The Audi R8 LMS Cup lands at the Shanghai Audi International Circuit this weekend with four races remaining in the season and 104 championship points still on the line.
Championship leader Alessio Picariello of MGT by Absolute currently sits on 126 points, and has the chance to secure the first GT3 title of his short career with wins in both Round 7 and 8.
However, a number of competitors are still very much in title contention, one of whom being second-placed Mitch Gilbert of OD Racing Team (79 points).
The Malaysian has four podium finishes to his name so far this season, and will be in hot pursuit of his first race win. Two points behind is Cheng Congfu of FAW-VW Audi Racing Team, his win at Suzuka in Round 4 marking a dazzling return to form for the Chinese star. All three leading cars are serviced by Absolute Racing.
The Shanghai double-header also sees the Cup debut of exciting young talent, 19 year-old Dries Vanthoor, who will race as part of the WRT-run Castrol Racing Team.
Rounds 7 and 8 mark the penultimate meeting of the 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup season.
The weekend of racing forms part of the Audi Sport festival, where the new Audi RS 3 and Audi TT RS will be officially launched in the Chinese market by the German premium brand’s joint-venture partner, FAW-Volkswagen Audi.
Also on the track over the weekend is the China GT Championship, with a number of Audi R8 LMS GT3s taking part in Rounds 7 and 8 of the series in Shanghai.
“The Shanghai weekend is an exciting opportunity for Audi customers to experience a cross-section of our high performance production and race cars, underlining the concept at the heart of Audi Sport: born on the track, built for the road,” commented Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia.
As the Cup returns to the Shanghai Audi International Circuit for the sixth consecutive season, current champion Alex Yoong holds the Cup record at the track with five victories under his belt.
Driving the Team Audi R8 LMS Cup car this season, the Malaysian former Formula One driver will be keen to add to that impressive tally.
From the very start of the season, the battle of youth versus experience has raged throughout the Cup field, and its intensity is illustrated by the fact that 21-year-old Shaun Thong of Audi TEDA Racing Team is just one point adrift of Yoong, with both cars serviced by Phoenix Racing Asia.
Behind Thong is another youngster, Estonian sensation Martin Rump, also 21, of KCMG-serviced Champion Racing Team, who took three Cup victories at the Chinese Formula One circuit last season.
Team Audi Korea’s Kyong-Ouk You has had a challenging season so far, but will be looking to push on from an upturn in form at the previous Cup event in front of his home fans in Korea.
Into this battle for glory and championship points comes Vanthoor, brother of FIA GT World Cup champion, Laurens.
Having honed his skills in karts and single seaters, he turned his considerable talents to GT racing at the tender age of 18. In the short time since, the youngster first won the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE-Am class and then, with the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT outfit, took his first Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup victories of the season at the Hungaroring last month.
Next on Vanthoor’s agenda is his Asian debut where he will take on both the young pretenders and proven motorsport stars of the Audi R8 LMS Cup.
The Audi R8 LMS Cup Am+ title chase is led by series newcomer David Chen of China (89 points). The 21-year-old Tianshi Racing Team ace has shot to the top of the leaderboard after just four races, winning two and taking two podium finishes.
Mirroring the clash between established drivers and ambitious newcomers in the overall rankings, reigning Amateur Cup champion Jeffrey Lee of Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan (72 points) is keeping Chen well within his sights.
Thailand’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi heads the charge in the Am Cup classification having won all four races since he joined the Cup in Japan with his Singha Plan-B Motorsport entry. Returning to the Cup for the Shanghai double header is China’s Sun Jingzu with Milestone Racing, while China GT Championship regular Lim Keong Wee of Malaysia makes his Cup debut in the Audi Hong Kong car.
Qualifying for Round 7 begins at 10:40 on Saturday, September 9, with the race at 14:05 (all times UTC +8) later that day. Round 8 qualifying starts at 9:50 on Sunday September 10, with the 30-minute sprint race getting underway at 14:45 that day.
Both races will be available on live stream to Cup fans around the world. To watch the races in English, please go to www.audir8lmscup.com, while the Chinese live stream will be available at www.audir8lmscup.com/cn and on PPTV and Youku.