ProMax Team’s Andrew Haryanto recorded a debut victory in the opening race of the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup season on Saturday.
Racing on the Adelaide Street Circuit for the first time in his career in front of a 77,000-strong crowd, it is also the Indonesian’s first outing in the Audi R8 LMS GT3.
Theo Koundouris, who is making his eighth appearance at the Adelaide 500, held off hard-charging countryman Yasser Shahin of JAMEC PEM Racing – another impressive track debutant – to claim second.
Circuit veteran James Koundouris and track newcomer Bhurit Bhirombhakdi of Singha Plan-B Motorsport by Absolute Racing completed a top five that reflected how quickly those new to the circuit have adapted to the challenging conditions and the high benchmarks set by their experienced track rivals.
It was heartache for Tony Bates of Tony Bates Racing who had started on pole, but fell to fourth after the first corner before his race ended prematurely in the gravel trap on lap 11 of an eventual 17.
“Congratulations to all our drivers for a thrilling race today, and to our winner Andrew Haryanto,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia.
“Three of the top five finishers are racing on this demanding street circuit for the first time in their careers, and their success is a testament to the equality of the sporting platform provided in the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup.”
Thousands of passionate Australian fans filled the grandstands for the first day of the Adelaide 500 weekend motorsport spectacular, and got their first taste of the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup.
The 15-strong field was led away at the rolling start by pole-sitter Tony Bates, but it was Haryanto, starting from fourth on the grid, who stole the march on the front-runners.
Away like a rocket, and charging all the way through on the inside, the Indonesian seized the lead. Bates, meanwhile, was overcome at the start, dropping down to fourth in the order behind Theo Koundouris.
Shahin also got away well, so quick at the start he had to ease off to avoid going into the back of Bates.
Shahin took the fight to Haryanto though, reeling him in and snatching the lead on lap two.
The fast and furious action continued unabated, with Haryanto desperate to reclaim the advantage, Theo Koundouris on the chase, but with Bates closing in rapidly and piling on the pressure.
Disaster struck for Shahin on lap nine. Pushing the limits at turn four, he spun, but a lightning reaction saw him save the car to recover and rejoin the race in fourth.
That incident put Haryanto back in the lead, chased by Theo Koundouris and Bates. However, it was game over for Bates on lap 11, the notorious street circuit dashing his hopes.
Running into turn five, the Australian pole-sitter spun and ended up stranded in the gravel trap. That brought out the safety car, closing up the pack behind Haryanto.
At the restart, Haryanto was once again away like a missile and headed off on the hunt for the chequered flag, leading Theo Koundouris, Shahin and James Koundouris.
As the laps clicked away, the heat intensified amongst the three leading protagonists; Theo Koundouris closing in and moving up the inside of Haryanto, only for the Indonesian to slam the door shut.
With Shahin right in the mix, Theo’s efforts to catch Haryanto were hindered as he was forced to defend from the quick JAMEC PEM Racing driver, who set the fastest lap of the race on a final run to the flag.
Haryanto crossed the line to claim victory on his Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup debut, ahead of Theo Koundouris, Shahin, James Koundouris and Bhirombhakdi.
Further down the field, Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan’s Jeffrey Lee spun, making contact with Absolute Racing’s Sun Jingzu.
Shahin’s JAMEC PEM Racing team mate, Steve McLaughlan, had been running in fifth behind James Koundouris, but an incident with Bhirombhakdi saw him drop down to tenth at the flag.
B-Quik Racing’s Daniel Bilski – a former Cup Amateur and Masters champion, crossed the line sixth, ahead of CTVS Racers’ Mark Williamson, and fellow Australian Marc Cini.
Absolute Racing’s Yang Xi of China came in ninth ahead of McLaughlan as close battles raged through the field.
Australian fans were given the chance to see the Audi R8 LMS GT4 put through its paces in a Cup race for the first time, with this weekend’s professional driver mentor coaches Adderly Fong and China’s Cheng Congfu at the wheels.
Haryanto’s win puts him in a strong position in the contest for the Australian leg of the Cup’s Road to Spa, where the highest point-scorer in each country in which the series is contested earn a fully-supported seat on an Audi team at the Total 24 Hours of Spa in 2019.
However, with Shahin on pole for Round 2, and Bates starting alongside him, Haryanto will have his work cut out to repeat his remarkable Round 1 result.
Round 2 begins at 10:55 a.m. local time on Sunday, and will be broadcast live on television in Australia and New Zealand on Fox Sports, with coverage for the rest of the world streamed on the Cup’s website, Chinese portals PPTV, Youku, LeSports and more.