Alessio Picariello of MGT by Absolute took his fourth Audi R8 LMS Cup victory of the season in Round 6 with a superb performance on the 5.6km Korea International Circuit.
The 23 year-old Belgian took the chequered flag almost ten seconds ahead of second-placed driver, Cheng Congfu of FAW-VW Audi Racing Team. Third across the line was Audi TEDA Racing Team’s Shaun Thong, collecting his second podium finish in a row.
“I knew I had the pace this weekend,” said championship leader Alessio. “But every time I missed something. I wanted to prove what we could do. I knew the first lap was key, so I really went for it. I also knew that turn one was really tight and we were fighting so I just prepared for the exit really well. I also knew that, because Franky [Cheng] was my team mate, we wouldn’t crash.”
“Alessio Picariello was in a class of his own today. He is the man to beat going into the final two race weekends of the season in China.” commented Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “There are still many drivers ready for the chase, with only eight points separating second and fifth place overall.”
With four races to go in the season, Picariello’s win sees him further tighten his grip on the overall championship trophy on 126 points, a full 47 points ahead of Round 6 pole-sitter, Mitch Gilbert of OD Racing Team (79 points). Cheng’s podium finish elevates him to third on the leaderboard (77 points) ahead of Team Audi R8 LMS Cup driver and reigning champion Alex Yoong of Malaysia (72 points). Despite his excellent weekend in Korea, Thong remains in fifth (71 points), but he is now just eight points off second place.
Anthony Liu of Absolute Racing fought his way to an Am+ win in Round 6, his second class victory of the season so far. The win sees the Chinese driver third in the category on 69 points. Leading the class is Tianshi Racing Team’s David Chen (89 points) ahead of Am Cup champion Jeffrey Lee of Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan (72 points).
Singha Plan-B Motorsport driver Bhurit Bhirombhakdi leads the Am classification on 100 points after another class victory in Round 6.
In the morning’s qualifying session, held in dry conditions, Gilbert snatched poll ahead of Cheng, with Picariello and Thong making up the second row of the grid for the standing start. Chen was the quickest of the Am+ class in what was a close-run 15 minute session with a little over a second covering the top nine drivers.
Carrying 35kg of success ballast, Gilbert wasn’t able to leverage his pole advantage as the lights went out for the start of Round 6. Despite a big move across by Gilbert off the line, it was team mate Cheng who dived down the inside into turn one to grab the lead with Picariello slotting in behind. The Belgian then triggered his Push-to-Pas, unlocking an additional temporary horsepower boost for his car, to make his move past Cheng and into the race lead.
Picariello then set about opening up increasingly clean air between himself and his pursuers setting the fastest lap of the race on his way to the flag.
Thong, carrying 20kg of success ballast, managed to find his way past Gilbert into third place, dropping the pole-sitter down the order to fourth where both would finish.
“I’m really pleased,” said Shaun. “I haven’t had such a smooth weekend before in the Cup. My start was great. It was only my second time with success ballast. Every time you carry weight, the car feels different. I was surprised how well the car handled, even with the extra weight. It was a good weekend, but it’s a bit frustrating still to be fifth in the points.”
Behind the top four, Round 5 winner Yoong had got by Champion Racing Team’s Martin Rump into fifth on the first lap and held him at bay throughout the 13-lap race.
Behind Rump, Team Audi Korea’s Kyong-Ouk You carried the hopes of his nation and he didn’t disappoint. All eyes were on the Korean as he, Castrol Racing Team’s Stéphane Richelmi and Chen were embroiled in a furious battle for position, three abreast going in to turn three, with You emerging in front. From there to the flag, You led a four-car pack and manfully withstood unrelenting attacks first from Richelmi and, for the closing laps of the race, Liu, who had made a brilliant move to pass Richelmi, almost getting by You at the same time.
Audi Hong Kong driver Andrew Kim and fellow Am+ driver Jeffrey Lee, both disappointingly retired from the race on the second lap.
As the Audi R8 LMS Cup leaves Korea the teams and drivers know full well that the stakes will be even higher when the Cup begins the charge to its final conclusion in September. The battle for the championship titles resumes at the Shanghai International Circuit with Rounds 7 and 8 on September 9 and 10.
Round 6 Results
- 15/Alessio PICARIELLO(BEL)/MGT by Absolute/28:52.660
- 31/CHENG Congfu(CHN)/FAW-VW Audi Racing Team/+9.964
- 8/Shaun THONG Wei Fung(HKG)/Audi TEDA Racing Team/+13.446
- 86/Mitch GILBERT(MAS)/OD Racing Team/+14.301
- 1/Alex YOONG(MAS)/Audi R8 LMS Cup/+17.138
- 18/Martin RUMP(EST)/Champion Racing Team/+17.789
- 13/Kyong-Ouk YOU(KOR)/Team Audi Korea/+40.341
- 37/Anthony LIU(CHN)/Am+/Absolute Racing/+40.595
- 11/Stéphane RICHELMI(MCO)/Castrol Racing Team/+41.003
- 99/David CHEN Weian(CHN)/Am+/Tianshi Racing Team/+41.316
- 59/Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI(THA)/Am/Singha Plan-B Motorsport/+1:04.658
- 7/Jeffrey LEE(TWN)/Am+/Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan/DNF
- 5/Andrew KIM(KOR)/Am+/Audi Hong Kong/DNF
Fastest Lap: Alessio Picariello/2:10.690/Lap 5
Am = Amateur Cup competitor
Am+ = Amateur + Cup Competitor
Overall classification after Round 6 – Top 10
- Alessio PICARIELLO/126
- Mitch GILBERT/79
- CHENG Congfu/77
- Alex YOONG/72
- Shaun THONG/71
- Martin RUMP/61
- Marchy LEE/38
- Stéphane RICHELMI/25
- Kyong-Ouk YOU/19
- David CHEN Weian/Am+/14
Am+ Classification after Round 6
- David CHEN Weian/89
- Jeffrey LEE/72
- Anthony LIU/69
- Kane JIANG Xin/27
- Andrew KIM/15
Am Classification after Round 6
- Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI/100
- Rick YOON/47
- SUN Jingzu/33