In today’s newsletter read about a heart-stopping season finale which saw Alex Yoong of Audi TEDA Racing Team become the first driver to win two Audi R8 LMS Cup championship titles. Yoong’s victory over Cheng Congfu of FAW-VW Audi Racing Team was the closest title race in history and we catch up with Yoong to talk about how the Cup has evolved over the past four seasons. Daniel Bilski won the Amateur Cup title after battling it out with CTVS Racing Team driver Alex Au, and the Hong Kong-based Australian’s B-Quik Racing began the first independent team to win a Cup title. Finally we look at some young drivers who have impressed this season and relive some of the highlights of the 2015 season.
From six drivers in championship contention at the start of the weekend, there were two after Round 12, and then, following Round 13, it was Alex Yoong of Audi TEDA Racing Team who emerged as the Audi R8 LMS Cup 2015 champion by a single point over Chinese motorsport star Cheng Congfu of FAW-VW Audi Racing Team. Yoong’s victory made the 2015 title race the closest in Cup history and one that kept Cup fans at the edge of their seats in a thrilling display of wheel-to-wheel racing. Yoong also made history as the first driver to win two Cup titles.
With Yoong and Cheng finishing first and second, respectively, in Round 12, the Malaysian found himself eight points ahead of Cheng heading into the final Round 13. While Cheng got past Yoong at the start of Round 13 to move into second position, Cheng’s eventual third-place finish was not quite enough to hand him his first championship title. Yoong fell back to sixth, but sixth was enough to seal his second consecutive championship title.
The weekend showcased the Audi R8 LMS Cup’s signature brand of racing with battles throughout the field. A determined Marchy Lee of Audi Hong Kong Team drove his way to finish second in Round 13 and third overall in the Drivers Classification, while Team Audi R8 LMS Cup driver Aditya Patel’s Round 13 win promoted him to fourth overall. Patel was the Cup’s eighth different winner in 2015. Rounding out the top five in the Drivers Classification was female Swiss GT specialist Rahel Frey of Castrol Racing Team who took a hard-fought third-place finish in Round12 before seeing her own hopes for third overall in the championship dashed, after she was the unlucky victim in a crash in Round 13.
The Amateur Cup title went to Daniel Bilski (see below for more), while FAW-VW Audi Racing Team took the honours for both the Team Cup as well as the Four Rings Trophy.
New Audi R8 LMS Cup champion Alex Yoong wrote a new page in the Cup’s history books as he became the first driver to win two championship titles. Having competed in the sprint-race series since its inaugural season in 2012, the Audi TEDA Racing driver reflects not only on the ultra-competitive 2015, but on how the Cup has evolved over the past four years.
Congratulations! How does this year’s championship win compare to last year’s?
I’m very privileged to have been part of this programme for the past four years and it’s been great to see how the series has evolved. Every year is more and more competitive, so you really need to make sure you don’t drop the ball. Two years ago I lost the championship needing only one point to win it, last year there was a close battle between myself and André Couto and this year I won it by a point. The racing is excellent in the Cup and it’s a privilege to be part of that.
What do you think makes the Cup so successful?
Every year, it goes down to the last race, which is a credit to the Audi R8 LMS Cup in how they tweak the rules so it’s fair but the racing is close and exciting. And then it’s not just about us professional racing drivers – there’s the Amateur Cup as well and we work with the drivers to help them improve. We’ve seen that happen and how much they’ve improved is evidenced by Alex Au starting from pole position in Fuji, becoming the first Amateur Cup driver to do so.
Round 13 was described as “heart-stopping”. How did it feel for you?
What a nerve-wrecking race! I was very well aware of the different points configurations and actually during the race I was calculating it as well. After Cheng Congfu got past me, I knew it would be a tough race and it was. Once I saw Marchy take Cheng Congfu for second place, I thought I was safe at that point. But then it was also nerve-wrecking because I was hoping Aditya [in first] and Marchy didn’t make any mistakes. If they did, then Cheng Congfu would have moved up another place, which would have meant a completely different race!
The race for the Amateur Cup has been equally tough with a season-long battle between Daniel Bilski of B-Quik Racing and 2013 Amateur Cup champion Alex Au of CTVS Racing Team. Add to that the strong showing by Andrew Kim of E-Rain Racing Team in the second half of the season and there was a tight race in the category for non-professionals.
Bilski won the title in the final race of the season, with his third-place Amateur Cup finish in Round 13, giving him an unassailable six-point lead over Au. Bilski was equally proud and relieved to have won, and thanked B-Quik Racing for making Cup history as the Cup’s first independent team.
“It’s a huge relief to be the first independent team in the Cup and to win the Amateur title,” Bilski said. “I’m very proud at the moment. It’s been a fantastic year. My fellow competitors have pushed me all year and have driven.”
While Au battled with Bilski for the title, the Hong Kong driver, who has raced with the Cup since 2012, also found himself racing against the professionals. In Fuji last month, Au became the first Amateur Cup driver to start a race from pole position.
“This is the most competitive Amateur Cup season I’ve competed in,” Au said. “I enjoyed trying to match the pace of the professionals in the Cup. Maybe I enjoyed it a little too much at the beginning of the season, meaning that maybe this year wasn’t my year to win the Amateur Cup.”
While many of the Cup drivers were locked in a closely contested race for the championship at the season finale, three young drivers making the Cup debuts this season had a different goal in mind: impress. And impress they did.
Just off of their successful seasons in the Formula Masters China Series (FMCS), a junior single-seater championship that is part of the Volkswagen Group China motorsport family, 2015 champion Martin Rump, 19, Alessio Picariello, 22, and Chinese driver Yuan Bo all made their Cup debuts at the weekend.
Rump of Audi ThinkPad Racing Team got his weekend off to a strong start, qualifying fourth in Superpole, before scoring a pair of fifth-place finishes. ams Racing Team driver Picariello was fourth in both Rounds 12 and 13. The pair both pushed Rahel Frey of Castrol Racing Team in Round 12, while in Round 13 they battled with eventual champion Alex Yoong of Audi TEDA Racing Team, who said that he knew the youngsters would factor into the race having shown such strong pace in practice and qualifying.
“It feels great to have this opportunity to race in the Audi R8 LMS Cup and to have gained the experience here,” Rump said. “My goal is just to keep driving and to get as much experience as I can.”
Picariello agreed. “It’s my first time in a GT car and it’s completely different to racing in a formula car, but I felt pretty comfortable this weekend. My goal was just to learn as much as possible this weekend.”
Yuan, the 2015 FMCS Best Chinese Driver Trophy winner, had a challenging weekend with a broken fuel pump meaning he had to miss qualifying, but said he was grateful for the experience. “The experience in formula cars really helps when you move into GT cars and I’m grateful to have had the experience to join the Cup this weekend. I’ve learned a lot.”
This season, new innovations further showcased the competitiveness of the Audi R8 LMS Cup. But, in addition to Superpole and standing starts in the second race, the Cup also made its debut in Taiwan, while expanding the Audi Sport customer racing Asia programme to Europe and supporting fledging talents through its Young Driver Development Programme.
For Marchy Lee of Audi Hong Kong Team, finishing 12th at the iconic Nürburgring 24 Hours alongside team mates Alex Yoong, Cheng Congfu and Shaun Thong, who is part of the Audi in Asia Young Driver Development Programme, was his personal highlight of the year. “It was such a good race, my first 24-hour race,” Lee said. “The team worked really well together which made it a memorable experience. Cheng Congfu, Alex and I have known each other for a long time and we formed some strong bonds and enjoyed our time together. Shaun also did a fantastic job as a young driver and so finishing 12th was really a special moment for me.”
For Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan driver Jeffrey Lee, racing in front of his home fans was the season’s most memorable moment. “Having the race come to my home in Taiwan was really special for me and for motorsport in Taiwan in general,” Lee said. “Previously we hadn’t hosted any international events so it was great to be able to have three Audi R8 LMS Cup races in Taiwan and it was really exciting for me to finally be able to race at home.”
As the Cup celebrated new milestones in 2015, it was the competitiveness of the series that made the biggest impression on Audi Korea driver Kyong-Ouk You. “Two things this season really stick in my mind,” You said. “The first is of course racing in Korea, but the second is how much I enjoyed driving in Fuji and battling with Alex in the first race. It was a good fight and I think we put on a show for everyone watching!”