Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Blancpain Endurance Series: Promising kick-off with Thong and Lee at Silverstone

Phoenix Racing Press Release

Phoenix Racing experienced a promising kick-off to the collaboration with Audi Sport customer racing Asia and the two Hong Kong Chinese Shaun Thong and Marchy Lee in round two of the Blancpain Endurance Series (BES) at Silverstone. The positive assessment following the race in England was not even affected by the ultimately disappointing 34th place for Thong, Lee and Markus Winkelhock which, instead of their possible top-ten result and following their good eleventh place on the grid in the impressive field of 62 GT3 sports cars, was caused by a spin.

From the first lap on the UK Grand Prix circuit the merely 18-year-old Shaun Thong, who also competes in the new Audi Sport TT Cup, and Marchy Lee, the winner of the 2012 Audi R8 LMS Cup, gelled well with the team and, together with their seasoned team-mate Markus Winkelhock, quickly worked out a good set-up for the Audi R8 LMS ultra. The #6 Phoenix Audi had established itself at the front of the field that boasted tremendous strength in terms of quantity and quality from the first qualifying session on. Ex GT World Champion Markus Winkelhock took third place in pre-qualifying. In the three-part qualifying session drizzle caused changeable conditions and thus made the task for the three Phoenix drivers even more difficult. Despite running on slicks, young Shaun Thong clinched a remarkable twelfth place. In the second session, Marchy Lee, like his young team-mate, showed a strong performance as well by setting the eighth-best time. In the final third qualifying segment Winkelhock positioned the #6 Audi in eleventh place. “Due to the drizzle and heavy traffic with so many cars on track I wasn’t able to convert our potential into a really optimal result in qualifying,” commented Markus Winkelhock.

The former Formula One driver managed a very good start to the three-hour race, was able to stay out of harm’s way in the close field by driving cautiously and immediately made up several places. “With respect to the car we were in a very good position and managed to keep the pace of the front runners,” said Winkelhock, who turned over driving duties to Shaun Thong at the first pit stop. The 18-year-old talent drove prudently and fast, but on the last lap before pitting spun and got stuck in the gravel trap in his Phoenix Audi. Recovering the car from the gravel cost about four minutes and, as a result, caused the #6 Audi to lose a lot of ground. Marchy Lee took over the R8 cockpit for the third stint and ultimately drove the GT3 sports car across the finish line in 34th place by setting consistently fast lap times.

“Shaun and Marchy both did a superb job,” Markus Winkelhock said in praise of the two drivers. “Without the spin, which can easily happen in such a commotion, a place in the top ten would have been possible and that would have been absolutely great in this strong and large field.” Phoenix GT Team Manager Bernhard Demmer felt the same way: “The foundation has been laid. The two superbly gelled with the team and drove a prudent and fast race despite the fact that the result wasn’t satisfactory.”

For Shaun Thong, Marchy Lee and Markus Winkelhock round three of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Paul Ricard, France, will be on the agenda on 19/20 June. “We already tested at Paul Ricard so we’re determined to make better use of our potential there,” says Winkelhock. Before the BES event Ernst Moser’s team based in Meuspath at the Nürburgring will be travelling to round two of the DTM at the Lausitzring on 31 May and to round three of the Blancpain Sprint Series at Zolder, Belgium, on 05 June.

Photo credit: Phoenix Racing