Sepang was abuzz with activity last weekend, and taking center stage on the freshly resurfaced tarmac was the 2016 Audi R8 LMS Cup, rounds 5 and 6. Many Malaysian motorsports enthusiasts had come to give support to their local racing heroes participating in both the Audi and Lamborghini Asian racing series.
At the beginning of the Superpole, Malaysia’s hometown hero and reigning cup champion Alex Yoong of Audi TEDA Racing Team, with a time of 2:02:338, had an edge by leading the single-lap session, but Swiss Rahel Frey of Castrol Racing Team displayed exceptional ability in claiming Yoong’s top position, eventually finishing with a time of 2:02.143. Alessio Picariello of MGT Team by Absolute and Edoardo Mortara of Phoenix Racing Asia both achieved a time 2:01.992 and 2:01.765 respectively, putting them in first and second starting positions for Round 5.
Martin Rump, the winner of Round 4 which was held at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand several weeks back, attained a time of 2:02.397 within seven-tenths of a second from Yoong was awarded fifth place in the coming round’s starting line. His victory during the last round will have the Estonian carrying an additional 50 kilograms of success ballast, with Picariello carrying an extra 35 kilograms and Jan Kisiel of KCMG 20 kilograms for their second and third placing respectively in Buriram.
“It was another exciting Superpole today in Sepang with Edoardo Mortara putting in a fantastic performance to take pole position. The margins between the top drivers are incredibly small, as shown with the competition in today’s qualifying.” said Bernd Goeres, Director of Audi Sport Customer Racing Asia.
The final results from Saturday’s Superpole led up to the events which transpired during Round 5 and 6 held on the next day. Round 5 was to begin at 11:10 and sixth and final round was to at 16:00, also on the same day itself. The sun shone itself clear over the circuit; there was certainly no chance of rain on that Sunday.
We arrived early to catch the teams prepping themselves for the final two races. The lounge was bustling with a sea of faces: friends and supporters of the participating teams, along with motorsports enthusiasts and Audi’s customers. In truth, this was the best place to be, with large screens set up everywhere, so you could watch the race in comfort and away from the blistering sun and heat.
After the grid walk, Round 5 set off sharp at 11:10 with Alex Yoong taking an impressive lead, after lights out at the rolling start. Alex’s car had a set of fresh rubbers, and he managed to weave his way through the top three drivers of Frey, Picariello and Montara, who squared off for the lead.
With motorsports, consistency is key and Alex remained consistently strong throughout, eventually emerging triumphant, wowing his fans and the home-ground crowd. Second and third podium positions were snapped up by Montara and Frey, although the battle for remaining podium finishes were heated between both drivers, with Picariello just missing out.
For those unfamiliar familiar with Audi’s R8 LMS Cup racing series, a system of Race Success Ballast weight handicaps are added on the the driver’s cars after each round, based on how they qualify. These ballasts are added on after a race and will be effective for the next race only. These weights are 50kg, 35kg and 20kg for first, second and third position respectively. All drivers are also equalized by weight – that means weight ballasts are added to ensure that all drivers, in full race gear, weigh at least 80kg.
By the end of Round 5, Mortara now had to bear the extra weight from Picariello which set expectations for an interesting battle in Round 6. We watched as the two drivers fighting it out for prime position on tract, with Frey in close pursuit, ready to capitalize on errors.
Despite several mistakes, the former Formula 3 Euroseries champion managed to defend himself from Picariello’s ruthless maneuvers, all the way towards the chequered flag. Mortara emerged victorious as No.1 for Round 6, with the Belgian at a close half-second behind for second. Rahel Frey wrapped up the podium with a third place finish and a double podium for the Malaysian race.
For the Amateur Cup, Jeffrey Lee of Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan clinched two top spot victories for both rounds, further cementing his lead across the board. Vincent Floirendo of EN Sport by Absolute took second place before Johnson Huang who took third for the first round. Huang, who hails from Taiwan managed to learn from mistakes and wrestled second place from Floirendo, who was now in third from the subsequent round.
After the round, the team headed back to the lounge, where we managed to catch our breath from the race and for the press conference between Alex Yoong and the media.
““It’s a real relief,” the half-Chinese and half-English professional racing driver said. “Discussing with my engineers to use new tyres for race one was risky but we had to make use of it. We chose a very aggressive setup. After a great start I had a perfect four laps and was able to settle into the lead. It’s been great winning on my home turf in front of my family, friends and supporters.”
He further quipped that Malaysians, while possessing the abilities and skills of a professional racer, there is not enough opportunity for them to grow. When asked about the amount of support and opportunities given comparing Malaysian national sports and motorsports, he was indignant on the differences – and with a loud spoken message that a better chance should be given to all Malaysians.
The press conference was concluded with a cheeky question, whether if he had any rituals before participating in a race. Jokingly chiding the reporter, the fellow Malaysian stated he didn’t have any – but he would always wear yellow underwear before a race!
With the results of both rounds, the Audi TEDA Racing Team and MGT Team by Absolute are now neck-to neck with each other, with both teams achieving a total of 95 championship points for the entire series. It will certainly be exciting to see the developments that happen during the next race which Rounds 7 and 8 are to be held in Korea, on 24th and 25th September.
Here are the results of both rounds with the overall and amateur classifications:
Enjoy our coverage of the 2016 Audi R8 LMS Cup in the gallery below. Some images courtesy of Audi Malaysia: