Published on February 28th, 2018 | by Amirul Mukminin0
Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup Goes Global at 2018 Season Opener in Australia
Familiar faces join exciting newcomers for the start of an electrifying new era for the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup at Australia’s demanding 3.219km Adelaide Street Circuit. The Asia-based line-up is complimented by a strong Australian driver contingent, reflecting the Cup’s strategy to attract local entries at the season’s signature events.
Rounds 1 and 2 of the sprint series’ seventh season form part of the renowned Adelaide 500 meeting, with the Cup’s double-header marking both the Australian debut of the GT sprint series and its first ever races outside of Asia.
“The Adelaide 500, held on one of the world’s most unforgiving street circuits in front of packed grandstands, is the perfect way to launch the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup into a new era,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “Ahead of our seventh season, the stage is set for an intriguing battle between our Asia-based and Australian drivers, good luck to all!”
Back to contest a record-setting seventh consecutive season is Jeffrey Lee with Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan. Lee will become the only driver to have appeared in every Cup season since its debut in 2012 – when he won the first-ever Am Cup title. He took his second Am title in 2016, and last year finished runner-up in the Am+ category.
Returning to the Cup as reigning Am champion is Thailand’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi, who took the 2017 title in commanding style. Racing with his Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing team, Bhirombhakdi begins a second season with the Cup following an impressive GT podium finish in the final round of the 2017/18 Asian Le Mans Series.
Also returning to the Cup in the Absolute Racing camp is China’s Sun Jingzu, who joins for a fifth season running. Sun was runner-up in the Am Cup last year, with three victories and a trio of podiums out of his six starts. Joining Sun on the team is fellow countryman and former China GT Championship driver Yang Xi who makes his Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup debut.
New to the Cup but no stranger to the podiums of Asia is Indonesian Andrew Haryanto. Second in the Blancpain GT Series Asia GT3 Am Cup last season, Haryanto won the 2017 Am title in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Middle East. Making his Cup debut with ProMax team, Haryanto will be one to watch this season.
Amongst the familiar faces in the Cup paddock who will be on the grid for the season opener is Hong Kong-based Australian Daniel Bilski. Masters Cup winner in 2016 and 2015 Am Cup champion, Bilski is reunited with his multiple title-winning team B-Quik Racing with whom he took the 2017 Thailand Super Series’ Super Car GTM Plus Teams’ championship win in an Audi R8 LMS Cup GT3.
Australian Bilski is joined by seven of his fellow countrymen on the grid for rounds 1 and 2 in Adelaide. Marc Cini, Steve McLaughlan and Yasser Shahin of JAMEC PEM Racing, Mark Williamson of CTVS Racers, Tony Bates, and brothers James and Theo Koundorious will be tasked with upholding Australian honour as they make their debuts with the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup this weekend.
While the Cup’s Asian-based line-up are managed by Absolute Racing, the Australian entries are serviced by local Cup partner Melbourne Performance Centre (MPC). The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup will continue to work closely with regional race teams, including European outfits at the Cup’s forthcoming race weekend at Germany’s Nürburgring.
With a privateer line-up in the new-look Cup the open data policy, designed to create an ideal environment for driver development, is complemented by participation at each round of accomplished pro mentors. In Adelaide, Adderly Fong and Cheng Congfu will fulfil the roles of coaching and guiding the drivers. Hong Kong’s Fong won the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup title in 2013, becoming the first Hong Kong driver ever to test a Formula 1 car the following year. Most recently, he has been competing in the respected Pirelli World Challenge in the USA. Cheng, China’s most successful circuit racing driver to-date, contested five seasons of the Cup, finishing third overall last year.
The new Audi R8 LMS GT4 makes its Cup debut this season, with the category launched in Adelaide by an exhibition race between Fong and Cheng as non-points-scoring guest entries. The GT4 Cup will then commence with an all-privateer line-up from rounds 3 and 4 of the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup at the Nürburgring in May, where Chinese celebrity racer Han Geng will make his Cup debut.
Run in the true spirit of one-make racing, success ballast will serve to maintain a high level of competition throughout the season. Drivers finishing on the podium will be given success ballast for the next race of 30, 20 and 10 kilogrammes respectively. Additional weight will be added to any driver already carrying ballast who finishes on the podium, to a maximum of 50kg. Driver weight equalization for 2018 will be 90kg.
However, for the first race of the season-opener, all drivers will be free from ballast as they race together for the first time on the streets of Adelaide and the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup 2018 gets underway ‘down under’.