Published on September 20th, 2021 | by Amirul Mukminin0
Fruitful Racing Weekend For Audi In China Endurance Championship
A second consecutive victory and a debut win – it could not have gone any better for the German automaker
Audi Sport Asia continues to cement its lead in the China Endurance Championship (CEC) following Cheng Congfu and Chen Weian’s overall win in round two at the Ningbo International Speedpark. Despite having to serve a drive-through penalty following an incident, the Absolute Racing pair managed to claw back into the lead and maintain their position until the chequered flag to claim their second consecutive CEC victory.
Meanwhile, new Audi customer team Harmony Racing impressed on their racing debut with the Audi R8 LMS GT3 by winning the Am-Am GT Cup class and finishing fourth overall with drivers Li Donghang, Xu Zheyu and Hu Haoheng.
There was victory in the 150-minute race too for the Audi RS 3 LMS with 326 Racing Team’s Li Sicheng and Wu Yifan leading home a 1-2 class finish ahead of Z.Speed’s Yang Xiaowei, Xu Zhefeng and Chu Xu. Early podium contenders, MMK Racing’s Mi Qi, Zheng Wancheng and Chang Chienshang, were classified fourth, while the second 326 Racing entry of Yang Manman, Hu Bo and Da Bai retired while in podium contention just 20 mins from the flag.
“Hats off to Cheng Congfu, Chen Weian and Absolute Racing for winning a thrilling CEC race in Ningbo,” said Alexander Blackie, Manager of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “With an eye-catching class win for Harmony Racing on their R8 LMS debut race and also a TCE category win for the 326 Racing Team RS 3 LMS, it’s been a very strong weekend for our customers and teams in China.”
Yang Xiaowei’s second place TCE finish propels him to the top of the season-long Audi Sport Asia Trophy standings on 1,084 points, ahead of TCE race-winner Wu Yifan in second on 961 points. Third is Hu Bo (836 points), while Mi Qi, Zheng Wancheng, Chang Chienshang and Li Sicheng are all joint fourth on 736 points.
Starting from P2, Chen Weian took the first 75-minute stint on the 4.010km track, blasting off the start as the field was released and immediately pulling alongside the pole-sitter. However, an incident as the pair hurtled into turn five, saw the team handed a drive-through penalty. Penalty served and running in second, Chen was immediately back on the hunt for the lead.
With 40 minutes gone, Chen had reduced the gap to the leader to around 23 seconds when the safety car was called out and his rival pitted. That put Chen back in the lead and, when the safety car released the field, he took full advantage of the clean air ahead to pull clear of the chasing pack and slam out a succession of rapid laps.
Chen had created an advantage of more than 27 seconds when he handed the car over to Cheng Congfu at the half way mark. Cheng came out flying and quickly made inroads into the race leader, who pitted with an hour remaining on the clock. Well aware his rivals would be hunting him down on fresher tyres, Cheng didn’t put a wheel wrong as he pulled a gap of more than 15 seconds, enough to keep all challengers at bay and retain the lead to the chequered flag. In a display of skill, speed and strategy, the two Audi Sport Asia drivers took their second consecutive CEC victory.
After a strong debut qualifying session, Harmony Racing made their CEC debut from P3, and fended off a strong challenge from the Pro drivers in the opening laps. The team held their position to cross the line fourth – one place away from the overall podium – and take the Am-Am GT Cup victory on their debut. Today’s result is a promising achievement for the nascent Ningbo-based team.
In the TCE class, the MMK Racing trio of Mi Qi, Zheng Wancheng and Chang Chienshang had taken pole in qualifying and led 326 Racing’s Li Sicheng and Wu Yifan and the Z.Speed trio of Yang Xiaowei, Xu Zhefeng and Chu Xu off the start. The second 326 Racing Audi RS 3 LMS of Yang Manman, Hu Bo and Dai Bai had it all to do from their P16 starting position, but were quickly up into podium contention.
The MMK Racing entry was eventually classified in fourth after previously having led the TCE class race. With just 20 minutes remaining, there was drama when the #51 326 Racing Team entry pitted, and the sister car slowed on track, eventually retiring in the pits. Rejoining the race in the lead with just 15 minutes remaining, #51 roared towards the flag ahead of the Z.Speed entry, the pair taking a well-earned 1-2 TCE class finish.
The CEC resumes next month when it arrives at the 4.319km Zhuhai International Circuit where the third round of the five-stop 2021 season will be held from October 15-17.
China Endurance Championship round two
Audi R8 LMS GT3/Overall/GT Cup
Overall winners #10/Cheng Congfu/Chen Weian/Audi Sport Asia team Absolute
4th overall/winners Am-Am category/#779/Li Donghang/Xu Zheyu/Hu Haoheng/Harmony Racing
Audi RS 3 LMS/TCE
1. #51/Li Sicheng/Wu Yifan/326 Racing Team
2. #188/Yang Xiaowei/Xu Zhefeng/Chu Xu/Z.Speed
4. #106/Mi Qi/Zheng Wancheng/Chang Chienshang/MMK Racing
DNF #11/Yang Manman/Hu Bo/Da Bai/326 Racing Team