Thailand’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi took his second consecutive Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup victory on Germany’s 4.638km Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit, taking the chequered flag after a drama-filled round four. His impressive points haul over the weekend earned the Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing driver the prize of a seat on an Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup team in the 2019 Total 24 Hours of Spa.
As Audi Sport customer racing celebrates ten years, the Audi campus was the focal point of the Nürburgring paddock over the weekend, with the Cup pits within and accessible to the thousands of onsite fans.
China’s Sun Jingzu of Absolute Racing was classified second in round four after getting by Montaplast by Land Motorsport’s Carsten Tilke on the final lap.
There was high drama on lap eight when the race and championship leaders, Andrew Haryanto of ProMax Team and Yasser Shahin of Team HCB-Rutronik Racing had a coming together. The incident forced Shahin out of the race and dropped Haryanto down the order, blowing the GT3 title race wide open.
Haryanto retains his hold at the top of the GT3 leaderboard on 71 points, but Bhirombhakdi jumps into second (63 points) and closes the gap to just eight points. Shahin is third (40 points) after a challenging weekend.
Round four GT3 winner Bhurit Bhirombhakdi of Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing was very pleased with his second consecutive win: “I think I got very, very lucky today! My start was terrible. I was trying to look at the gear and I accidentally pushed gear two instead of first. I dropped from P3 to P5, and then I fought back to P3. I stuck with Jeffrey for a little bit and then I passed him. He’s a very good driver and I couldn’t pass him until he made a mistake. Then, all of a sudden, I think the two cars in front had a spin, but I didn’t know. I thought they were very fast, and I saw one in the gravel, but I thought I’d better keep fighting. After two or three laps I saw the P1 board and I thought I’d better slow down now!
“In racing, at first I thought to have to have a very brave heart to be fast, but that’s not true. My secret is you have to be very gentle, and you have to be patient and wait for the moment. You don’t go crazy. When you see the moment, you take it.”
LMS Engineering’s Stefan Wieninger took GT4 honours in round four, his second consecutive win on his Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup debut. Second after what was a thrilling battle right up to the flag was Carlos Checa, ahead of Anderson Tanoto who managed to guide his damaged Hard Memory Hero Super Car Team car over the line after a late-race incident.
After the debut of the GT4 class, Wieninger’s double victory puts him at the top of the standings on 51 points, with Checa second (37 points) and Jean-Luc Weidt third (25 points).
“We saw customer racing at its best at the Cup’s debut at the Nürburging,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “The field was a great mix of Asian, Australian and European drivers, and the Nürburging 24 Hours provided a stunning environment for all teams and drivers.”
Round four report
At a weekend attended by an estimated crowd in excess of 200,000, the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup took to the grid ahead of the start of the iconic Nürburgring 24 Hours, and the fans were treated to an exciting precursor to the endurance classic.
Starting from pole and carrying the maximum success ballast of 50kg, Haryanto got away well and set off on the hunt for points, but Shahin was on the chase from the off. Behind the pair, Bhirombhakdi, carrying 30kg of ballast, missed a gear as the lights went green, and was overhauled by Sun and Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan’s Jeffrey Lee, who swept past on either side, the rivals side-by-side into the first turn.
Bhirombhakdi recovered quickly, getting between Lee and Sun, pressuring Lee, who defended well, until his Thai competitor eventually dived past and into podium contention.
As Shahin continued to reel in Haryanto, closing the gap to a little over three-tenths of a second, Shahin ran too deep into the corner, tagged the rear of his rival, spun into the gravel and out of the race. Haryanto got turned around, stopped, but managed to re-join the race, albeit right down the order, with the safety car called out to recover Shahin’s car. Following the race, Shahin was handed a five-place grid penalty for the next race.
The safety car closed up the field behind the new race leader Bhirombhakdi, wiping out his advantage over Lee, who was second. However, the quick Thai driver made a superb getaway as the safety car pulled off, releasing the field for one final, dramatic run to the flag. Sun also got away well diving past Tilke to be running third.
Lee took the chequered flag in second place, but was later disqualified due to a safety car infringement, elevating Sun to second and Tilke to third.
Haryanto was also a man to watch in the final lap as he grittily sliced through the field in search of championship points. Climbing to fifth by the flag, following the post-race steward’s decisions, the Indonesian took points for fourth, retaining his hold on the GT3 championship.
Fifth was Racing Engineer’s Bernhard Henzel, ahead of Dirg Parhofer of Car Collection Motorsport. Yang Xi of Absolute Racing and Bernhard Henzel of Racing Engineers rounded out the GT3 field finishing seventh and eighth in class respectively.
The battle amongst the GT4 drivers was no less intense, with Wieninger and Checa dicing it out ahead of Tanoto for most of the race. The closing moments of the 14-lap thriller were also full of drama when round three podium finisher Weidt made contact with Tanoto. The determined Indonesian newcomer was not to be denied, nursing his car across the line to take a well-deserved maiden Cup podium, followed by Naomi Zhang of CTVS Racers.
The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup is back in action in September when it returns to Asia and China’s Ningbo International Speedway from September 1 to 2. There, the increasingly fierce rivalries will be reignited as the contest for championship titles continues.