Reigning Audi R8 LMS Cup champion Alex Yoong kept clean air between his Team Audi R8 LMS GT3 and an incident-filled Round 5 to win on the 5.6km Korea International Circuit.
Crossing the line more than five seconds behind him was OD Racing Team’s Mitch Gilbert, who finished an impressive second from fifth on the grid carrying 20kg of success ballast, his fourth Cup podium in a row. Audi TEDA Racing Team’s Shaun Thong stormed from third-last on the grid to finish third.
“We wanted to show what we’re capable of doing after a bad start to the year,” said the current champion Alex Yoong. “I’m very happy. The car was excellent and Phoenix Racing Asia did a great job – the tyres were great the whole race. We tried a few things and that, coupled with the fact I’m also driving the car better, meant we were able to attack and attack and attack. It was a little tricky in the beginning in the wet with a bit of rain coming down. I managed to pass Martin [Rump] and then it was a matter of keeping it clean.”
“Round 5 proved to be one of the most electrifying of the season so far,” commented Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “With a wet track in qualifying, team tyre strategy really mixed up the grid positions. Alex Yoong put his skills and experience to best effect today. Congratulations to all for putting on such an exciting display of motorsport.”
Overall classification leader Alessio Picariello of MGT by Absolute missed out on a podium finish, despite closing up to Thong and piling on the pressure after starting from eighth on the grid and carrying 35kg of success ballast. His fourth place finish sees him increase his margin at the top of the leaderboard on 101 points. Gilbert moves up to second in the title chase (66 points), while Yoong’s win sees him jump from seventh to third (62 points) ahead of FAW-VW Audi Racing Team’s Cheng Congfu (59 points).
Tianshi Racing Team’s David Chen of China, who dazzled in qualifying to start alongside Yoong on the front row of the grid, took the Am+ victory having kept his eye on the prize despite the incessant drama of the 13-lap race. Bhurit Bhirombhakdi of Singha Plan-B Motorsport topped the Am class podium, finishing 11th overall.
Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan’s Jeffrey Lee continues to lead the Am+ classification (72 points) after finishing 13th overall, fourth in class, but Chen is now just two points adrift (70 points) and his extraordinary performance in his first three Cup appearances have propelled him into the top ten in the overall classification.
Bhirombhakdi extends his lead at the top of the Am Cup on 75 points.
With light rain ahead of the morning’s 15-minute qualifying session, the field headed out on the 5.6km track shod with slicks. However, as the rain intensified, the session became a race to switch to wet weather tyres and clock a quick lap before the flag.
Martin Rump timed it perfectly and his Champion Racing Team had the Estonian equipped with wets fast enough to grab pole, despite missing out on the second free practice after suffering a technical issue. Chen continued to impress, locking in second on the grid just over one-tenth of a second behind. Yoong was joined by Am+ driver Anthony Liu of Absolute Racing on the second row, with Gilbert and another Am+ class driver, Jeffrey Lee, behind.
With the form book well and truly turned upside down, as the lights went out at the rolling start, Rump got away to lead the pack. However, it was pandemonium behind him as the hard-charging, slicks-shod field furiously battled for position on the damp track, two and three abreast with several drivers leaving the track in the heat of battle.
Yoong was out for victory though, and quickly reeled in the race leader with Gilbert on his tail. Chen, on the other hand, did not get away well and spun, dropping him down the order.
Speaking about his race, Mitch Gilbert was happy with another podium finish: “It was a good race and I’m happy to be here on the podium again. If I can keep this up, I’ll be happy with the year. I had a really good start. I took a few hits and scrapes at the start but managed to keep it on track. After the first few corners I think it was clear it was going to be Alex [Yoong], Martin [Rump] and I for the race win. I’m happy but I want to get my first win. It’s a bit frustrating always being second and third.”
Local hero Kyong-Ouk You of Team Audi Korea and Cheng locked horns early on in the race, and a move made by the Chinese driver, Cheng, later resulted in a 30-second penalty, dropping him down to tenth in the finish order and elevating You to eighth.
Despite the difficult conditions, Thong expertly picked his way through the field, shooting from eleventh to fourth on the opening lap.
As Yoong seized the race lead, followed by Gilbert who followed him in to second, Rump had no answer as he struggled to find traction. The 21-year-old Estonian pushed hard to regain his lead but spun on the greasy track, allowing Thong and championship-leader Picariello to get past him. Rump dropped to fifth, where he was to finish.
Stéphane Richelmi did well to avoid the multiple incidents and finish sixth for the Castrol Racing Team from tenth on the grid.
In the closing minutes of the race, Picariello piled the pressure on to Thong just ahead, but the Hong Kong driver held firm to cross the line and take his second Audi R8 LMS Cup podium of the season.
Chen finished seventh overall, claiming his second Am+ class win in three races. Second in the Am+ class was Liu with Andrew Kim of Korea third in class for Audi Hong Kong.
The Audi R8 LMS Cup continues tomorrow, Sunday July 17, with the 15-minute qualifying session to determine the starting order for Round 6 followed by the 30-minute race.
Round 5 Results
- 1/Alex YOONG(MAS)/Audi R8 LMS Cup/2:10.059
- 86/Mitch GILBERT(MAS)/OD Racing Team/+5.129
- 8/Shaun THONG Wei Fung(HKG)/Audi TEDA Racing Team/+5.532
- 15/Alessio PICARIELLO(BEL)/MGT by Absolute/+7.770
- 18/Martin RUMP(EST)/Champion Racing Team/+16.532
- 11/Stéphane RICHELMI(MCO)/Castrol Racing Team/+20.867
- 99/David CHEN/(CHN)/Am+/Tianshi Racing Team/+30.363
- 13/Kyong-Ouk YOU(KOR)/Team Audi Korea/+36.993
- 37/Anthony LIU(CHN)/Am+/Absolute Racing/+46.967
- 31/CHENG Congfu(CHN)/FAW-VW Audi Racing Team/+1:05.213
- 59/Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI(THA)/Am/Singha Plan-B Motorsport/+1:06.739
- 5/Andrew KIM(KOR)/Am+/Audi Hong Kong/+1:55.058
- 7/Jeffrey LEE(TWN)/Am+/Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan/+1 Lap
Fastest Lap: Alex Yoong/Audi R8 LMS Cup/2:10.059/Lap 12
Am = Amateur Cup competitor
Am+ = Amateur + Cup Competitor
Overall classification after Round 5 – Top 10
- Alessio PICARIELLO/101
- Mitch GILBERT/66
- Alex YOONG/62
- CHENG Congfu/59
- Shaun THONG/56
- Martin RUMP/53
- Marchy LEE/38
- Stéphane RICHELMI/23
- David CHEN/Am+/13
- Kyong-Ouk YOU/13
Am+ Classification after Round 5
- Jeffrey LEE/72
- David CHEN/70
- Anthony LIU/44
- Kane JIANG Xin/27
- Andrew KIM/15
Am Classification after Round 5
- Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI/75
- Rick YOON/47
- SUN Jing Zu/33