Published on April 9th, 2017 | by Amirul Mukminin0
Victory for Audi at Blancpain GT Series Asia Debut
Mitchell Gilbert and Aditya Patel of OD Racing Team recorded a highly impressive victory in round one of Blancpain GT Series Asia in their #86 car serviced by Absolute Racing. In a strong performance from the Audi GT3 cars on the grid, Audi R8 LMS Cup stars Cheng Congfu and Sun Jingzu took their #13 Milestone Racing car home in third in the Pro/Am class, with the #19 KCMG entry of Naoto Takeda and Takuya Shirasaka from Japan climbing the top podium step for amateur competitors.
“Our teams were very competitive today against a strong field of international marques,” said Bernd Goeres, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “The partnership between Audi Sport customer racing Asia and Blancpain GT Series Asia has got off to a flying start.”
The incident-fuelled race started with a literal bang, as an accident in the middle of the pack right after the lights went green on the rolling start took two cars out of the race and brought out the safety car. Gilbert, who started in pole after recording the fastest lap in the morning’s first qualifying session, held off an early attack from last season’s Audi R8 LMS Cup driver Anthony Liu in the Ferrari behind to hold position just before the yellow flags were waived.
When the safety car went in, Gilbert got away impressively and did not look back, putting clean air between his OD Racing car and the field behind. His teammate, Aditya Patel, took over driving duties half way through the race over 23 seconds ahead of the second placed car and took the chequered flag without incident for an impressive opening win.
Fighting at the front of the pack for the majority of the race were the Audi Hong Kong pair of Marchy Lee and Shaun Thong in the #5 entry. After starting in fourth, Lee was at his aggressive best, making a clean pass to get by the Ferrari ahead of him to come in for the driver change in third place.
Youngster Thong started his stint explosively, getting by the car in front to place second, but lost his position with 15 minutes remaining of the 60-minute race. Battling impressively with the experienced professionals around him, Thong brought his Phoenix Racing Asia serviced car home in fifth overall.
Cheng Congfu put his vast experience in the Audi R8 LMS into action, taking over driving duties of the Absolute Racing serviced Milestone Racing car from Sun Jingzu in the middle of the field. After recording the fourth fastest lap time of the race, the Audi R8 LMS Cup star finished ninth overall, third in the Pro/Am class.
Crossing the finish line within one second of the Chinese pair were the #6 Team Audi R8 LMS Cup and #7 Team WRT cars, both piloted by former Formula One drivers in Alex Yoong and Will Stevens respectively.
Both drivers, who will also fight it out on the track in this year’s Audi R8 LMS Cup, put in impressive lap times, Stevens recording the second fastest of the race and Yoong the fifth. With final placings of 10th overall for Yoong and teammate Alex Au, and 11th for Stevens and Jeffrey Lee, the teams just missed out on the Pro/Am class podium.
KCMG’s Japanese duo Naoto Takeda and Takuya Shirasaka topped the Am/Am class podium after placing 18th overall.
The race capped off a great day on the track for the brand with four rings, with Gilbert clocking the fastest time in qualifying session one in the morning and Marchy Lee securing a second row start for round 1. After an even quicker second qualifying session, Team Audi R8 LMS Cup of Yoong and Au and Team WRT of Stevens and Jeffrey Lee start Sunday’s round 2 on the front row, with the Milestone Racing pair of Cheng and Sun just behind them in third.
In the only downside for the Audi teams, the free practice pace-setters Martin Rump and Rick Yoon in the #18 KCMG by Champion Racing Team car were unable to participate in either qualifying session or the race after an engine problem ended their official practice earlier in the day. The engineers are working hard on making the car race-ready for round 2.