It was a good weekend of racing for Audi customer teams and drivers at the 2018 Blancpain GT Series Asia Sepang season opener, making their presence felt in the competitive multi-national field and bringing home some silverware. With 6 Audi R8 LMS GT3s in total having contested the weekend’s 2 races, Absolute Racing’s Pro/Am pairing of Anthony Liu and Josh Burdon took sixth in Race 1 and second overall in Race 2, currently putting them second in the GT3 championship. An impressively quick 2:02.495 fastest qualifying lap time at Sepang Circuit gave Burdon plenty of positive attention on his GT3 debut.
Audi Sport Customer Racing’s recently announced Asia driver pool members Martin Rump and Cheng Congfu also lead the Silver Cup for Absolute Racing, while KCMG’s Japanese duo of Naoto Takeda and Takuya Shirasaka are on top of the Am standings after scoring consecutive class victories. Director of Audi Sport Customer Racing Asia, Martin Kuehl said, “It’s been a solid start to the season for the Audi customer teams and drivers. The field is the most competitive in Asian GT racing. The teams still have some work to do, but this weekend’s results have laid the foundations for their campaigns ahead. Congratulations to our podium finishers.”
OD Racing Team WRT’s Aditya Patel pulled off a significant move in Race 1’s opening stages, driving around the outside line at turn one and making up 2 places to take fourth after starting sixth on the grid. He continued to display an impressive race pace with the Audi R8 LMS GT3, running third overall by lap 6. On the following lap however, a technical mishap forced him to retire from the race. Challenging conditions continued for the Audi teams, with Absolute Racing’s Andrew Kim also forced to pull out of the race after another competitor bumped him on lap 1.
Liu and Burdon eventually finished Race 1 as the most successful R8 LMS GT3 pairing, putting in some deft driving to s tay clear of chaos earlier in the race. They passed the chequered flag sixth overall and second in the Pro/Am class, having worked their way up the field after starting eighth on the grid. Home hero Alex Yoong and his Phoenix Racing Asia teammate Lim Keong Wee started 15th and managed to finish 12th overall, fifth in the Pro-Am standings. Takeda and Shirasaka also put in an impressive drive, winning the Am Cup by a comfortable 26 second margin for KCMG.
Thanks to his scorchingly quick qualifying lap, Burdon started Race 2 on pole position but lost his lead at the start, holding second place into Sepang’s turn 2. He defended well against other challengers and built up a useful margin over the third runner. Following the pit-stop and driver change, Liu drove a successful second stint and held second at the finish line, having kept clear of other competitors.
Rump started on the second row for Absolute Racing, but was caught up in the opening scramble for positions and dropped down to thirteenth place by lap 2. Keeping his head down, the 22-year-old Estonian then showed his mettle by charging fiercely through the field back up to sixth, before Cheng took over for the second stint. The Chinese ace continued to push hard for a podium finish which he narrowly missed out on, ultimately taking fourth place in the final laps of the race.
Andrew Kim took over from Fong to finish Race 2 eighth overall and fifth in Pro/Am, while OD Racing Team WRT’s Mitch Gilbert and Patel put in a consistent drive to finish in the top 10. Lim brought the Phoenix Racing Asia car home thirteenth overall and seventh in Pro/Am, after taking over from Yoong. KCMG’s Naoto Takeda and Takuya Shirasaka dominated the Am Cup once again with a lights to flag win, crossing the finish line over a lap quicker than their nearest competitor. The 2018 Blancpain GT Series Asia action picks up next at Thailand’s Buriram International Circuit on May 11-13th.