The 2016 Audi R8 LMS Cup finale was one of the most nail-biting events of the year, with just one point separating the top two drivers when all the dust settled. This issue of the Cup newsletter brings you the highlights from the final race weekend of the season and a look back at how the story of the championship developed over the whole year. We also spoke with new champion Alex Yoong after he was crowned the victor for a third year running. And be sure not to miss the first sneak-peek at the 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup calendar.
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In a highly emotional season finale on Saturday, Audi TEDA Racing Team’s Alex Yoong clinched his third championship title by just one single point from Alessio Picariello of MGT Team by Absolute.
An intense final race of the season was set up in Round 11 where Alex’s second place and Alessio’s third place had left just one point of difference between the two rivals. This meant that in Round 12, as long as they both finished in ninth or above, whoever crossed the finish line ahead of the other would win the 2016 title.
Round 12 did not start to plan for either driver, with Alex starting in fourth and Alessio, sixth. Alex stayed two cars ahead of Alessio for much of the race, but after Cheng Congfu of FAW-VW Audi Racing Team crashed out following contact with Phoenix Racing Asia’s Shaun Thong, only one car separated the pair with nine laps remaining. Then on lap nine, Alessio managed to squeeze past Shaun, setting up the showdown everyone was waiting for: Alex and Alessio in a direct sprint to the chequered flag and championship glory.
In the later stages of the penultimate lap of the season, Alessio made his move, diving up the inside as Alex negotiated a corner. The cars collided and Alex was out of the race. Alessio, now just had to finish ninth or above and took his foot off the gas to bring his car home safely in eighth overall – a position that would have put him three points ahead on the final leader board.
But it wasn’t time to celebrate yet – and after a comprehensive review by the stewards, Alessio was saddled with a 30-second penalty for the incident with Alex and dropped four places down the race standings, gaining no points and remaining in second place overall. The two finished the year on 167 and 166 points, respectively.
Still, Alessio left the season on a high with seven podium finishes and second place overall, ahead of the Cup’s young Champion Racing Team star, Martin Rump, in third.
Martin stole the podium spotlight on the final race weekend, clinching dual victories during the double-header. Those points catapulted him up the standings ahead of Castrol Racing Team’s Rahel Frey who had entered the weekend in third place overall. The young Estonian secured four victories this season – more than any other Cup driver, and also became the only driver in Cup history to climb atop the podium after racing with an extra 50 kilogrammes of success ballast.
In Round 12, Team Audi R8 LMS Cup’s Aditya Patel and Shaun Thong both clinched podium finishes for the first time – a fitting end to a highly competitive season.
Overall classification: 1st – Alex Yoong (167 points); 2nd – Alessio Picariello (166 points); 3rd – Martin Rump (160 points).
Final Team Cup classification: 1st – Audi TEDA Racing Team (167 points); 2nd – MGT Team by Absolute (166 points); 3rd – Champion Racing Team (162 points).
Final Am Cup classification: 1st – Jeffrey Lee of Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan (255 points); 2nd – Vincent Floirendo of EN Sport by Absolute (151 points); 3rd – Sun Jingzu of Absolute Racing (130 points).
Final Masters Cup classification (previous generation Cup car): 1st - Daniel Bilski of B-Quik Racing (51 points); Kevin Chen of J-Fly by Absolute Racing (50 points); 3rd – Rick Yoon of Phoenix Racing Asia (36 points).
Shanghai, May: At the season opener Rahel Frey emerged from the two races at the top of the championship after a win in Round 2 and a third place finish in Round 1. Newcomer Martin Rump had earlier electrified the Cup with a debut Superpole and Round 1 win. Jeffrey Lee and Johnson Huang recorded Am Cup wins.
Thailand, July: It was at the Cup’s Thailand debut in Round 3 that the eventual champion, Alex Yoong, would record his first of three wins in the season, with Round 4 being won by Martin Rump, leaving Alex atop the standings. Jeffrey Lee left Thailand with two wins in the Am Cup.
Malaysia, August: Alex took a race win in front of home fans in Round 5 before Edoardo Mortara of Phoenix Racing Asia held off Alessio Picariello for a win in Round 6. Jeffrey Lee’s domination of the Am Cup continued with another double-victory.
Korea, September: The championship exploded with the top two contenders colliding in dramatic circumstances, taking both out of Round 7. Alex Yoong won Round 8 to retake the lead from Alessio at the top of the standings. Jeffrey’s Am Cup streak ended with victories for Anthony Liu of Absolute Racing.
Taiwan, October: Alessio recorded his sole win of the season in Round 10 – and with it, championship lead - after Rahel Frey had climbed the top podium step in the previous race. Jeffrey Lee secured the Am Cup title in front of his home fans after a Round 9 win, also securing victory again in Round 10.
Shanghai, November: And then it all came down to this. A historic hat trick for Alex Yoong, by that solitary championship point.
With the Cup’s fifth season over, thoughts now turn to the 2017 season for the first one-make series from the brand with the four rings. The coming season will kick off in Malaysia and will return to China at a later point of the year. A more detailed schedule will be released soon, so be sure to check www.audir8lmscup.com for more info. Until then, Audi Sport customer racing Asia’s activities with the Audi R8 LMS will continue in the region – first in Macau in November for the 63rd Macau Grand Prix, then on to Malaysia in December for the Sepang 12 Hours endurance race. Follow our social media accounts to stay abreast of all developments as and when they happen.