Shanghai, September 24, 2017 – After a wet Blancpain GT Series Asia double-header at the Shanghai Audi International Circuit, the Audi Hong Kong pair of Shaun Thong and Marchy Lee emerged from the clouds of spray in overall GT3 championship lead. The duo’s fifth place in Round 10 was enough to see them clear at the top of the standings on 138 points, four more than their closest competitor.
OD Racing Team’s Mitch Gilbert and Aditya Patel are right back in the title hunt after coming third in Round 10. The pair’s second podium of the weekend sees them on 110 championship points, 28 off their Audi rivals at the top of the championship.
Team Audi R8 LMS Cup’s Alex Yoong and Alex Au were the highest placing Audi R8 LMS GT3 entry in Round 10, taking second overall to top the Pro/Am podium for the second time in as many days at China’s Formula One venue.
“The Audi customer teams and drivers have enjoyed a very strong weekend in Blancpain GT Series Asia, taking five of the six overall podium places in Rounds 9 and 10,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “The race for the title is now heating up ahead of the series finale.”
The J-Fly by Absolute Racing pair of Jeffrey Lee and Alessio Picariello bounced back from a challenging Round 9 to climb the Pro/Am podium’s third step in Round 10, after finishing 11th overall in a race that Picariello led outright from pole until the driver changeover.
In the Am/Am class Naoto Takeda and Takuya Shirasaka of KCMG remain in title contention after taking second in the classification, 19th overall. The pair now sit in second place in class on 131 points, just nine points from classification lead.
It was very much a race of two halves for most of the six-strong Audi R8 LMS GT3 contingent. The start of the race saw five of the first six grid positions filled with Audi customer teams and drivers, with recently crowned Audi R8 LMS Cup champion Picariello leading the way from Yoong and Milestone Racing’s Cheng Congfu. Title hopefuls Patel and Thong completed the third row.
With a wet race declared amidst heavy rainfall, the first half of the 60-minute sprint was fairly uneventful, with Picariello stretching his lead at the front, and Cheng getting by Yoong to take second.
Further back Patel and Thong had both dropped a position to be running sixth and seventh respectively.
However, an accident in the field just after the driver-change pit window opened was to shake up the field. A full-course yellow flag was declared, with the vast majority of the teams taking the strategic decision to pit immediately while the field was slowed.
The only Audi R8 LMS GT3 entries not to do so were frontrunners Picariello and Cheng. By the time they had pitted the green flags had been waved and normal race pace resumed.
As a result, Jeffrey Lee emerged from the pit lane after taking over from Picariello in fifth, with Cheng’s Milestone Racing teammate Sun Jingzu just behind in sixth. The pair fought hard against the charging professionals around them, with Lee eventually crossing the line in 11th and Sun 13th.
Ahead of them, Yoong had handed his car over to Team Audi R8 LMS Cup teammate Au, who emerged from the pit lane in second. The amateur competitor then proceeded to put in a wheel-perfect stint to hold position at the flag against a field of experienced professional racers, matching the pace of the silver-ranked drivers throughout.
Just behind, Gilbert took the reins from Patel to emerge from the driver changeover in fourth place. The Malaysian then methodically reeled in and passed the competitor in third but his deficit to Au up ahead proved too big, with Gilbert claiming the third podium step for his team.
Further back, fellow championship hopefuls Audi Hong Kong had some work to do with Marchy Lee taking over from Thong in ninth place. Once more in this series Lee was on the power, charging through the field to make up four positions to be running fifth with 16 minutes left. The Hong Kong star eventually dropped a place late in the race to take the flag in sixth, but was subsequently promoted one place after a competitor received a post-race penalty.
Thong and Lee’s fifth place bagged the pair 12 points in Round 10 as a single-race entry that finished ahead of them were ineligible for championship points, catapulting the duo into overall series lead with two races of the season remaining.
Audi customer teams and drivers remain in contention across the overall, Silver Cup and Am/Am classifications ahead of the upcoming Blancpain GT Series Asia season finale in China.
Blancpain GT Series Asia 2017
2. 6/Alex Au/Alex Yoong/Audi R8 LMS Cup/1:00:26.974
3. 86/Aditya Patel/Mitch Gilbert/OD Racing Team/1:00:31.878
5. 5/Marchy Lee/Shaun Thong/Audi Hong Kong/1:01:08.795
11. 7/Jeffrey Lee/Alessio Picariello/J-Fly by Absolute Racing/1:01:33.415
13. 13/Jingzu Sun/Franky Cheng/Milestone Racing/1:01:50.619
19. 19/Naoto Takeda/Takuya Shirasaka/KCMG/1:00:23.832