Buriram, May 12, 2019 – Audi Sport Asia Team TSRT’s David Chen and Andre Couto stormed from a starting position of 18th to third overall in round four of Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia. Building on teammate Couto’s first stint, Audi Sport Asia driver Chen put in a stirring performance in the second half of the hour-long race to close the weekend on a high for the Chinese Audi R8 LMS squad.
There were class podiums for local Thai teams Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing and B-Quik Racing to the delight of the home crowds at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand. Bhurit Bhirombhakdi and Kantasak Kusiri crossed the line sixth overall, third in Pro/Am, while B-Quik Racing boss Henk Kiks and Daniel Bilski scored their second Am Cup win of the season with a late dive up the inside of the class leader on the final lap of the race, finishing ninth overall.
“Today David Chen, Andre Couto and TSRT showed what they are made of, fighting back from yesterday’s disappointing result and today’s tough starting position to claim a memorable podium,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “Congratulations to Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing and B-Quik Racing too for their class successes on home turf.”
There was heartbreak for the twin Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute entries. First Martin Rump and Weiron Tan’s number 12 car was shunted out just seconds after the lights went green. Then, with just five minutes to go, Sun Jingzu was involved in a collision with a competitor ending his and teammate Cheng Congfu’s race.
After round four, Rump and Tan sit eighth in the overall championship (27 points), with Chen and Couto 15th after claiming their first points of the season (15 points). In the Silver Cup standings Rump and Tan are fifth (40 points), with Chen and Couto seventh (32 points).
In the Pro/Am standings Kusiri and Bhirombhakdi’s second podium of the season sees them third (48 points), while a second Am Cup win of the season puts Bilski and Kiks second in the Am class (65 points).
As the 30-strong field lined up at the Chang International Circuit for the second time this weekend, three of the five Audi R8 LMS GT3s occupied positions four to six, with Kusiri starting on the second row, followed by Cheng and Rump.
As the lights went green and the field spread out in the run into turn one, Rump was tagged, ending his race immediately. It was crushing disappointment for the Estonian driver and partner Tan, who had been building momentum all weekend.
Cheng Congfu fell to sixth, before moving past Kusiri into fifth, where the Chinese Audi Sport Asia ace remained until the midrace driver change. Teammate Sun Jingzu emerged and fought well over his stint and was running in eighth when the race ending contact came with just moments to go.
Further back, Andre Couto had made a good start and was up from 18th to 13th by the end of lap one. The Macanese driver was a victim of the congested midfield battle though and had fallen to 16th by the time he handed the reins of the Audi Sport Asia Team TSRT machine to teammate Chen.
Chen set off with the bit between his teeth carving through the field and was up to sixth overall when the safety car was called out with just 12 minutes to go, bunching up the field.
The safety car circulated and the clock ticked down as tension spread through the field. With the safety car called in and the race restarted with just five minutes left Chen was immediately on the power, moving past backmarkers and rivals for position to be fourth and on the tail of the third placed car. It was there that he finished, with the team elevated one place post-race after a front-runner was disqualified.
One of the cars Chen passed on his way to the podium finish was the Singha Plan-B by Absolute Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Bhurit Bhirombhakdi who had built on the opening stint of teammate Kusiri to be running third. The Thai privateer was caught out as the race restarted after the safety car period but finished a strong sixth overall, third in the Pro/Am class.
B-Quik Racing Team’s Kiks and Bilski are in a rich vein of form, and it continued into round four of Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia. Kiks took the opening stint, but started at the rear of the 24-car GT3 field. The team boss pushed hard all stint and was up to 21st position by the driver change, third in the Am Cup, when he handed the car to Bilski.
Bilski was out of pit lane and away like a rocket, carving through the field to 16th place overall, second in class, when the safety car was called out late in the race. This bunched up the field and gave Bilski a chance to seize the lead. It was a chance the Australian grabbed with both hands, diving up the inside of the Am Cup front runner in a white-knuckled final lap of the race to take the Am Cup win.
The Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia now heads to Japan for two double-headers, first at the Suzuka International Racing Course on June 22-23, before heading to the Fuji International Speedway on July 6-7.