The Chinese lucky number eight proved to be just that today as the No. 888 Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Audi Sport Asia driver Martin Rump and Chinese talents Bao Jinlong and Yuan Bo took victory from pole in the inaugural SIC888 endurance race in Shanghai.
Absolute Racing teammates Adderly Fong, Cheng Congfu and Sun Jingzu crossed the line in second, making it an Audi 1-2.
The Indonesian ‘super team’ of Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup stars Andrew Haryanto, Anderson Tanoto and former Formula 1 driver Rio Haryanto came home fifth overall, first in class with their Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4.
On his Audi debut, and in his first race since F1, Rio Haryanto impressed with his scorching pace.
SIC888 is an official part of the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup calendar as an invitational race, with all competing Cup drivers earning 10 points towards their Cup campaigns.
That extra bonus was enough for Tanoto to secure the Cup’s first-ever GT4 championship. The Indonesian clinched his debut motor racing title after two victories and three additional podiums in the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup so far this season.
“Congratulations to Martin Rump, Yuan Bo and Bao Jinlong on a superb demonstration of skill, consistency and endurance today,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia.
“With a one-two GT3 finish and a GT4 class win, the Audi Sport customer race cars proved again that they are quick and reliable in both sprint and endurance competition. Our congratulations also go to Anderson Tanoto for becoming our first ever Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup GT4 champion.”
Although Rump had secured pole, Picariello threw down the gauntlet early, tearing past Rump’s teammate Yuan who had taken the opening stint, and snatching the lead for the No. 77 car.
The Belgian led away Yuan, Fong in the No. 13 car and Kusiri in the No. 59 Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing entry. Andrew Haryanto took the opening stint for the Absolute Racing Indonesian trio in the Audi R8 LMS GT4, running seventh overall in the opening stages.
Having built up a 15 second lead in the opening 30 minutes, a left rear puncture saw Picariello nurse the car back to the pits. Just as it looked as though Picariello’s hard work had been in vain, the safety car was called out after a car was left stranded on track at the parabolica.
This worked in the team’s favor and he joined the field, which was now led by Fong, at the back of the 22-car field.
Picariello was immediately on the move on the restart, reclaiming the race lead just minutes later.
However, drama once more stuck as, this time, Fong picked up a right rear puncture and had to nurse the car back to the pits. With the opening stints coming to an end, Fong handed the wheel to Saturday’s Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup race-winner Sun as several teams changed drivers.
Next it was the Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing team’s turn to pick up a puncture, pitting while running third with Kusiri handing over to Piti Bhirombhakdi at the same time.
Tanoto took over the No. 89 Audi R8 LMS GT4 from Andrew Haryanto in seventh after a strong opening stint, while Yuan handed the No. 888 to Bao in second place, and Picariello passed the No. 77 leading car to Lee with a 50 second advantage.
Ninety minutes in, Lee held the lead from Bao, Bhirombhakdi and Sun in an Audi R8 LMS GT3 top four, with Anderson sixth overall in the GT4.
At the half way point, disaster struck the race-leading No. 77 when a technical issue saw Couto limp into the pits and retire not long after he had taken the wheel from Jeffrey Lee.
Rio Haryanto climbed in to the Audi R8 LMS GT4, and immediately powered up to fifth overall in the order.
With 35 laps to go, Bao led the race from Fong in the #13, with Bhurit Bhirombhakdi in the Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing GT3 pushing towards a podium finish, with Andrew Haryanto in sixth overall in the GT4.
With just 19 laps to go, Bhurit Bhirombhakdi brought the #59 in to hand over to Kusiri. However, it was game over for the Thai team, who retired with technical issues.
Bao led the race in the No. 888 Absolute Audi with Cheng powering towards second in the No. 13 GT3, and the Audi R8 LMS GT4 fifth overall with Andrew Haryanto at the wheel.
As the No. 888 pitted for the last time, Bao handed over to Rump for the final stint.
“I’m very pleased with the work of the two lads beside me and the team, and Audi of course,” Rump said. “Everything was reliable for us and that’s how you win endurance races.
“I haven’t done many, but it was a completely different approach this time. Being used to sprint races, the mindset has to be rebooted completely. I think we delivered that well and it’s good to win the first-ever SIC888, in No. 888. I guess it must have been good luck, right?”
The Thai trio of Cup series leader Bhurit Bhirombhakdi, his brother Piti Bhirombhakdi and professional Kantasak Kusiri of Singha Plan-B completed the GT3 class podium in third.
It was heartbreak though for early race leaders, reigning Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup champion Alessio Picariello, André Couto and Cup star Jeffrey Lee of J Fly Racing after a technical issue saw them retire.