Alessio Picariello of MGT Team by Absolute climbed atop the podium and the championship standings after Round 10 of the Audi R8 LMS Cup. His win at the Penbay International Circuit was his first of the season and came after Castrol Racing Team’s Rahel Frey had dominated Round 9 to finish first.
Heading into next month’s season finale, Picariello leads the GT3 sprint series on 151 points, with reigning champion Alex Yoong of Audi TEDA Racing Team just three points behind on 148 points and Frey in third on 137 points. It was a difficult weekend for Team Audi Hong Kong’s Marchy Lee (117 points) and Champion Racing Team’s Martin Rump (110 points) whose championship ambitions were hit by early exits.
“We saw two exciting races at Penbay, with lots of action and overtaking,” said Bernd Goeres, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “With only 14 points separating the top three drivers and two more in mathematical contention, the stage is set for an explosive finale in Shanghai.”
In Round 9, Frey burst off the grid passing Yoong to take the lead – a position she built on as the race progressed – finishing almost 13 seconds ahead of Picariello, who was second. Rump continued the pace he had shown in the previous day’s sessions to complete the podium ahead of Yoong, who dug deep to fend off an onslaught of attacks from a number of rivals over the race.
In Round 10, Picariello’s time finally came. After five second place finishes so far this season, the Belgian took the chequered flag for his first Cup victory. In a reverse from Round 9, Frey came second with a masterclass on how to drive with 50 kilogrammes of ballast, and Yoong finished a difficult weekend on a high with third.
Local star Jeffrey Lee of Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan recorded back-to-back victories in the Am Cup classification, clinching the championship title in front of joyous home fans at the season’s penultimate race weekend. The Taiwanese privateer has raced with the Cup in each of its five seasons, dominating the classification in 2016 with seven wins in the 10 races thus far.
Yoong was on pole for Round 9, but it was former DTM star Frey who emerged from the first corner in the lead after getting past the Malaysian on the inside. Picariello got by Rump on the first corner and also managed to dive past Yoong before the first lap was over.
It was then Rump’s turn to ramp up the pressure on Yoong. After contact between both cars on lap seven, smoke began pouring off Yoong’s rear tyre. The damage slowed the reigning champion’s lap time by four seconds before a piece of carbon fibre broke away from his car, freeing the tyre and bringing some of his pace back. Rump used his speed advantage to eventually get by Yoong, who then fought doggedly, using every ounce of his experience to keep the chasing Cheng Congfu of FAW-VW Audi Racing Team and KCMG’s Jan Kisiel in his rear-view mirrors.
Cheng kept the pressure high until he spun on lap 11, bringing Kisiel into the fight. The young Pole pushed Yoong all the way to the flag, with just one-tenth of a second separating the two in fourth and fifth in the final standings.
Out in front, Frey had never looked back as she charged to the chequered flag ahead of Picariello and Rump.
In the Amateur Cup class, hometown hero Jeffrey Lee clinched the classification title with a win. Korean amateur Rick Yoon of Phoenix Racing Asia finished second ahead of Taiwan’s Johnson Huang of Absolute Racing.
Rahel Frey (Castrol Racing Team): “In Round 9 I had a great start and it was nice to be in front, you have the freshest air there. Of course you still have a lot of elements to consider, like taking care of breaks and tyres. In Round 10, I had a bad start but my pace was okay. Overall, it was a really good weekend. It’s my personal best in the Cup so far, getting a win and second place. We can be really happy.”
The drivers in the front two rows started Round 10 in the same order that they finished Round 9. Frey felt the weight of the 50 kilogramme ballast from the standing start, with Picariello flying past her off the grid and into the lead. Yoong in fourth came into contact with Rump in third on the first lap, but was unable to pass the Champion Racing Team youngster.
On lap seven, Rump’s title chances suffered a blow as his tyre burst on the track, forcing him into the pits and out of the race.
A lap later, Lee and Kisiel came into repeated contact, sending both drivers off the track. Kisiel was able to re-enter but Lee’s race was over. Both drivers will start Round 11 in Shanghai with a five-position grid penalty for the incident.
While Picariello and Frey cruised home unscathed, Yoong had to defend hard against both Cheng and Team Audi R8 LMS Cup’s Aditya Patel to eventually seal the final podium position.
Jeffrey Lee completed a perfect weekend in the Am Cup classification, winning for the second time that day. Yoon and Vincent Floirendo of EN Sport by Absolute completed the podium.
“I want to congratulate my friend Jeffrey Lee for winning the Am Cup championship this year,” said an ecstatic Alessio. “For me, it was a really good start in the second race, probably the best I’ve had in the Audi R8 LMS Cup, and on this track that’s always key. We took a big risk with our set-up and changed the car a lot, and in the end it paid off. I had good pace throughout Round 10, the last laps were getting hard but we still managed to keep a small lead over Rahel. This is a great win for me and the Absolute Racing team. I don’t think about the championship. I take it race by race.”
Alex Yoong had a bitter sweet weekend, but keeps the lead in the championship. “It’s nice to be back here in Taiwan but it was a very difficult day today. I had some contact with Martin in the first race. We tried to straighten out the car between the races, but I could tell something was still wrong in Round 10. So, overall I’m pretty happy to get third place. But in Shanghai it will be a different story.”
Round 9 – Results
- 66/Rahel FREY/Castrol Racing Team/28:05.062 (17 laps)
- 6/Alessio PICARIELLO/MGT Team by Absolute/+12.827
- 18/Martin RUMP/Champion Racing Team/+16.684
- 1/Alex YOONG/Audi TEDA Racing Team/+37.952
- 43/Jan KISIEL/KCMG/+38.078
- 88/Marchy LEE/Audi Hong Kong/+39.546
- 8/Aditya PATEL/Team Audi R8 LMS Cup/+41.017
- 11/Kyong-Ouk YOU/Team Audi Korea/+42.317
- 99/CHENG Congfu (Franky)/FAW-VW Audi Racing Team/+42.633
- 7/Jeffrey LEE/Am/Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan/+49.535
- 38/YOON Sanghwi (Rick)/Am/Phoenix Racing Asia/+1:10.186
- 51/Johnson HUANG/Am/Absolute Racing/+1:10.793
- 55/Vincent FLOIRENDO/Am/EN Sport by Absolute/+1:18.413
Round 10 – Results
- 6/Alessio PICARIELLO/MGT Team by Absolute/28:22.074 (17 laps)
- 66/Rahel FREY/Castrol Racing Team/+0.945
- 1/Alex YOONG/Audi TEDA Racing Team/+17.094
- 99/CHENG Congfu (Franky)/FAW-VW Audi Racing Team/+18.120
- 8/Aditya PATEL/Team Audi R8 LMS Cup/+18.584
- 11/Kyong-Ouk YOU/Team Audi Korea/+27.384
- 7/Jeffrey LEE/Am/Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan/+33.467
- 43/Jan KISIEL/KCMG/+57.102
- 38/YOON Sanghwi (Rick)/Am/Phoenix Racing Asia/+1:10.288
- 55/Vincent FLOIRENDO/Am/EN Sport by Absolute/+1:12.119
- 51/Johnson HUANG/Am/Absolute Racing/+1:13.729
DNF 88/Marchy LEE/Audi Hong Kong/9 laps
DNF 18/Martin RUMP/Champion Racing Team/7 laps
Am = Amateur Cup competitor
Overall classification after Round 10 – Top 10
- Alessio PICARIELLO – 151
- Alex YOONG – 148
- Rahel FREY – 137
- Marchy LEE – 117
- Martin RUMP – 110
- CHENG Congfu (Franky) – 70
- Jan KISIEL – 69
- Aditya PATEL – 60
- Edoardo MORTARA – 44
- Kyong-Ouk YOU – 35
Am Cup classification after Round 10 – Top 3
- Jeffrey LEE – 219
- Vincent FLOIRENDO – 124
- SUN Jing Zu – 110
Masters Cup classification after Round 10 – Top 3
- Daniel BILSKI – 51
- Chun Hua CHEN (Kevin) – 50
- YOON Sanghwi (Rick) – 36
Team Cup classification after Round 10 – Top 3
- MGT Team by Absolute – 151
- Audi TEDA Racing Team – 148
- Castrol Racing Team – 141
Race success ballast for Round 11:
- Alessio PICARIELLO: 50 kg
- Rahel FREY: 35 kg
- Alex YOONG: 20 kg