After 10 hours of racing on Japan’s most famous circuit, Audi Sport Team Absolute Racing’s Audi R8 LMS GT3 crossed the line third. The Suzuka 10 Hours podium made sure that Absolute Racing’s debut as an official Audi Sport team – a first for an Asian team – ended on a high. The team’s three Audi Sport drivers Christopher Haase/Kelvin van der Linde/Markus Winkelhock took the flag just 1.2 seconds shy of second place to record 15 valuable points towards the four rings’ Intercontinental GT Challenge campaign.
Taking up the race from eleventh on the grid, the number six Audi Sport Team Absolute Racing squad fought their way up to finish as the best driver trio in an Audi R8 LMS, despite being handed a drive-through penalty.
The second-best Audi was the number 66 car fielded by Audi Sport Team WRT. Christopher Mies/Dries Vanthoor/Frédéric Vervisch, who lost time due to a puncture, took the chequered flag in fourth place. This earned Audi another twelve points towards the manufacturers’ classification.
With an outside temperature well above 30 degrees Celsius, the Suzuka 10 Hours proved to be a tough test for man and machine. The long-distance race on the demanding Grand Prix circuit featured for the first time on the calendar of the Intercontinental GT Challenge and thrilled fans and drivers alike.
In the drivers’ classification of the series, Haase and Winkelhock now rank behind the three competitors who won the race. Audi lies second in the manufacturers’ classification.
“Congratulations to Mercedes-AMG for the 1-2 victory as well as the Audi Sport Team Absolute Racing and our three drivers on their podium result,” said Chris Reinke, Head of Audi Sport customer racing. “That was a tough job. It’s remarkable that all our teams kept their cool and reached the flag, despite the extreme heat and a race packed with incidents.”
“Congratulations to all of the Audi teams and drivers. Absolute Racing has shown that Asian teams can mix it with the very best in the world,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “The all-Asian driver squad of Sun Jingzu, Cheng Congfu and Adderly Fong also performed well amidst a field of the world’s leading GT3 drivers.”
The Audi Team Hitotsuyama from Japan, which regularly contests the national Super GT racing series, used the long-distance event for an international guest appearance. The two regular drivers Richard Lyons and Ryuichiro Tomita received reinforcement from ‘Belgian Bullet’ Alessio Picariello, the reigning Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup champion. In the first hour of racing, the squad was the best Audi team in the field. A spin threw the Audi R8 LMS back down the field and resulted in the number 21 car finishing on eighth place. Another Audi R8 LMS run by the Audi Sport Team WRT rounded off an Audi quartet to finish in the top ten: Jake Dennis/Sheldon van der Linde/Stuart Leonard crossed the finish line in ninth.
A fifth Audi R8 LMS also completed the ten-hour race distance: Of the eleven teams to contest the Pro-Am class, Absolute Racing’s all-Asian customer squad of Cheng Congfu, Adderly Fong and Sun Jingzu scored sixth place.
The final round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge will be contested from 26 to 28 October. The teams will fight for the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles on the legendary circuit of Laguna Seca in California. In 2016 and 2017, the first two years of the series, Audi and its drivers won both classifications.