The Bend Motorsport Park’s Yasser Shahin and Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi have shared the race wins in the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup’s second round of the 2019 season at the challenging 4.318km Zhuhai International Circuit.
- Maiden Cup win for Yasser Shahin
- Bhurit Bhirombhakdi shines in the wet
- Lin and Chan share GT4 Cup wins
Following the hard-fought opening weekend in Adelaide in March, the 2019 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup caravan has moved to China’s Zhuhai International Circuit for the series’ fourth visit in eight seasons. Joining the regular championship contenders for the Guangdong Province double-header was a number of new faces. A total of 11 Absolute Racing-run Audi R8 LMS GT3 and GT4 cars took part in the three-day May Day holiday event.
Australian GT specialists Tony Bates and Yasser Shahin joined Absolute Racing regulars Andrew Haryanto, Bhurit Bhirombhakdi, Alex Au and Daniel Bilski in the GT3 class. Vincent Floirendo of the Philippines made also a welcome return to the Cup.
In the GT4 Cup, China’s Henan Province Sheng Yanwen and Qu Pengfei faced the competition of Hong Kong’s Tommy Chan and China’s touring car ace Li Lin.
Qualifying one on Friday brought a very strong performance by Alex Au of CTVS Racers by Absolute who carried his blistering free practice pace into qualifying to take pole (1:36.435). He was joined at the front of the grid by the only other driver in the field carrying success ballast from Adelaide, Shahin (1:36.682). Bates (1:36.795) and Bhirombhakdi (1:36.879) completed the second row. With the top five in qualifying separated by just over half a second.
After a dramatic race one on Friday, the second qualifying session got underway on Saturday morning. Au has taken pole (1:35.440) for the second time this weekend, edging out Bates by mere four hundredths of a second. Shahin (1:35.835) lined up third on the grid alongside Bhirombhakdi.
Race one was anything but boring with incident and action galore to thrill the large crowd. Shahin took advantage of a dramatic opening-lap incident involving many of the front-runners to power to his first Cup win. B-Quik Racing Team’s Bilski continued his superb run of form to claim second ahead of Filipino driver Floirendo of Ensport Motors by Absolute Racing, who also took the Cup’s inaugural Challenger Trophy win.
Bhirombhakdi had mounted a powerful recovery after spinning off the track in the early-race incident to cross the line second, having challenged the Australian driver all the way to the line. The “Thai Tornado” was later stripped of his podium finish for overtaking under a yellow flag. That dropped him to fourth in the final classification.
Bates was an early victim of the first corner melee as pole-sitter Au was sent flying into heavy T4 barriers after a collision with Haryanto. The Indonesian driver, meanwhile, retired in the pits on lap 6 after another contact.
The rain arrived on Sunday for the race two. Bhirombhakdi superbly bounced back from race one disappointment to secure a fantastic win with a stunning drive in the wet. The Thai driver managed the pressure of reigning champion Haryanto on a last lap sprint. The Indonesian driver crossed the line second after a charge from the very back of the grid.
Floirendo, meanwhile, continued his remarkable Cup return with a second consecutive overall podium finish, lifting his second Challenger Trophy in the process.
Championship leader and winner of round three, Shahin powered to a creditable fourth place despite carrying the maximum 50kg success ballast. Fellow countryman Bilski finished fifth, moving to second in the standings. Although Bates endured a frustrating outing in round four, he sits just four points behind in third as the Cup leaves Zhuhai. Pole-sitter Au was sidelined in the pits with technical issues.
In the GT4 Cup class, China’s Li Lin won Saturday race but Hong Kong’s Tommy Chan was stronger in the wet.
The Cup heads now north for a double-header at the Shanghai International Circuit on June 1-2.
Ingo Matter (Team Director): “Zhuhai circuit is our home ground, we know it perfectly, so it is always a pleasure to race here in the Cup.Bhurit and Yasser were particularly strong this weekend, and it was great seeing Andrew bouncing back in race two. Vincent did a great job and it’s also worth pointing out the close racing in the GT4 Cup. We feel sorry for what happened to Alex as he certainly had the pace to win this weekend. We now head to Shanghai where once more we can expect close competition and a lot of fun.”
Michael Schneider (Team Manager): “The races this weekend have been really exciting. We had new drivers on the podium in race one, and a new race winner in Yasser. The second race didn’t lack in excitement, from the start until the final lap, with Bhurit’s dominating victory and Haryanto storming to the second place from the back of the grid. I’ve to say that we feel sorry for Alex Au. He dominated both qualifying sessions, but unfortunately he went home without points. Overall our drivers showed good pace all weekend and hopefully this is going to continue in the next races.”
Yasser Shahin (Race 1 – P1): “This is one of those circuits where you lose your place by making mistakes. I was very lucky in the first corner to stay in the race. I got hit a couple of times and just managed to stay around. Then [there was] another accident in front of me, so really it was just a very eventful race, but I kept it uneventful for me.”
Bhurit Bhirombhakdi (Race 2 – P1): “I started race two from P4, and I came into the lead and tried to maintain it. When the safety car came out, I thought ‘Oh God, not again!’ Andrew was very fast in the rain, and I could see him. I looked at the pit board and I thought maybe the race will finish behind the safety car, but we had one more lap and I thought Andrew would catch me. And he almost did.”
Daniel Bilski (Race 1 – P2): “Firstly, a big thank you to B-Quik Racing, Absolute Racing and the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup. It’s fantastic to be here and it’s really fantastic to be on the podium. I think everyone was surprised how slippery the track was. Everyone braked late and everything kicked off. For me, it was a case of stay clean, stay focussed, work on my lap times.”
Andrew Haryanto (Race 2 – P2): “I am happy to be back on the podium. I think the race director was very gracious to give us one last lap of racing. That was a lot of fun. I think it rains a lot in Thailand so Bhurit’s very good in the rain.”
Vincent Floirendo (Race 1&2 – P3): “Thank you to Absolute Racing, and I’m glad to be back with the Cup. Last time I joined was in 2017, so I’m glad to be back here in this position. It was my first time here in Zhuhai. I just kept my cool, stayed clean – didn’t do any risky manoeuvres. It worked out very well for me.’”
Li Lin (Race 1 – GT4 Cup P1): “Thank you to Audi China and to Absolute Racing for giving me this opportunity to race in the Cup and to learn. What is good in the Cup is we have the same car, so we can learn from each other. You can see from both of our performances today, they were much better so I’d like to thank the Cup for providing us with this platform.”
Tommy Chan (Race 2 – GT4 Cup P1): “From the qualifying we knew we were actually quite close on pace as I was a tenth off Li Lin, but the rain shook things up a lot. Apparently, Li Lin was a little bit too late on the brakes and went off a little, and luckily I took the lead and held it to the end.”
Photos @ Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup