Spa, July 28, 2019 – The Asia-Pacific Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup team of Andrew Haryanto, Yasser Shahin, Jeffrey Lee and Sun Jingzu have completed one of the biggest challenges in global motorsport, the Total 24 Hours of Spa. The four-man squad had to dig deep and battle through gruelling conditions in the twice-round-the-clock race at the iconic Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
The all-amateur squad, each having earned a place on the team through their performances in last season’s Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup, took the flag provisionally 50th out of a field of 72, battling back from a number of incidents and set-backs through relentless rain. That saw the team classified 10th in the Am Cup, but with the majority of the other Am Cup entrants fielding one silver-graded driver, they were the second highest finishing all-bronze ranked team.
At the front of the largest ever GT3 field at the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the Audi Sport pro teams had led for large portions of the race, with the #1 Audi Sport Team WRT car and the Audi Sport Team Sainteloc machine having stints at the front of the field. In the end, after a tough final two hours of racing for the brand with four rings, Audi Sport had to settle for fourth with Christopher Haase, Frederic Vervisch and Markus Winkelhock of Audi Sport Team Saniteloc just missing out on a podium finish.
“Today we saw why the 24 Hours of Spa is known as one of the most challenging races in global motorsport. The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup team never gave up, their passion and force of will to keep pushing towards the flag was inspiring,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “We have to salute our drivers and Absolute Racing for their commitment in extremely tough conditions.”
The week leading up to the main event saw the highest ever temperatures recorded in Belgium, with drivers having to come through practice and qualifying as the mercury nudged 41 degrees centigrade.
Those tropical conditions were soon a distant memory however, when the GT3 field lined up on the 7km circuit in Belgium’s Ardennes region, with heavy rain bucketing down.
This saw the race start under the safety car for two laps, not before the crowd had been treated to one lap from the lead car, the new Audi R8 LMS GT2, which was also positioned in the paddock for the entirety of the event.
The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup team had qualified 10th in the Am Cup class, with reigning Cup champion Haryanto on driving duties from the start. The Indonesian got away well as soon as racing commenced, moving up three positions on the first lap, before disaster struck at one of the circuit’s most unforgiving corners.
Haryanto had carried a little too much pace into the high-speed Eau Rouge corner, losing the rear of the car and colliding with the barriers on the second lap of racing. The Indonesian managed to limp the car back to the pits and the mechanics and engineers worked frantically to get the car race-ready again. That they did, but after spending over 40 minutes in the pits, the team faced a gargantuan task ahead of them over the remaining 22 and a half hours.
Sun Jingzu emerged from the pits onto a drying track, the rain having stopped momentarily. His stint plus those of Lee and then Shahin steadied the ship as night closed in.
Unfortunately, as the most gruelling phase of the race began, conditions took a turn for the worse, with the rain returning and fog hampering visibility. Haryanto was consistently the fastest driver in the car, but he was once more involved in a collision bringing the #80 Audi R8 LMS back into the pits.
Once more the mechanics and engineers persevered, working quickly and tirelessly to go again.
Shahin took over driving duties from Haryanto but, with the rain relentless, the race was eventually red-flagged at 5:45am. Conditions finally cleared for the restart almost six hours later, and each driver fought doggedly to the end of the race to complete one of the biggest challenges in global motorsport.
Andrew Haryanto (Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup)
“It was just amazing teamwork. It was raining, very low visibility, and to finish is amazing. Kudos to the crew, they managed to fix the car in a very quick time. The challenge is what this is all about for us, trying to achieve something that seems impossible”
Yasser Shahin (Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup)
“The 24 Hours of Spa was gruelling, challenging, tense, it was tough. But we got through it. At various points all weekend I’m sure each of us could have easily just packed up and left, but we persisted, we kept going and to finish under these conditions is a great achievement.”
Ingo Matter (Director, Absolute Racing)
“We went through everything. It was incredible teamwork, there were accidents, but we managed to get through everything that could be thrown at us in this 24 hours.”