Monday, December 30, 2013

Audi R8 LMS Cup: Audi teams 2013 season review

By Johan Laubscher

The 2013 Audi R8 LMS Cup ventured out of China and into the rest of Asia for the first time this year. It was a very exciting season with a number of highlights.

A grid of twenty Audi R8 LMS cars toured through Asia for the six round calendar. A number of the Audi R8 LMS Cup cars and drivers also took part in other Asian events during 2013, including the MMER (Sepang 12 Hours) and the Macau GT Cup.

The season review has been compiled from the 2013 Audi Motorsport Blog Weekend Round Up posts. Each round has been added as was seen in the individual Weekend Round Up posts during 2013, which can be accessed via the links throughout the review below:

Round 1: Zhuhai

The second season of the Audi R8 LMS Cup held its first round of the year this weekend. The event took place at Zhuhai in China. Twenty Audi R8 LMS cars are taking part in the championship this year. Alex Yoong and Andre Couto were the race winners at this round.

Round 2: Ordos

The second meeting of the Audi R8 LMS Cup headed to Ordos in China. An all-Audi R8 LMS grid was ready for the event. Alex Yoong was able to pass Lee and held the lead to the finish. Yoong won the race ahead of Lee, Fong and Cheng. Yoong was later penalized for a false start, which gave the race win to Marchy Lee. The second race again saw Yoong crossing the finish line in first place, this time taking the win ahead of Bamber, Fong and Frey.

Round 3: Inje

The Audi R8 LMS Cup was in South Korea this weekend, debuting at the Inje Circuit. The series is an Audi one-make series, consisting of eighteen Audi R8 LMS race cars this weekend. The first race was won by Earl Bamber from New Zealand, and the second race saw the reigning champion, Marchy Lee, taking victory.

Round 4: Sepang

The Audi R8 LMS Cup was also at Sepang this weekend, running as a support event for the MMER. This completed a very busy week for Absolute Racing, who runs the entire Audi R8 LMS Cup grid, along with the addition of the four MMER entries. Alex Yoong took victory in race one, in front of his home crowd in Malaysia. He was joined on the podium by Marchy Lee and Cheng Cong Fu. Race two was again won by the local hero, Alex Yoong. He finished ahead of Cong Fu Cheng and Adderly Fong.


The Merdeka Millennium Endurance Race (Sepang 12 Hours) was held this weekend. Four Audis took part, all run by Absolute Racing. Three Audi R8 LMS Cup team cars took part, entered in the GTC class. One Audi was entered in the top GT3 class, the #777 J-Fly Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra driven by Jeffrey Lee, Marchy Lee, Adderly Fong. Onda’s #888 Audi R8 LMS ultra was also entered and on site, but it was withdrawn from the event during the week running up to the race. The #777 Audi was the best placed during qualifying, having taken tenth spot. Alex Yoong took pole in the GTC class, behind the wheel of the #66 R8 LMS. The race began at midnight on Sunday morning and continued through the dark and into the daylight. The #777 Audi R8 LMS ultra progressed steadily and made it into the top three. An unfortunate issue with the brakes cost them time and they ultimately finished seventh overall. There was an 1-2 Audi finish within the GTC class, as the #66 Audi R8 LMS finished first in class, eighth overall.

Round 5: Shanghai

The Audi R8 LMS Cup held its fifth and penultimate meeting at Shanghai this weekend. A total of twenty Audi R8 LMS cars took part, all prepared and fielded by Absolute Racing. Rahel Frey made her return to the series this weekend. Alex Yoong arrived at the event as the overall championship leader and he continued his good form. Yoong won both races at Sepang last time out and he qualified on pole for the first race at Shanghai. The grid for race one saw Yoong ahead of Rahel Frey and Marchy Lee. The first race concluded with Yoong getting his hat-trick, by winning ahead of Adderly Fong  and Franky Cheng Congfu. The second race again saw Alex Yoong starting from pole. Rahel Frey came home to win the second race in Shanghai, taking victory ahead of Alex Yoong and Marchy Lee. Yoong remains in the lead of the championship points.

Round 6: Macau

The Audi R8 LMS Cup headed to Macau for the season finale this weekend. One race was held as part of the first of two weekends making up the 2013 Macau Grand Prix. A total of twenty Audi R8 LMS cars took part this weekend. A number of additional drivers also took part, headlined by the return of “Mr Macau” Edoardo Mortara in the #5 BRT Audi R8 LMS. Mortara will be taking part in the Macau GT Cup next weekend, an event which he had won in 2011 and 2012. He was untouchable this weekend as he dominated practice, took pole position and race victory.

Behind him there was a championship battle at stake. Alex Yoong arrived at Macau as the championship points leader, leading ahead of Adderly Fong and Marchy Lee. Qualifying saw Mortara on pole ahead of Andre Couto and Adderly Fong. Alex Yoong suffered a very big crash during qualifying, he was luckily unharmed, but his R8 LMS was heavily damaged and he was out for the rest of the weekend. This resulted in the championship being blown wide open, as Fong was only 24 points behind Yoong in the standings. Fong only needed to finish first among the regular Audi R8 LMS Cup entrants and with his third on the grid he was already starting in the prime position, as both Mortara and Couto were guest drivers.

The race on Sunday got underway in wet conditions. Mortara led from the front and took a dominant victory ahead of Andre Couto and Adderly Fong. These results crowned Adderly Fong as the 2013 Audi R8 LMS Cup champion.

Macau GT Cup

The 2013 Macau GT Cup was held as part of the annual Macau Grand Prix this weekend. The Macau GT Cup was held alongside the GT Asia season finale, running together on track this weekend. A number of GT Asia entrants were in the field. Four of the six Audi entries were also entered for the GT Asia finale.

The big news this weekend was the return of the reigning two-time Macau GT Cup champion, Edoardo Mortara, in his his #1 Audi R8 LMS Cup backed Audi R8 LMS ultra. He was joined by his teammate, Marchy Lee, in the #38 Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS ultra, neither were entered as GT Asia competitors. Absolute Racing was also present with their regular three-car GT Asia team, along with another private Audi entry from IMS, all four entered in GT Asia. Absolute Racing, who competed with the team name of "Team R8 LMS Ultra," arrived as the leaders in the GT Asia teams' championship points standings and they were aiming to clinch the title this weekend.

Edoardo Mortara dominated practice on Friday by over two and a half seconds and he continued that form during the first qualifying session with a lap record setting provisional pole position, over half a second clear of the field.

The final qualifying grid was determined by the fastest times from the two qualifying sessions. The second session was dominated by Maro Engel in the Erebus Mercedes-Benz SLS GT3. Mortara was the highest Audi runner and qualified in second position on the grid. His teammate Marchy Lee qualified in eleventh, followed by Jeffrey Lee in seventeenth, Philip Ma in eighteenth, Francis Hideki Onda in twenty-sixth and Shim Ching in thirty-second.

The race itself got underway at 9:20 on Sunday morning and saw Maro Engel in the #36 Mercedes-Benz leading the way as Mortara dropped from second to fourth, being passed by Alexandre Imperatori in the #99 Porsche and Renger van der Zande in the #63 Mercedes-Benz. A massive crash collecting a number of competitors occurred on the first lap, thus prompting the first safety car. The race restarted a few laps later and the top four remained stagnant with another crash bringing out the safety car on the restart lap.

Marchy Lee had a good start to the race and had moved up to sixth by the second safety car. The pair of Absolute Racing Audis of Jeffrey Lee and Philip Ma had progressed well up to tenth and eleventh, well poised for the teams' championship title.

The race restarted for a second time and went green to the flag with racing. The top four remained stagnant until the fourth last lap when race leader, Maro Engel, slowed on track. This promoted Mortara up to third. He then managed a brilliant overtaking manoeuvre to take second away from van der Zande in the infield section of the track. Mr Macau then had two laps to try and pass Alexandre Imperatori in the Porsche for the lead.

Traffic came into play coming out of the hairpin on the penultimate lap and Mortara was able to grab the lead as chaos broke out behind him. Mortara continued to lead as Imperatori collected van der Zande going into Lisboa. Mr Macau continued to lead and brought his #1 Audi R8 LMS ultra home for his third consecutive Macau GT Cup victory, finishing ahead of Watts' McLaren and Imperatori's Porsche. Mortara also set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap, a 2:19.550, the only driver to drop into the 2 minute 19 second bracket during the race.

Mr Macau had it all do and he was able to recover from fourth to first for victory. Marchy Lee rounded out the top four in fourth, ensuring that two Audis finished within the top four. Jeffrey Lee and Philip Ma rounded out the top ten in ninth and tenth respectively. Francis Hideki Onda finished seventeenth and Shim Ching unfortunately retired.

It was another terrific Macau Grand Prix weekend for the Audi entrants. This win for Mortara also marked his sixth straight victory at Macau, as he had won the previous five races that he had been entered for: the 2009 and 2010 Macau Formula 3 races, the 2011 and 2012 Macau GT Cup and the 2013 Audi R8 LMS Cup round at Macau. Edoardo Mortara continues to deserve his title of “Mr Macau”.

Photo credit: Audi R8 LMS Cup