Alessio Picariello and Anthony Liu equalled their best finish of the season in the final race of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series Asia, taking second overall. The result saw them record the round 12 Pro/Am class win from Absolute Racing teammates Adderly Fong and Andrew Kim, who crossed the line sixth overall after a strong comeback drive.
All four Audi R8 LMS GT3s finished in the top seven in round 12, with Cheng Congfu and Martin Rump fourth. That earned the Absolute Racing pair third place in the 2018 Silver Cup championship (164 points).
The result also helped Absolute Racing (213 points) to achieve third place in the season’s GT3 Teams championship.
“The two podium finishes and two class wins this weekend delivered a successful finale to a challenging and highly competitive season for our customer teams and Audi Sport Asia drivers. The spirit is high and we will come back strongly,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “We congratulate Lamborghini, Dennis Lind, Martin Kodric and FFF Racing Team by ACM on their overall championship win.”
With the dust settled after 12 rounds of action across four Asian nations, Cheng and Rump’s third in the Silver Cup standings was complimented by fourth place in the overall GT3 championship (116 points). Gilbert and Patel finished 10th in the Silver Cup on 82 points after crossing the line seventh in round 12.
The Japanese KCMG Audi R8 LMS GT3 team of Naoto Takeda and Takuya Shirasaka had already been crowned Am Cup champions at the penultimate rounds in Shanghai.
In front of packed grandstands at the Ningbo International Speedpark, Fong lined-up in the highest placed Audi R8 LMS GT3 in seventh, alongside Picariello, who was eighth and directly in front of Rump, who was ninth. Gilbert started 19th after being hit with a five-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying session.
The race commenced in similar fashion to Saturday’s round 11 – with lap one drama. As the 27-car field navigated the 4.01km circuit there were collisions and retirements in the mid-pack, this time with all of the Audi customer teams emerging unscathed.
As the safety car was called out Fong had moved up to fifth and Picariello sixth, while Rump had dropped to 10th. The big mover was Gilbert, who had brought his OD Racing Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 up to 16th.
10 minutes passed until the safety car was called in, with Picariello on immediate attack. Fong, in front, was also trying to steal a march on a competitor in front but had his teammate, Picariello, to deal with in his mirrors. Amid the grappling for position, Fong was turned around and fell 10 places to 15th.
As the clock ticked towards the midrace compulsory driver changeover, Picariello had moved up to fourth and Fong up to 13th, with both staying out on track deep into the allotted 10-minute pit window in the hopes of making gains as the traffic thinned.
The strategy worked, with Anthony Liu, taking over from Picariello and emerging from the changeover in third, and Fong’s partner, Andrew Kim, emerging from the pit lane in 11th.
With the window closed, Cheng Congfu, having taken over from Rump, was running ninth and Aditya Patel, having taken the reins from Gilbert, in 12th.
All of the Audi R8 LMS GT3 drivers improved on these positions on their way to the flag. Liu put in a strong fight for what would have been the race win against his silver-ranked competitor and was unlucky to lose position with 10 minutes to go after back markers slowed him down.
Second overall equalled the Chinese privateer’s best finish of the season, and gave him his second Pro/Am winners’ trophy this season.
Cheng Congfu crossed the line in fourth, with Kim an impressive sixth and Patel seventh to close out a strong final weekend for the Audi customer teams and drivers in the region’s leading multi-marque championship.