, The BEND Motorsport Park driver remains at the top of the GT3 classification on 81 points. However, Au’s two second place finishes see the CTVS Racers by Absolute driver (66 points) close the gap to just 15 points with four races remaining. Tony Bates completes the top three (54 points), followed by Anthony Liu (52 points), last year’s vice-champion Bhirombhaki and last year’s champion Haryanto (both with 49 points).
Sheng Yanwen is leading the GT4 Cup category leaderboard with 67 points. Li Lin and Mark Williamson are sharing the second place (45 points). Tommy Chan and Anderson Tanoto are currently lying in third (43 points).
The Cup will now take a summer break to return on August 23 and 24 at Suzuka, Japan.
Ingo Matter (Team Director): “It’s always good to race at home and this year was no exception. The Shanghai circuit is where Absolute Racing is based and where the Cup started eight years ago. Basically it was a fantastic weekend for Anthony who returned in style to get rewarded with a seat in the Suzuka 10 Hours. It was a very challenging weekend for many drivers, but Angelo did an impressive debut with us and Alex Au has bounced back very good. Tony was very unlucky today when a stone got in the alternator belt, but it was good to see him back on pace. We are happy to see new faces to the sport in the GT4 Cup, and enjoying the family spirit that Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup fosters. Congratulations to our drivers who, in general, did an excellent job over the weekend, and thank you to the whole team.”
Michael Schneider (Team Manager): “We saw some very good and clean racing this weekend at Shanghai. Anthony was untouchable on his home track, but behind him it was very tight. Alex bagged two-second places finishes, and Andrew and Angelo completed the race overall podiums. Congratulations to Anthony for securing a Suzuka 10 Hours seat in 2020! There are still four races to go and we will do our utmost to end this season in the best way possible.”
Anthony Liu (Race 1&2 – P1): “Overall, it was a good weekend for me. I was a bit ‘rusty’ coming to this weekend and I didn’t make a good race one start. But by turn seven, I managed to overtake Alex [Au] and then I controlled the race throughout. It was a little bit slippery out there in race two, but the race went smoothly for me. Thank you to Absolute again, and thank you to Audi.”
Alex Au (Race 1&2 – P2): “It was pretty good weekend. I am quite happy with my results. With Anthony [Liu] driving this weekend, this was the maximum I could do. It’s very good for the championship. I’ll try to get another Suzuka 10 Hours seat later in the season, Anthony is really quick and it would be really good to race with him.”
Andrew Haryanto (Race 1 – P3): “I’m satisfied with my race one podium position. At the start, Anthony [Liu] didn’t get the best of starts. From there on, I had a bit of a nudge with Yasser [Shahin] at the first corner. The rest was pretty straightforward. I just tried to follow Alex [Au]. By the fifth lap, I couldn’t see the lights on Anthony’s car any more. I have a lot to learn!”
Angelo Negro (Race 2 – P3 & Race 1&2 – Challenger Trophy winner): “It was my first time in the car and I never raced an Audi before. It was quite tough to learn the car in such short time. However, I improved every session. The car is fantastic and I’m really happy to have the chance to drive it for the first time. In race one I had a good fight with Yasser [Shahin], who gave me a really hard time the entire race. In race two I believe I could have finish second but I did a mistake and ruined my rear tires early on. All in all, it was a good weekend. I wasn’t expecting this kind of performance and this result.”
Sheng Yanwen (Race 1&2 – GT4 Cup P1): “I’m happy to be racing the Audi R8 LMS GT4 and making a lot of improvements to myself and having a lot of fun in the race. I’ve improved my lap times this weekend, so I tried to improve them in the races also. I don’t think my lap times in race one were very good, but it was good experience.”
Photos courtesy of Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup
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