ProMax Team’s Andrew Haryanto was crowned Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup champion after a dramatic season finale at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit.
The Indonesian’s victory in Round 10 secured him the title by just five points from rival Bhurit Bhirombhakdi of Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing. Third in the final standings was Yasser Shahin of The Bend Motorsport Park, after crossing the line fourth in the race despite carrying 40kg of success ballast.
Completing the podium was pole-sitter Jeffrey Lee of Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan, his impressive haul of 28 points over the Malaysian weekend securing the final “Road to Spa” seat.
“It has been a fitting finale to an exciting season, our congratulations go to Andrew Haryanto, our 2018 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup champion,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “The growth of our all-amateur line-up over the season has been a joy to watch, with lots of tension, emotion and drama.”
Along with his championship crown, Haryanto also wins an exclusive, bespoke, gold-liveried Audi R8 road car.
After a strong weekend which saw him collect 28 championship points, Lee finished fifth overall behind Sun Jingzu of Absolute Racing. As the highest points-scorer at the Sepang double-header, Lee joins Haryanto, Bhirombhakdi and Shahin on the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup team at the 2019 24 Hours of Spa – a reward on offer to the highest-points scorer at each country on the Cup’s 2018 calendar.
The GT4 Cup champion is Anderson Tanoto of Absolute Racing, previously crowned at the Shanghai race weekend, likewise the GTC Cup champion for 2018, Jeffrey Zee of Spirit Z Racing.
With just two points separating the championship contenders Bhirombhakdi and Haryanto, the final race of the season got underway for an action-packed first lap of racing.
Lee got away well from pole but Bhirombhakdi, carrying 10kg of success ballast, was immediately alongside. However, it was Absolute Racing’s Sun Jingzu who made the best getaway, diving on the inside and getting by Bhirombhakdi and looking to grab the lead from Lee. Lee firmly slammed the door, however, and led the field from Bhirombhakdi, Haryanto, who was carrying 30kg success ballast, and Sun, who had dropped to fourth.
An early drama involving Cup newcomer, Malaysia’s Zen Low of Axle Motorsport, and Anderson Tanoto, making his GT3 debut this weekend, saw the pair make contact and spin, but both managed to rejoin the race.
Meanwhile, Lee was pulling away at the front of the field as a title battle of truly epic proportions was developing behind him. Both Haryanto and Bhirombhakdi were fully aware that whoever finished in front of the other in round 10 would be crowned champion.
Pulling alongside Bhirombhakdi, Haryanto made a move to go second at the final hairpin of the F1-grade circuit. It would prove to be a decisive one, with the pressure now on Bhirombhakdi to get by his rival to reclaim the overall series lead.
Behind the leading trio, Sun was manfully holding off a hard-charging Shahin, with Absolute Racing’s Martin Berry tucked in behind the Australian and B-Quik Racing’s Daniel Bilski very much in the mix.
Mid-way through the 13-lap thriller, Berry made a move on Sun, who had been passed by Shahin, but clipped the Chinese driver in the process, spinning on track before continuing.
Up ahead, Lee had lost some time negotiating patchy wet areas of the track, allowing the battling championship rivals to close right up on him.
Lights flashing, Haryanto made a brave move on Lee in a bid to put a buffer between himself and Bhirombhakdi. The Thai tried to follow, going up the inside of Lee, who got a better exit. A white-knuckle, two abreast drag race down the straight saw Bhirombhakdi emerge the winner, slamming the door on Lee. While Lee attempted to fight back, the Thai had the title in his sights and set off again on the hunt for Haryanto.
With four laps remaining, the battling pair ran wide at the exit, but Bhirombhakdi came off worse after putting all four wheels on the grass, spinning back onto the track. He managed to keep the Audi R8 LMS GT3 under control, wrestling the car back into a straight line. However, the error had given Lee the chance to dive back up to second behind Haryanto, and Bhirombhakdi’s frustration was palpable.
However, the Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing driver recovered quickly, diving past Lee once more to reclaim second. A valiant final push from the committed privateer was ultimately in vain, as Haryanto took the flag for his third win of the season and the championship prize.
Sun crossed the line in fourth behind Shahin and ahead of Bilski, Yoon, Berry and Bilski’s B-Quik Racing teammate and Cup newcomer Henk Kiks in ninth.
The eighth season of the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup gets underway at the Adelaide 500 in early March, the championship returning to an event which saw more than 200,000 fans flock to the street circuit earlier this year.
From there, the Cup returns to its roots in China with stops at the Zhuhai International Circuit and at the home of the Chinese F1 Grand Prix in Shanghai. Japan’s iconic Suzuka Circuit returns to the calendar in 2019, with two races in support of the Suzuka 10 Hours. The grand finale will once again be played out at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit.
1.28/Andrew HARYANTO(INA)/GT3/ProMax Team/28:03.772
2.59/Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI(THA)/GT3/Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing/+2.802
3.7/Jeffrey LEE(TPE)/GT3/Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan/+6.974
4.74/Yasser SHAHIN(AUS)/GT3/The BEND – Motorsport Park/+12.241
5.13/SUN Jing Zu(CHN)/GT3/Absolute Racing/+13.517
6.27/Daniel BILSKI(HKG)/GT3/B-Quik Racing/+13.832
8.15/Martin BERRY(SIN)/GT3/Absolute Racing/+22.590
9.26/Henk KIKS(THA)/GT3/B-Quik Racing/+35.868
10.89/Anderson TANOTO(INA)/GT3/Absolute Racing/+48.766
11.29/Zen LOW(MAL)/GT3/Axle Motorsport/+49.427