Adelaide, March 2, 2019 – In intense heat and on one of the world’s most challenging street circuits, Australian Tony Bates won the opening round of the 2019 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup with a flawless run from pole to flag. Behind him, fellow countryman Yasser Shahin put in an electrifying performance, The Bend Motorsport Park driver surviving a late-race technical issue to claim second from a starting position of seventh.
A race-long battle between Audi Sport Team Valvoline driver Geoff Emery and former Am Cup and Masters champion Daniel Bilski had the 64,500-strong crowd on their feet, with Emery finally finding a way past his rival in the dying minutes of the 20-lap race.
Absolute Racing’s Mark Williamson took the GT4 win ahead of Anderson Tanoto, who had taken the class lead early on. Fellow GT4 driver Ryan Liu was unable to start the race after an incident in qualifying for round two earlier in the day in which his car was badly damaged, but Liu unhurt, when he was caught out at the exit of the tricky turn eight.
“Today the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup has showcased customer racing at its finest,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “The Adelaide Street Circuit provided a monumental sporting challenge, the thousands-strong crowd created an incredible atmosphere, and our drivers were all racing on the absolute limit. Congratulations to round one GT3 winner Tony Bates, and to our first GT4 Cup winner of the season, Mark Williamson.”
With the ambient temperature again hitting 40 degrees centigrade, Bates got away well from pole as the field set off for the first time this season. Behind Bates, Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi and Absolute Racing’s Andrew Haryanto were immediately locked in battle, with Bilski trying to avoid contact. Haryanto attempted to replicate his blinding start of 12 months earlier, but this time attempting to go around the outside.
Haryanto ran wide, bouncing over the kerbs of the central chicane and, as he re-joined, colliding twice with Bhirombhakdi. Haryanto tried to nurse his damaged car back to the pits, but stopped on track and retired. Emery took evasive action, dropping down the order but quickly recovered.
Bhirombhakdi, meanwhile, did make it back to the pits, also retiring shortly afterwards as a result of his coming together with Haryanto. Haryanto was later handed a five-place grid penalty for the start of Sunday’s round two, putting him right to the back of the field.
After a blinding start from seventh on the grid, Shahin had got by Bhirombhakdi and was in hot pursuit of race leader Bates, who had already pulled out a lead of several seconds. Bilski, meanwhile, had survived the start melee virtually unscathed and was running in third. It wasn’t long though before Emery was looming large in Bilski’s mirrors.
Alex Au, who had started from the fourth row alongside Shahin, was running in fifth ahead of Sun Jingzu.
At the front of the pack, Bates pushed hard to maintain a consistent gap from Shahin, but his rival continued to pound out a string of quick laps. All eyes were on the battle between Bilski and Emery behind, both determined to start the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup season with a podium finish.
Piling on the pressure, Emery tried to force Bilski into making an error, but the B-Quik Racing ace held firm for lap after scorching lap. The battling duo allowed Bates and Shahin to pull a gap at the front of the pack.
Midway through the race, Au put in the quickest lap of the race, but swiped the barriers on the exit. Luckily, the contact only resulted in minor bodywork damage and the driver was able to continue, crossing the line fifth.
An increasingly frustrated Emery tried a move around the outside of Bilski, but ran wide and lost time, giving Bilski a welcome breather from the unrelenting pressure.
While Bates and Shahin now had a 14 second lead from the chasing pack, there was no let up from either driver. Bates was still pushing hard, in one heart-stopping moment kissing the barrier after missing the apex while wiping away the sweat that was pouring into his eyes. Yasser replied with a lap which matched his qualifying time and was the fastest of the race, winning him the Pirelli Best Lap award. However, just as he had set the fastest two sector times on the next lap, a technical issue saw him suddenly struggling to keep pace with Bates as the race leader headed off into the distance.
Behind the leading pair, Emery had wasted no time closing back up to Bilski and resuming his assault, headlights flashing. As the seconds counted down, Emery made his move, diving past at turn nine after Bilski – unsettled by a backmarker – got off his normal racing line.
In the final run to the flag, Emery and Bilski had closed right up to the struggling Shahin, his lead having evaporated as the chequered flag approached. However, Shahin held firm to take a well-earned second ahead of Emery.
Both Bates and Williamson will carry 30kg of success ballast in Sunday’s round two, with Shahin and Tanoto each carrying 20kg and Emery, who starts from pole, with 10kg
Round two of the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup begins at 11:10am local time (UTC+ 10:30). The race will be live on television in Australia and New Zealand on Fox Sports, and live streamed to the rest of the world on the Cup’s website, as well as on the Cup’s Chinese media partner IFENG and more Chinese portals.
Tony Bates (Tony Bates Racing) – winner round one
“I kind of predicted that, as there were some pretty talented drivers behind me, getting that lead to the first turn was going to be important. I knew that today that was probably going to be a winning move because these guys pouring pressure on you is something you don’t want in 65-degree cabin temperature.
I’d had a bit of a free kick, and it was just a matter of banging out laps. Yasser’s first few laps were dynamite. I didn’t see anyone in my rear vision mirror and the next thing I know you see Yasser! I think we both got into a rhythm and did not make any mistakes, which wasn’t easy in that heat. It was probably one of the toughest races I’ve ever had to do.”
Yasser Shahin (The Bend Motorsport Park) – 2nd round one
“It wasn’t actually the best of race starts. I just kept my nose clean. Out of [turn] two, there was a lot of action on the right-hand side and I stayed on the left. A lot of action on the inside of turn four, and I was just lucky enough to drive around everybody on the outside, but took the inside of five. I saw a collision in front of me and kept my nose out of trouble there and before you know it, I had Tony in front of me. Lady Luck came my way at the start I think.
Geoff Emery (Audi Sport Team Valvoline) – 3rd round one
“Unfortunately I got tangled up at the start. I probably dropped about three spots off the start, so I had my work cut out. I started pressing on and passing cars. On the opening lap, I passed two and then came up behind Daniel. I was just trying to spook him the whole race – driving round the inside and the outside. In the end it worked and he fell off. It was good. The pressure worked.”
Mark Williamson (Absolute Racing) – GT4 Cup winner round one
“I had a good little tussle with Anderson (Tanoto). He had a great start, a much better start than me. He was much more aggressive in turns one and two, and I got past him into turn three, and he went back past round the outside of me. I got a couple of positions, got back on the tail of him and pressured him into a mistake.”
Round one results
1.24/Tony BATES(AUS)/GT3/Tony Bates Racing/30:21.319
2. 7/Yasser SHAHIN(AUS)/GT3/The BEND – Motorsport Park/30:34.507
3.22/Geoff EMERY(AUS)/GT3/Audi Sport Team Valvoline/30:34.922
4.27/Daniel BILSKI(HKG)/GT3/Absolute Racing/30:35.909
5.178/Alex AU(HKG)/GT3/CTVS Racers by Absolute/30:57.923
6.13/SUN Jing Zu(CHN)/GT3/Absolute Racing/31:06.375
7. 8/Mark WILLIAMSON(AUS)/GT4/Absolute Racing/31:27.549
8.89/Anderson TANOTO(INA)/GT4/Absolute Racing/30:45.697
DNF.59/Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI(THA)/GT3/Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing/4:23.293
DNF.28/Andrew HARYANTO(INA)/GT3/Absolute Racing
DNS.666/Ryan LIU(CHN)/GT4/Absolute Racing
Fastest lap: Yasser Shahin/The Bend Motorsport Park/1:21.737
The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup is operated by Audi Sport customer racing Asia.