The Audi R8 LMS Cup 2015 got off to a successful start this weekend at Southern China’s Zhuhai International Circuit. New innovations – both in technology and format - plus plenty of on-track drama made for an eventful weekend.
Reigning champion Alex Yoong of Audi TEDA Racing Team took an emphatic victory in Round 1 ahead of Rahel Frey of Castrol Racing Team and newcomer Aditya Patel of Team Audi R8 LMS Cup, the Cup’s first ever Indian driver taking an impressive podium finish on his debut. Frey also made history this weekend, taking her first pole position in GT racing in the Cup’s inaugural Superpole – a brand new qualifying format which sees a top-eight, single lap shootout following the qualifying session.
The first-ever standing start in the Audi R8 LMS Cup was another entry for the history books, with new launch control technology helping the field of 20 Cup cars blast off the grid to the cheers of the packed Zhuhai grandstands. However, after a thrilling start and opening laps, Round 2 was halted on Lap 4. A large amount of sawdust had been put down by marshals after oil was left on track during earlier sessions. The sawdust was sucked into the cooling ducts, blocking the cooling systems and causing the engines to overheat. In the interests of safety, the race was red flagged and, due to the amount of cleaning required, could not be resumed on Sunday.
Despite the premature end to Round 2, all agreed the standing start had been an unqualified success, and the new format promises to keep fans on the edge of their seats all season. The Audi R8 LMS Cup resumes in May with Rounds 3&4 at the Korea International Circuit. See you in Korea!
Fame has its price as we learn from Audi Korea driver Kyong-Ouk You: “I have to watch what I do, there’s no privacy. My most embarrassing moment came when I was quickly getting changed behind my car. I only had my underwear on and someone shouted “hey, KO, look behind you!” I turned and there were so many girls. I had no idea they were there. My face was bright red!”
So how did KO find himself the focus of such attention? As well as being a star of the Audi R8 LMS Cup, KO is also qualified mechanic, so when local TV show The Bunker was looking for an expert in all things automotive, both on the race track and the road, KO was the ideal candidate.
Top Gear Korea, modelled on the record-breaking UK show and also with a massive following, spotted KO and signed him as one of its three presenters. Overnight, KO was rocketed into the spotlight, becoming a household name – and face – in Korea.
Asked which of the three UK presenters he most resembles – outspoken Jeremy Clarkson, intellectual James May, or daredevil Richard Hammond – KO believes he is most like the latter, albeit “less crazy”.
The upside of this fame is of course the commercial opportunities it brings, with offers flooding in from countless companies, however being recognised and constantly chatted about both online and offline can bring its own challenges.
KO’s Korean fans have the chance to see him in action when the Audi R8 LMS Cup lands at the Korea International Circuit in Yeongam May 16-17. And this time KO promises to keep his clothes on!
Audi Sport customer racing Asia announced its first all-Asian entry to the prestigious 24 Hours of Nürburgring: reigning Audi R8 LMS Cup champion Alex Yoong of Malaysia; 2012 champion Marchy Lee of Hong Kong; Chinese star Franky Cheng; 19-year-old talent Shaun Thong of Hong Kong. The quartet will take on the notoriously-demanding track in the Audi R8 LMS ultra as one of the Audi race experience teams as they attempt to conquer the “Green Hell” from May 14-17.
Prior to the grueling main event, the Audi experience racing team will tackle the six hour qualification race on 11-12 April, where they will have the chance to get to grips with the legendary circuit dubbed the ‘Green Hell’, a 25km long combination of the Nordschleife and the Grand Prix circuit located around the village of Nürburg in Germany. Lee, Cheng and Thong are all rookies to the event, but Yoong made his debut there in 2012 with Audi.
Thong takes part in the Audi Sport customer racing Asia Yong Driver Development Programme. In addition to the Nürburgring, he will compete in the Blancpain Endurance Series with Phoenix Racing and in the new Audi Sport TT Cup.
The Audi R8 LMS Cup ushered in new innovations for the 2015 season, chief among them an all-new Superpole qualifying format and a standing start in the second race for each weekend.
“I think Superpole is great!” Ashraff Dewal of Team Asiasport said. “It’s always very exciting to have something like this for spectators. I was on pit wall during Saturday’s session and really wanted to know who was going to get pole.”
For the new standing starts, Ashraff was grateful for the Audi R8 LMS Cup car’s new launch control technology. “It helps a lot,” he said. “It makes it a little bit ‘idiot-proof’ so I’m really happy to have this new technology.”
CTVS racing Team driver Alex Au has raced with the Audi R8 LMS Cup since it first launched in 2012 and said he was pleased to see the combination of rolling and standing starts.
“I’m one of the more law-abiding citizens of the world and sometimes I feel like I’m at a disadvantage with a rolling start,” Alex said. “A standing start is more clean cut – you can detect a jump start straight away.”
Alex agreed with Ashraff about the excitement created by Superpole. “I’m sad not to have been in it, but I think it makes it more exciting for the audience!”
Team Audi R8 LMS Cup driver Aditya Patel makes his Audi R8 LMS Cup debut this season and is the first Indian driver to take part in the series.
How did you come to race in the Audi R8 LMS Cup?
For the last couple of years I’ve been trying to be part of the Cup! Finally, this year we were able to work something out and I’m really happy with how everything turned out. I was introduced to Audi India in 2012 and did the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, winning my class (SP4T). In 2013 and 2014 I raced an Audi R8 LMS in Europe and now I have the opportunity to race here. I think the Audi R8 LMS Cup is the battle of Asia’s best drivers.
How do you feel about joining the Cup for the first time?
I’ve been racing an Audi R8 LMS for the past two years so there’s no excuse on being a newcomer! What I really love is that we’re all in exactly the same car and so it’s down to me as a driver. For the past couple of years I’ve been racing against different cars so being in a one-make championship allows you to measure yourself. I’d love to be competitive this year – a top three finish would be my goal.
You started your career in single seaters. When did you move into sports cars?
I did single seaters in 2008 and then in 2009, I received an offer I couldn’t refuse to be part of the Polo Cup in Germany. In 2010 I did well in the Scirocco Cup in Europe which gave me a good foundation as I began my relationship with Audi. When I was younger, I thought about a single seater career because I didn’t know any better. Doing the Polo Cup opened my eyes to an entire new career path.