Sepang, February 24, 2019 – The Tianshi Racing Team (TSRT) Audi R8 LMS GT3 squad of Dries Vanthoor, David Chen and Xu Wei has taken second place at the 2018/19 season finale of the Asian Le Mans Series: The Four Hours of Sepang. It was the third GT class podium of the four-race season for the Chinese customer squad, with David Chen finishing third in the final GT Drivers’ standings and the team third in the GT Teams’ championship.
The #66 sister entry of Max Wiser, Aven Qi and Dennis Zhang was forced into retirement after two and a half hours. TSRT have used their Am entry to give a rotating squad of gentleman drivers the chance to compete at the highest level of GT racing all season, with Max Wiser the ever-present in the car in his triple role of the car’s professional driver, mentor and driver coach. His points tally over the season has seen the Italian crowned the 2018/19 Asian Le Mans Series GT Am champion for a second time.
TSRT fielded two 2019 Audi R8 LMS GT3s at the event for the car’s Asia-Pacific debut, with the car’s pace all weekend catching the eye. Audi Sport driver Dries Vanthoor capitalised on this to record the model’s first pole position worldwide in Saturday’s qualifying session.
“Tianshi Racing Team did a great job in adjusting to the new car very quickly, and had the pace to win the race today,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “Endurance racing is tough, especially in the heat and humidity of Sepang. Congratulations to the team for their podium and Max Wiser for his championship class win.”
After Audi Sport driver Dries Vanthoor made history by taking the 2019 Audi R8 LMS GT3 to its first global pole position on the car’s Asia-Pacific debut, Xu Wei lined up at the front of the GT class field. In the team’s sister car Max Wiser lined up for the squad in fourth place in class.
The fortunes of the team’s two cars were to reverse on lap one, as Xu fell down the order to fourth while Wiser was away like a rocket and into class lead. Xu fought back well, and was running third in class after 13 minutes of the four hour race had unfolded.
Wiser’s pace continued unabated as he pushed through the LMP 3 field ahead, before the first of the three mandatory pit stops around the one hours mark.
Wiser handed the reins to Dennis Zhang in first, while David Chen took over from Xu in third. Both Chinese drivers battled well to keep their Audi R8 LMS GT3s in the mix at the front of the class field. Zhang lost a place to hand over to Aven Qi running second, while Chen held position to hand over the Vanthoor in third at the halfway stage of the race.
Qi was making his first ever GT3 appearance having raced previously with TSRT in TCR categories. It proved a lesson in just how tough GT3 competition can be. The Chinese youngster was first hit with a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane, and then was forced to retire the car after a spin. That incident brought out the safety car.
Vanthoor had already got by his teammate by that stage, and the young Belgian was showing his pace, up into second and on the hunt for race lead. TSRT used the safety car period strategically to pit. With two hours and 40 minutes gone, the safety car was brought in, with Vanthoor on the power and just six seconds off class lead.
That gap was reduced to just one second, but the Audi Sport driver’s push for race lead held up by traffic. In his bid to get by a back-marker Vanthoor was hit with a drive-through penalty for abusing track limits, denting his push for the GT class win.
Vanthoor handed the reins back over to teammate Chen for the last 30 minutes, with the Chinese driver bringing the car home in second to secure himself and his team third in the GT Drivers’ and Teams’ championships.