Australian Tony Bates of Tony Bates Racing stormed to victory in Round 2 of the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup at the Adelaide Street Circuit.
Channelling his frustration at his premature finish in Saturday’s opening round, Bates held a determined JAMEC PEM Racing’s Yasser Shahin at bay in the final laps of Round 2 to take his first win in an Audi on the Cup’s Australian debut.
The battle between Bates and Shahin, the latter of whom led most of the race despite carrying 10 kg of success ballast after his Round 1 podium, had the thousands-strong Adelaide crowd on the edge of their seats.
ProMax Team’s Andrew Haryanto, carrying the full 30 kg of ballast after his opening round victory, stayed right with the leaders until forced to turn his attentions to fighting off ferocious challenges from Theo Koundouris for the final podium place.
After the opening race weekend, it is Haryanto who leads the Cup’s GT3 category on 40 points, with Yasser Shahin – also very impressive on his Cup debut – in second on 34 points.
Theo Koundouris sits third on the leaderboard (30 points) after just missing the round 2 podium, with race-winner Bates fourth (26 points).
Haryanto crossed the line in third, his impressive points haul on his Cup debut propelling him to the top of the championship leaderboard.
As the highest overall points-scorer in the Australian rounds the Indonesian has secured a berth on the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup team in the 2019 Total 24 Hours of Spa endurance classic – a reward on offer to the highest points-scorer in each country on the Cup’s 2018 calendar.
After missing out on the 24 Hours of Spa drive, race-winner Bates was keen on a rematch. “I’d certainly love to get over and compete in the Cup again, and maybe even get over to Andrew Haryanto’s home turf in Asia to see if we can do to him what he did to us here,” he said.
As in Round 1, the new privateer Cup format ensured close-fought racing throughout the field right up to the chequered flag, capping off a memorable first race weekend outside Asia for the sprint series.
A total onsite crowd of 265,000 watched the action, strolled around the impressive parklands and soaked up the atmosphere under the scorching South Australian sun over the four-day event.
“We saw two hard-fought races at the Australia debut of the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport Customer Racing Asia.
“Tony Bates made his experience count today with a deserved win, with Yasser Shahin and Andrew Haryanto impressing again on their circuit debuts.
It was a thrilling weekend with this great mix of Australian and Asia-based drivers. I’d like to say a big thank-you to the Adelaide 500 team for hosting this amazing event.”
Bates led the field away at the rolling start, but was immediately under fire from Shahin who snatched the lead and set about pulling away.
Behind, Haryanto, who had started in third, got away well and almost drew alongside the front two, backing off just in time to avoid contact at the notorious turn eight.
After a frantic opening three laps, Shahin had pulled a gap of more than a second from Bates, but Haryanto began to drop back from the two front runners as he faced a barrage from brothers Theo and James Koundouris and Bhurit Bhirombhakdi of Singha Plan-B Motorsport by Absolute Racing, all set on claiming a podium finish.
Behind them, Absolute Racing’s Sun Jingzu of China, who made a strong start as the lights went out, was engaged in a cat and mouse tussle with Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan’s Jeffrey Lee for seventh.
As Bates began to reel in Shahin at the front, the drama was about to unfold behind the pair. First Sun and Lee came together, the former stopping on track.
Next Bhirombhakdi pitched James Koundouris into the barrier, the incident bringing out the safety car and incurring the Thai driver a post-race penalty.
Sun was able to get his car going again, and rejoined the pack behind the safety car. For Shahin however, it meant his hard-won advantage was for naught, as the field closed up ready for the restart.
As the safety car pulled away at the end of lap 12, Shahin controlled the pace of the field but the red mist had descended on Bates, and he seized the lead with a wheel-perfect move at turn four.
Shahin was not ready to concede, however, making a spirited final attack on Bates. The pair made contact, but Bates held firm, determined to add an Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup victory to his CV.
Haryanto continued to hold Theo Koundouris and Bhirombhakdi at bay to the flag, his podium finish and his Round 1 victory setting him firmly on the Road to Spa.
The action continued behind the leaders. Lee made contact with CTVS Racers’ Mark Williamson, the pair spinning on track.
B-Quik’s Daniel Bilski took evasive action as he came upon the scene, but Sun came from behind local driver Marc Cini and ran straight into Bilski.
Sun was subsequently disqualified from the race as a consequence of the incident, also incurring a five-place grid penalty for Round 3.
Lee was handed a 30-second penalty for his contact with Sun, and a three-place Round 3 grid penalty for the incident with Williamson.
The 2018 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup resumes on May 11 and 12, when it makes its debut in Germany in support of the Nürburgring 24 Hours.
Racing for the first time in the home of Audi, Rounds 3 and 4 will see the new Audi R8 LMS GT4 category launched with the Cup for the first time.