Competitors in the Audi R8 LMS Cup were honored at the Heroes Night awards night at Zhejiang International Circuit on Oct. 8, bringing an end to a thrilling 2017 season that spanned across ten races in four countries.
“We congratulate our champions on their Audi R8 LMS Cup success, and our thanks to all our drivers, teams and partners for giving us such an exciting season,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia.
“As the world’s premier GT3 brand Cup, we have once again produced a season packed with exceptional motorsport competition run to the very highest standards.
“We look forward to 2018, and the seventh season of the Audi R8 LMS Cup.”
Taking four wins and two podium finishes on his way to the championship, 24-year-old Belgian Alessio Picariello clinched the overall title in Shanghai in September, and in doing so earned the Team Cup for MGT by Absolute.
To cap off what has been a stellar season for the driver dubbed the ‘Belgian Bullet’, Picariello also secured the Pirelli Best Lap Trophy, setting five fastest laps in ten races.
Second in the title chase was OD Racing Team’s Mitch Gilbert, the Malaysian-born 23-year-old keeping his eye on the main prize as the battle for points and the runner-up position went right down to the wire in Round 10.
FAW-VW Audi Racing Team’s Cheng Congfu of China finished the season third overall, scoring a memorable victory at the Cup’s debut at the iconic Suzuka Circuit in Japan.
Three-time Cup champion Alex Yoong, in the official Audi R8 LMS Cup for 2017, finished fourth ahead of Audi TEDA Racing Team’s Shaun Thong, the 21-year-old experiencing a rollercoaster season’s end with a second place in the penultimate round at Zhejiang.
Young Estonian talent Martin Rump of Champion Racing Team suffered more than his share of ill-luck throughout the year meaning he was unable to show his true pace.
He finished ahead of Audi Hong Kong’s Marchy Lee, the Cup’s first champion in 2012, who contested a partial season in 2017.
Team Audi Korea’s Kyong-Ouk You had a challenging season, but never lost his passion. The cheerful Korean received a “Special Driver Award” at the gala in Zhejiang for completing his fifth straight season with the Cup.
Am+ Cup champion David Chen of the Tianshi Racing Team proved the revelation of the season. Joining the Cup from Round 3 with only half a season of GT racing under his belt, the 21-year-old Chinese sensation took six class wins and two podium finishes in the eight races he contested to sweep to the title.
Entering the Cup history books in Zhejiang, Chen became the first amateur driver to win a race outright in Round 9, following it up with a third place overall finish in the final race.
Chen finished ahead of 2016 Amateur Cup champion Jeffrey Lee, racing this season for Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan, who has contested every Cup race since it began in 2012. Third overall in the Am+ category went to Anthony Liu of Absolute Racing, with KCMG’s Jiang Xin and Andrew Kim of Audi Hong Kong Team rounding up the top five.
In the Am Cup, Thailand’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi who, like Chen, joined the Cup from Suzuka, continued his impressive return to motorsport competition by winning the title for Singha Plan-B Motorsport with five victories ahead of China’s Sun Jingzu of Milestone Racing and Rick Yoon of KCMG.
The 2017 season brought a welcome addition to the superb line-up of Cup service providers in the form of Belgian-based Audi factory team WRT.
WRT chose the Cup with which to make its Asian debut, continuing its long and fruitful association with Audi Sport as it set out to replicate its European success.
WRT joined Absolute Racing, Phoenix Racing Asia and KCMG as an official Cup service provider.
In addition to the Cup’s service teams, a special award was also presented to Chinese newcomers Tianshi Racing Team (TSRT) at the season-end gala for their brilliant success with AM+ championship driver David Chen in the team’s first-ever season with the Audi R8 LMS Cup.
The Audi R8 LMS Cup also honoured TEDA, Castrol Edge, Pirelli, Champion, PPTV, CTVS and Auto Motor und Sport with Special Awards at the Heroes Night for their strong and enthusiastic cooperation with the world’s only GT3 brand series.
The Cup has a reputation for continually providing its drivers and teams with the newest and most exciting venues. And so it was in 2017, with series debuts at both Suzuka and Zhejiang.
Pre-season predictions of a fascinating duel between some of Asia’s most successful and established professionals, its rising young stars and committed privateers proved to be right on the mark from the opening rounds at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit in May.
The compelling rivalry continued as the Cup made its debut at the legendary Suzuka Circuit, home to the Japanese F1 Grand Prix and a track which has humbled many of the world’s mightiest drivers.
The 5.807 km circuit provided what was arguably to be the greatest test of courage in Cup history, with its quick straights, chicanes, hairpin, esses and the notorious 130R, delivering two unforgettable races. Next it was on to the Korea International Circuit, the Cup returning to the F1-standard track for the fourth consecutive season.
Shanghai’s F1 circuit again delivered on its reputation for providing great racing, before the season culminated at the brand new Zhejiang International Circuit. The final event was held in partnership with the TCR International Series, featuring the Audi RS 3 LMS TCR race cars, bringing together the entire Audi Sport customer racing family.
New for 2017 season was the return of the Push-to-Pass – a 10-second, 50hp power boost – but this time each driver’s strategy was on full view via LED indicators showing fans and rivals alike when P2P was engaged, and a numerical counter displaying how many boosts remained.
Separate qualifying sessions for each round meant there was everything to play for in every single race. All drivers competed in identical, high-performance Audi R8 LMS GT3 racing cars, while success ballast leveled the playing field yet further. Outright success was rewarded via the Formula 1 championship points scale.
Creating greater track time for Cup drivers, a strategic calendar alignment with both the new Blancpain GT Series Asia and the China GT Championship gave Cup drivers more opportunity to do what they love best – race the Audi R8 LMS GT3.
Shared grid of GT3 and GT4 race cars in 2018
The Audi R8 LMS Cup is now already looking ahead to next season – the Cup’s seventh. Many new innovations are already on the cards, as well as the addition of the exciting new Audi R8 LMS GT4 to the ranks of the world’s premier GT3 brand Cup.
Final Overall classification
1. Alessio PICARIELLO/178
2. Mitch GILBERT/134
3. CHENG Congfu/127
4. Alex YOONG/121
5. Shaun THONG/109
6. Martin RUMP/76
7. David CHEN/67
8. Marchy LEE/50
9. Dries VANTHOOR/42
10. Stéphane RICHELMI/25
11. Kyong-Ouk YOU/25
12. Akash NANDY/12
Final Am+ Classification
1. David CHEN Weian/193
2. Jeffrey LEE/144
3. Anthony LIU/69
4. Kane JIANG Xin/27
5. Andrew KIM/15
Final Am Classification
1. Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI/162
2. SUN Jing Zu/127
3. Rick YOON/47
4. LIM Keong Wee/16