The Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia race at Suzuka was a bruising affair for the three Absolute Racing Audi GT3 teams, but the single R8 LMS GT4 came away with a couple of podium finishes on its debut in the series.
- Heartbreak for Rump and Tan in race one
- Sun and Cheng score the best class result of 2019
- Maiden podium finishes on GT4 debut
Qualifying one proved to be one of the most dramatic in recent memory as the 15-minute session was marred by no less than three red flags. Rump snatched the pole for Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute, grabbing his second consecutive pole at the circuit.
Later in the day Rump had converted pole position into a six-second advantage when the Audi R8 LMS GT3 he shares with Weiron Tan was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop in lap 9 due to a puncture just before the pit window opened. Tan took over in ninth with old tires, and eventually crossed the line in 11th, just out of the points.
Starting from 15th for race two, Tan and Rump recovered well, advancing ten places during the 60-minute race to finish fifth overall. However, the Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute pair was handed five-place grid penalty for next race in Fuji. After sixth out of twelve races, Rump and Tan sit seventh in the overall championship, and sixth in the Silver Cup.
In the Pro/Am class, Sun Jingzu put in a remarkable stint in race one, holding his starting position of 13th until he handed the reins to Cheng Congfu. Showing a strong pace, Cheng advanced a place to finish 12th in the #13 Audi R8 LMS GT3, fifth in class. On Sunday, the all-Chinese line up put in a convincing showing to cross the line fourth in class – their best performance so far this season – and 11th overall. The result leaves 12th the Chinese pair in the Pro/Am Class standings.
Following two Pro/Am Class podium finishes in Sepang and Buriram, Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing endured a tough weekend in Japan. Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup vice-champion Bhurit Bhirombhakdi had started in 11thfor race one, but an early spin saw him concede positions, handing over to compatriot Kusiri in 17th. A late incident had thrown the Thai’s Audi to 22nd overall.
Sunday was another tough day for Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing duo. Kusiri, who had started round six as the highest placed Audi R8 LMS GT3, fourth on the grid, fell down the order after contact with a competitor at turn one. The Thai duo was later penalized for the collision and had their 14th place finish downgraded to 17th in the final classification. That result puts the pair sixth on the Pro/Am Class points at the halfway stage of the season.
The Audi R8 LMS GT4 has made a stunning first appearance in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia GT4 category, landing on the podium in both races over the weekend. Having qualified third in class for race one, Indonesia’s Anderson Tanoto, who was also debuting at Suzuka Circuit, and Australia’s Williamson, who fell to the very rear of the field on the opening lap, put in an eye-catching performance to move their Absolute Racing entry up to fourth in class. A late-race penalty for a competitor saw them advance one place further with just two laps to go.
On Sunday Tanoto put in another strong stint to be running third in class, with Williamson advancing one place further to finish second in the GT4 class.
Following this impressive performance at Suzuka, the team will evaluate further participations with the R8 LMS GT4.
The championship continues in two week’s time at Fuji, Japan.
Ingo Matter (Team Director): “We had two interesting races here at Suzuka. It was a mixed weekend, a lot of good points and a few undesirable ones. The pace was definitely there for more podium finishes or to fight for an overall win. Rump was very unlucky in race one, but safety-car car helped him on a back-to-front race two. Kusiri’s race two start crash deprived them of a possible good result. In the same way second race’s safety-car took away a likely PRO/AM podium for Sun and Cheng. Still, we are happy with a good GT4 debut. Two podium finishes show the potential of the R8 LMS GT4 in the category. With six races to go, we must maximise our potential at every event because there’s still a long way to the end of the season.”
Michael Schneider (Team Manager): “The qualifying was a bit chaotic this weekend, but Martin and Kusiri made the best out of it with a pole-position for Martin in race one and a second-row place for Kusiri in race two. The races didn’t really go to plan. In race one Martin stormed away from the field, but a puncture caused by some debris on track has stopped a potential start-to-line victory. In the second race Kusiri’s ambitions have been stopped when he got pushed out in the first corner. Cheng drove great on both days. His average lap times have been in the top 5 in both races. At same time we had a very good introduction for the Audi R8 LMS GT4 into the Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia. The two podiums finishes were a great success for Anderson and Mark.”
#12 Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute
Weiron Tan/Martin Rump
Race 1: P11 (5thSilver Cup)
Race 2: P5 (3rdSilver Cup)
#13 Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute
Cheng Congfu/Sun Jingzu
Race 1: P12 (5thPro/Am)
Race 2: P11 (4thPro/Am)
#59 Singha Plan B by Absolute Racing
Bhurit Bhirombhakdi/Kantasak Kusiri
Race 1: P22 (12thPro/Am)
Race 2: P17 (9thPro/Am)
#89 Absolute Racing
Anderson Tanoto/Mark Williamson
Race 1: P25 (3rdGT4)
Race 2: P22 (2ndGT4)