The Chinese lucky number eight proved to be just that today as the #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 customer team one-two.
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 2018 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.
Qualifying for the SIC888 was completed following the Cup’s round eight. In the GT qualifying session Audi customers filled the first two rows. Official Audi Sport Asia driver Martin Rump took pole for himself and Absolute Racing teammates Yuan Bo and Bao Jinlong with a lightning lap of 2:04.042. Reigning Cup champion Alessio Picariello started from second alongside J-Fly Racing teammates Andre Couto and Jeffrey Lee (2:04.518).
Absolute Racing’s Adderly Fong, Cheng Congfu and Sun Jingzu lined-up third (2:05.270) with Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing’s Kantasak Kusiri and bothers Bhurit and Piti Bhirombhakdi rounding out an Audi R8 LMS GT3 top four (2:06.070).
The Indonesian Super Team’ of former F1 driver Rio Haryanto, Andrew Haryanto and Anderson Tanoto started seventh in an Audi R8 LMS GT4.
Although Rump had secured pole position for the #888 Audi R8 LMS GT3, Picariello threw down the gauntlet early, tearing past Rump’s teammate Yuan who had taken the opening stint, and snatching the lead for the #77 car. The Belgian led away Yuan, Fong in the #13 car and Kusiri in the #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 favour and he joined the field, which was now led by Fong, at the back of the 22-car pack.
As the field was released, Picariello was immediately on the move, 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 #89 Audi R8 LMS GT4 from Andrew Haryanto in seventh after a strong opening stint, while Yuan handed the #888 to Bao in second place, and Picariello passed the #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 #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 #888 Absolute Racing Audi with Cheng powering towards second in the #13 GT3, and the Audi R8 LMS GT4 fifth overall with Andrew Haryanto at the wheel. As the #888 pitted for the last time, Bao handed over to Rump for the final stint. A splash of fuel and a new set of tyres, and the Estonian took off on the hunt for an historic first SIC888 victory. Cheng, however, had gained a lap on the leaders during their pit stop. Both Cheng and Rump were flying as the laps accumulated towards the final race distance of 888km.
Rump powered the #888 Audi R8 LMS Cup GT3 across the line to take the inaugural SIC888 victory for Absolute Racing and teammates Yuan Bo and Bao Jinlong of China, etching their names in the history books of Chinese motorsport.
Martin Rump (#888 Absolute Racing): “I’m very pleased with the work of the two lads beside me and the team, and Audi of course. 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 #888. I guess it must have been good luck, right?”
Adderly Fong (#13 Absolute Racing): “I think the key was just staying out of trouble. There were many different classes, so finding the gaps and keeping something in reserve was key. There were lots of classes of cars. This race is a first, and I like it. It gives people who have just started racing an opportunity to experience what it would be like to be on track with a GT3 car. We were one of the quickest cars out there, and it was just trying to pick our way up and try to lose the least time.”
Rio Haryanto (#89 Absolute Racing): “It was my first-ever endurance race. I think the three of us did really well. We stayed out of trouble and came home in the top five and won our category. Overall, I’m really happy.”
Andrew Haryanto (#89 Absolute Racing): “Of course, we’re all at our own speed. Rio’s at his own level! Overall, the car works for all three of us, the set-up works for all three of us. We can definitely learn a lot from what Rio is doing. We can see the data. Who would have thought I’d be driving with an ex-Formula 1 driver? It’s impossible!”
Ingo Matter (Absolute Racing – Team Director): “A great result and overall a really strong weekend for the team and drivers. It always has a special meaning to be the first winners of what could be the endurance flagship race in China in the years to come. We are taking these endurance races one at a time at the moment and just trying to do the best job we can in each weekend so hopefully we can carry this momentum into future international participations.”
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(Audi Sport customer Racing press-release edited)