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Busy weekend for Shaun Thong in Shanghai

Rnd#7/8 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup                                      9-10 September, 2017

Shanghai International Circuit, China

 

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Heading into the penultimate event of the 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup at Shanghai International Circuit in China, Shaun Thong was staring down the barrel of an opportunity to move into a championship podium position, having come into the round within striking distance of second-placed Alex Yoong, his Phoenix Racing Asia team-mate.Ultimately the weekend - which saw the Audi TEDA Racing driver assisting Lim Keong Wee with his return to the Cup, subbing for team-boss Marchy Lee in the Audi Hong Kong entry - would deliver much behind the scenes work for the 21-year old, who managed to maintain his championship position after two strong Cup performances which delivered two finishes inside the top five.

Conditions had been changeable throughout the opening 13-lap race, whilst in the second race, contact with team-mate Alex Yoong had an affect on Thong’s overall performance, forcing him into points conservation mode ahead of the final event of the season in early-October.

“We didn’t quite have the performance in qualifying we were hoping for, so that put us a little bit further back than I would have liked to be,” Thong explained.

“I qualified quicker than points leader Alessio Picariello to start alongside him, and I was actually up to fourth pretty quickly before it got a little ugly mid-pack over the opening laps. I was still carrying success ballast from finishing on the podium in South Korea, and that was a little challenging as the conditions became slipperier mid race.

“Despite that I could still battle with my title rivals, but not make a passing move that would stick, so it was pretty processional in the end on my way to a fifth placed finish.”

Second qualifying would net Thong a second row starting position, three tenths slower than pole-sitting Belgian Dries Vanthoor and alongside Picariello. A strong start was thwarted by action ahead of him, but very quickly the #8 TEDA Racing Audi was locked in a battle for a podium finish before coming into contact with Yoong in a four-way fight for third.

“Things were going pretty well, but the car setup wasn’t where it needed to be, so I just couldn’t break away from Mitch (Gilbert) and Alex (Yoong), and that meant we couldn’t escape what was probably inevitable contact,” Thong admitted.

“Mitch had squeezed me onto the grass on the exit of turn 15, and that allowed him to pull alongside on the run down the main straight which opened the door for Alex, and when I turned into one, we made contact and after that the car wasn’t 100%.”

Despite the setback, Thong was able to regain the position just half a lap later, holding the three-time Cup champion all the way to the chequered flag to claim a fourth placed finish behind newly crowned champion Picariello, Franky Cheng and Dries Vanthoor.

“Congratulations to Alessio for winning the championship, he put together an almost perfect season and proved the value of qualifying at the front of the field because once away from the pack, you’re relatively safe,” Thong admitted.

“When you start mid pack, it’s more of a risk because the cars are so closely matched, and when you’re looking for mere inches under brakes and in cornering, you can tear up your tyres pretty quickly too, so that can have an affect on your ability to move forward.

“We’re still in the championship hunt for a podium position, so all is not lost, and I’m still fifth in points and just seven points behind Alex (Yoong) who is the outgoing champion, and 16 points from second.

“Zhejiang is a circuit very few people have seen before, much less competed on, so it will level the playing field out again, so I look forward to a return to the podium and to bringing home some more trophies.”

For Thong though his next commitment will be back alongside team-mate Marchy Lee in the Blancpain GT Series Asia as that championship turns to Shanghai on 22-24 September for the penultimate round of the year, ahead of the final event of the 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup at Zhejiang on 7-8 October.

Keep up to date with Shaun Thong Racing via;

Website; www.shaunthong.com

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/shaunthong/

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Shanghai International Circuit, China (9 September, 2017)

Qualifying #1 (15-minutes)

1. 2. Dries Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:05.412

2. 18. Martin Rump (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:05.737

3. 1. Alex Yoong (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:05.900

4. 31. Franky Cheng (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:05.949

5. 8. Shaun Thong (Audi TEDA Racing Team Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:06.093

 

Rnd#7 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup (13-laps)

1. 2. Dries Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS GT3) 

2. 1. Alex Yoong (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +2.868

3. 15. Alessio Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +6.103

4. 31. Franky Cheng (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +10.283

5. 8. Shaun Thong (Audi TEDA Racing Team Audi R8 LMS GT3) +11.904

 

Shanghai International Circuit, China (10 September, 2017)

Qualifying #2 (15-minutes)

1. 2. Dries Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:06.106

2. 31. Franky Cheng (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:06.139

3. 15. Alessio Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:06.203

4. 8. Shaun Thong (Audi TEDA Racing Team Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:06.448

5. 18. Martin Rump (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:06.657

 

Rnd#8 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup (13-laps)

1. 15. Alessio Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3) 

2. 31. Franky Cheng (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +1.930

3. 2. Dries Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +6.951

4. 86. Mitchell Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +9.651

5. 8. Shaun Thong (Audi TEDA Racing Team Audi R8 LMS GT3) +11.390

 

Championship Points (after eight rounds of 10)

1. Alessio Picariello (166), 2. Franky Cheng (107), 3. Mitch Gilbert (99), 4. Alex Yoong (98), 5. Shaun Thong (91), 6. Martin Rump (61), 7. Dries Vanthoor (42)

 

Shaun Thong back on the podium in Japan

Rnd#7/8 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia

Fuji International Speedway, Japan        21 August, 2017

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Hong Kong’s Shaun Thong again proved his mettle against some of the best GT3 drivers in the world to claim another strong podium in Blancpain GT Series Asia to firm up second place in the championship alongside team-mate and Phoenix Racing Asia team-boss Marchy Lee at Fuji in Japan.

Coming into the second Japanese event of the season, Thong and Lee were classified second in points thanks to their round five victory in Suzuka, and with past experience at the iconic Fuji Speedway circuit, they were looking for a solid result to press home their advantage, and from opening practice, the two Hong Kong stars were right in the mix.

Against the strongest field of the year - an impressive 34 cars - both Thong and Lee were quick in the three 45-minute practice sessions, inside the top ten in all legs, before they improved to be amongst the fastest in qualifying, Lee second by just a tenth of a second, whilst Thong went four tenths faster in his session to claim a third row start immediately behind team-mate Alex Yoong who was just a tenth of a second quicker.

Sadly - despite being one of the favourites for the opening 60-minute race on Saturday - things were over almost as quickly as they had begun, with Lee forced off the circuit on the exit of turn one, in a four-wide battle for the lead.

On the outside of pole-sitter Nick Foster, Lee was swamped by the Rino Mastronardi Ferrari on the outside, whilst inside the trio, local star Kei Cozzolino in the Lamborghini took a big dive up the inside to make it four wide as they turned into the corner. Contact was inevitable as the four cars washed wide on the exit, contact which saw damage to the #5 Audi Hong Kong entry forcing Lee down pit lane at the end of the lap.

The experienced Phoenix Racing Asia team worked feverishly to limit Lee’s lost time, changing a damaged tyre and sending the experienced GT3 campaigner back out onto the circuit having remained on the lead lap.

Lee charged across his remaining laps, pitting at the mid-point of the session from 14th position, Thong rejoining towards the tail of the field before mounting a charge through the pack back to 17th having clawed back 20 seconds on the race leader as one of the fastest cars on the circuit across the closing 30-minutes of the race.

For Sunday’s second race, Thong would start from the third row of the grid, and very quickly he showed the kind of pace that has made the #5 Audi Hong Kong entry one of the most feared in the championship, moving forward to tuck under the rear wing of former F1 driver Alex Yoong in the #6 Phoenix Racing Asia entry in a battle for third.

Ultimately Thong would pit from P4, handing Lee the car in a position to challenge the leaders, and that’s what the team leader did across the closing laps, although his chance to go for the win was thwarted by an attack from Ferrari’s Rino Mastronardi in the closing stages.

Having held the Ferrari out for much of his stint, Lee was forced to focus on protecting his position, which ultimately stopped him moving forward on the race leader - who was also the team’s championship rival - in the end though, a deep braking duel allowed the Ferrari through for second on the penultimate lap, Lee securing third for more valuable championship points.

“It was great to be back on the podium again, but we should have been able to achieve a much better result here at Fuji,” a reflective Shaun Thong admitted post-event.

“The team had improved the car through practice and we knew we had the pace to battle the points leader and be in a position for the win in race one, but all that ended in the first corner. There was nothing Marchy could do, he was the meat in the sandwich and came off second-best. The fact that we were both amongst the top three fastest cars across the remainder of the race - even against the likes of Max Buhk who is one of the stars in Europe - shows that we had the pace to win.

“Sadly the points leader achieved two podium finishes to our own podium in race two, but just as we did in 2016, we’ve shown we are capable of being the best all-Asian team again, and we go into the final two races of the season with a chance to win the championship.”

The penultimate event of the 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia will see Thong and Lee at Shanghai International Circuit on 23-24 September, a venue where two weeks before, Thong will compete against his team-mate in the fourth event of the Audi R8 LMS Cup in which the 21-year old is sitting fifth in points and looking for his first win of the season.

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Rnd#7/8 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia

Fuji International Speedway, Japan (19 August, 2017)

Qualifying #1 (15-minutes)

1. 88. Nick Foster (Porsche GT3-R) - 1:41.157

2. 5. Marchy Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:41.267

3. 777. Kei Cozzolino (Lamborghini Huracan GT3) - 1:41.310

4. 38. Rino Mastronardi (Ferrari 488 GT3) - 1:41.459

5. 3. Naoya Yamano (Porsche GT3-R) - 1:41.615

Qualifying #2 (15-minutes)

1. 39. Max Wiser (Ferrari 488 GT3) - 1:40.585

2. 999. Max Buhk (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 1:40.681

3. 6. Alex Yoong (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:40.745

4. 28. Kota Sasaki (Ferrari 488 GT3) - 1:40.834

5. 5. Shaun Thong (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:40.861

Rnd#7 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia (60-minutes)

1. 777. Cozzolino/Yokomizo (Lamborghini Huracan GT3) - 34-laps

2. 88. Foster/Modell (Porsche GT3-R) +1.402

3. 999. Abbott/Buhk (Mercedes AMG GT3) +2.319

4. 66. Stuvik/Kodric (Lamborghini Huracan GT3) +9.264

5. 888. Sugden/Szymkowiak (Mercedes AMG GT3) +17.386

17. 5. Lee/Thong (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) +1:19.5

Rnd#8 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia (60-minutes)

1. 999. Buhk/Abbott (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 34-laps

2. 38. Aguas/Mastronardi (Ferrari 488 GT3) +5.174

3. 5. Thong/Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) +6.787

4. 28. Sasaki/Nagai (Ferrari 488 GT3) +9.249

5. 39. Wiser/Xin (Ferrari 488 GT3) +18.544

2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia

Championship Points (after eight rounds of 12)*

1. Hunter Abbott (134), 2. Shaun Thong/Marchy Lee (101), 3. Mitchell Gilbert/Aditya Patel (77), 4. Maximilian Buhk (73), 5. Rui Aguas (59)

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Keep up to date with Shaun Thong Racing via;

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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shaunthong

Instagram: shaunthong

 

Thong returns to Audi R8 LMS Cup podium in Korea

Rnd#5/6 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup                              15-16 July, 2017

Korea International Circuit, South Korea

 

Audi Hong Kong’s Shaun Thong claimed back-to-back podium finishes in South Korea during the third stop of the Audi R8 LMS Cup season, closing the gap to his rivals in the battle for a championship podium, the 21-year old again one of the most prolific over-takers on a weekend where weather played an integral part.

For the Phoenix Racing Asia run team, the big focus was on improving the team’s performance on the new for 2017 Pirelli control tyre, something Thong and team-mates Alex Yoong and Marchy Lee had admitted was an Achilles’ heel for the three drivers across the early rounds of the season, but all that seemed to be resolved in South Korea with Yoong and Thong amongst the fastest in official practice.

They looked set to convert that strong practice pace in qualifying to start towards the front of the field, but drizzling rain ahead of the session caused havoc in pit lane. All teams started the 15-minute session on slick tyres, and some made a vital call just minutes in to come into pit lane and change to wet weather tyres as the clock ticked down to zero.

Any team that hesitated ultimately struggled to put a lap time together, whilst those who stopped were able to clock one or two vital laps before the end of the session, and it was those teams that would start at the front of the field. Sadly for Thong, he didn’t make pit lane quickly enough, the team taking a bet each way with Yoong in to make a change whilst Thong’s team felt the track may dry and that he’d be in the box seat for a front row start.

Off the sixth row of the grid, Thong had a mountain of work ahead of him for the opening race, whilst team-mate Yoong would start the fifth round from third, a position which very quickly became first in the early laps.

Conditions were challenging for all the drivers across the damp opening laps, with all cars starting on slick tyres, Thong amongst the most impressive, charging to fourth on the opening lap, then third very soon after, overtaking championship points leader Alessio Picariello in the process.

 

Reigning champion Alex Yoong in the end completed the round with his second win of the year, whilst Thong impressively held out Picariello over the closing laps to take his second podium finish of the year.

“Qualifying was a bit dramatic,” Thong admitted afterwards. “The rain hit and it was really frustrating. At the start of the race, I had nothing to lose so I decided to make it a really good one but stay out of trouble. I worked really hard before the start to warm the tyres up and it paid off. I was reeling in Mitch [Gilbert] in the last three or four laps. It was one of my toughest but best races - I can’t ask for more than a podium after starting almost last on the grid.”

In a new development for the Cup, teams were able to complete a second full qualifying session on Sunday morning to set the grid for the standing start second race of the weekend.

Again Thong was amongst the fastest drivers on track, at one stage sitting on the front row, but in the dying seconds of the 15-minute session, Mitch Gilbert and Franky Cheng were able to leap-frog the #8 Audi TEDA Racing Team entry, forcing Thong back down to fourth.

Off the standing start Thong attacked strongly to be in the mix going into the first two left handers, quickly working his way past pole-sitter Gilbert to be third, a position he would hold to the flag despite carrying the extra 20-kilograms of success ballast he received as a result of his round five podium.

Ultimately the round would be won by points leader Alessio Picariello - who extended his advantage over the field - but for Thong, the result moved the Hong Kong-based driver right into contention for second in points and he now sits just eight points behind Gilbert who is second, and just a single point behind two-time 2017 winner, Alex Yoong in fourth.

“I’m really pleased. I haven’t had such a smooth weekend before in the Cup,” Thong reflected. “My start was great. It was only my second time with success ballast. I was surprised how well the car handled, even with the extra weight. It was a good weekend, but it’s a bit frustrating still to be fifth in the points.

“I think the championship is down to Alessio to lose now, for the rest of us the fight is very much over second, and there are just 18 points between second and sixth, but for me, I’d like to end the season with a win. I think this weekend in South Korea we learnt a lot as a team, and I’m really looking forward to being a lot stronger in China to close out the year.”

For Thong, his next commitment will be back alongside team-mate Marchy Lee in the Blancpain GT Series Asia as that championship begins the second half of the season at Fuji in Japan on 19-20 August, whilst the penultimate round of the Audi R8 LMS Cup will come at Shanghai just three weeks later.

Keep up to date with Shaun Thong Racing via;

Website; www.shaunthong.com

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/shaunthong/

Instagram; shaunthong

 

Korea International Circuit, South Korea (15 July, 2017)

Qualifying #1 (15-minutes)

1. 18. Martin Rump (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:29.030

2. 99. David Chen (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:29.157

3. 1. Alex Yoong (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:29.969

4. 37. Anthony Liu (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:30.105

5. 86. Mitchell Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:30.266

11. 8. Shaun Thong (Audi TEDA Racing Team Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:39.763

 

Rnd#5 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup (13-laps)

1. 1. Alex Yoong (Audi R8 LMS GT3)

2. 86. Mitchell Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +5.129

3. 8. Shaun Thong (Audi TEDA Racing Team Audi R8 LMS GT3) +5.532

4. 15. Alessio Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +7.770

5. 18. Martin Rump (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +16.532

 

Korea International Circuit, South Korea (16 July, 2017)

Qualifying #2 (15-minutes)

1. 86. Mitchell Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:09.345

2. 31. Franky Cheng (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:09.385

3. 15. Alessio Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:09.426

4. 8. Shaun Thong (Audi TEDA Racing Team Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:09.530

5. 18. Martin Rump (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:09.770

 

Rnd#6 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup (13-laps)

1. 15. Alessio Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3) 

2. 31. Franky Cheng (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +9.964

3. 8. Shaun Thong (Audi TEDA Racing Team Audi R8 LMS GT3) +13.446

4. 86. Mitchell Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +14.301

5. 1. Alex Yoong (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +17.138

 

Championship Points (after six rounds of 10)

1. Alessio Picariello (126), 2. Mitch Gilbert (79), 3. Franky Cheng (77), 4. Alex Yoong (72), 5. Shaun Thong (71), 6. Martin Rump (61), 7. Marchy Lee (38)

Shaun Thong endures the highs and lows of motorsport in Japan

Suzuka International Circuit, Japan                               24 - 25 June, 2017

Rnd #5/6 Blancpain GT Asia 2017

Motorsport can be such a cruel endeavor, often forcing drivers to experience the full spectrum of emotions in one weekend.. So the story of Shaun Thong’s return to Japan’s iconic Suzuka circuit for the third stop of the 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia program would go after starting his Japanese journey with a commanding victory on Saturday to share the championship points lead with team-mate Marchy Lee.

Ultimately it would be mother nature who would stall the forward progress of the Audi Hong Kong team, in a race impacted by safety car interventions and off track excursions, one of which forced a tyre failure on the #5 car whilst Thong was comfortably inside the top ten, dropping the 21-year old down more than a lap on the race leaders prior to his compulsory mid-race pit stop.

From there team-mate Marchy Lee charged across the closing laps, the Hong Kong veteran often the fastest car on the circuit in the challenging and slippery conditions to recover the lost lap, and with it, regain 12 positions after Thong’s off-track incident.

“Once the rain started to fall on the grid, we knew we’d be in for a tough time.” Thong admitted post-race. “I was able to hang on to our starting position in seventh place off the start, before the first safety car intervention.

“After that I got caught up in someone else’s accident which dropped me back a bit, but pretty quickly I was up to fifth before the full course yellow flag for another crash. From there we circulated at around 80kph until they finally waved the green flags halfway around the lap, but some drivers missed it and I caught one of the Porsches still traveling slowly around a blind corner and had to take evasive action.

“I managed to only lose one spot after going off the circuit, but was then swamped by two Lamborghini’s coming into the chicane. They closed in deep under brakes, and couldn’t pull up, so we all had a bit of contact which carried on all the way down the main straight to turn one where I got a light tag in the braking zone which spun me off the track.

“It was so slippery trying to rejoin on the slick tyres on wet grass, that I lost time, but very quickly I realized the right front tyre had also failed, so I had to limp back to the pits, losing nearly two laps in the process. Fortunately by then the pit window was open and Marchy could work his magic to regain positions, but sadly we fell a couple of spots short of scoring points, so that’s dropped us back to second in the championship now, but still within reach of the leaders.”

For Thong his busy 2017 schedule continues, the 21-year old provided a last-minute call up to join his 17 year old brother Jasper in a two-car Phoenix Racing Asia TCR assault on the Bangsaen Grand Prix in just under a week, the pair looking to consolidate the team’s championship position on the beachside street circuit.

Meanwhile, rounds seven and eight of the 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia will see a return to Japan, with a visit to one of Japan’s other historically significant circuits, Fuji International Speedway on 19-20 August.

Suzuka International Circuit, Japan (24 June, 2017)

Qualifying #1 (15-minutes)

1. 99. Darryl O’Young (Porsche GT3-R) - 2:02.982

2. 86. Aditya Patel (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:03.084

3. 5. Marchy Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:03.534

4. 66. Sandy Stuvik (Lamborghini Huracan GT3) - 2:03.598

5. 999. Hunter Abbott (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 2:04.002

 

Qualifying #2 (15-minutes)

1. 7. Alessio Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:01.851

2. 86. Mitch Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:02.230

3. 13. Franky Cheng (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:02.264

4. 18. Martin Rump (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:02.395

5. 999. Max Goetz (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 2:02.482

7. 5. Shaun Thong (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:02.573

 

Suzuka International Circuit, Japan (24 June, 2017)

Rnd#5 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia (60-minutes)

1. 5. Lee/Thong (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 28-laps

2. 88. Modell/Foster (Porsche GT3-R) +16.553

3. 86. Patel/Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +24.202

4. 99. O’Young/Li (Porsche GT3-R) +26.412

5. 38. Guedes/Aguas (Ferrari 488 GT3) +27.505

 

Suzuka International Circuit, Japan (25 June, 2017)

Rnd#6 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia (60-minutes)

1. 999. Goetz/Abbott (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 23-laps

2. 66. Stuvik/Costa (Lamborghini Huracan GT3) +6.959

3. 7. Picariello/Lee (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +11.545

4. 99. Li/O’Young (Porsche GT3-R) +12.731

5. 1. Di Folco/Read (Lamborghini Huracan GT3) +13.452

14. 5. Thong/Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) +1:55.071

 

2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia

Championship Points (after six rounds of 12)*

1. Hunter Abbott (94), 2. Shaun Thong/Marchy Lee (86), 3. Mitchell Gilbert/Aditya Patel (73)

Fastest race lap at Suzuka for Thong, but no silverware from Japan

Suzuka International Circuit, Japan                            10-11 June, 2017

Rnd #3/4 Audi R8 LMS Cup 2017

Like many of his rivals, Audi Hong Kong’s Shaun Thong came into the second event of the 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup season at Suzuka International Circuit - the home of the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix - with an appreciation for the history that surrounds the iconic venue, and just like his rivals, he too was faced to contend with what became a very challenging weekend.

Considered to be one of the few surviving ‘old school’ Formula One venues, Suzuka - which first opened in 1962 - provides a challenging mix of corners, with a narrow twisting figure-eight layout that offers little rest for the drivers, but despite the nature of the circuit, Shaun Thong left the event with a race lap record to his name, and two top six finishes to keep him well in the title hunt after four of ten rounds.

Things started strongly for the 21-year old from Hong Kong, Thong second fastest in the two official 60-minute practice sessions, even topping Phoenix Racing Asia team-mate Alex Yoong - a veteran of two Formula One starts at Suzuka - and points leader Alessio Picariello to be considered one of the favourites ahead of qualifying.

“It’s funny, but the nature of these older circuits which are so narrow and unforgiving, is something I love, and I’m always comfortable pushing to the limit - it was the same at the Nurburgring,” Thong explained.

“We’re still not 100% comfortable with our Pirelli tyre setup, so we have some work to do, but I’m really loving being here at Suzuka, a circuit I’ve spent so much of my life following on TV.”

Sadly both Thong and Phoenix Racing Asia team-mate Marchy Lee were unable to extract the maximum from their tyres in the qualifying sessions, pushing them both back towards the tail of the top ten, but mere tenths off a front row start - it was that close.

“Our rivals have been able to find the sweet spot with the tyres in qualifying quicker than we have, we’ll find it, but it cost us a few positions on the grid,” Thong explained. “As a team, we’re better racers than qualifiers, so we’ll do what we can across the two races to move ourselves forwards.”

Just a few hours after qualifying, Thong lined up for the first race at Suzuka, absorbing some of the atmosphere as he prepared for the coming 12-lap race.

A strong start saw the 21-year old battling behind international guest driver Stephane Richelmi and alongside China’s Franky Cheng and team-mate Alex Yoong into turn one. He held his ground and ultimately worked his way past Cheng and Yoong to be fourth at the flag in a race where very few overtaking moves were made, the bulk of the position changes as a result of retirements during the race.

“It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, but I could do nothing more than push, there just wasn’t a way past Richelimi that would have been a safe move - as it was, he couldn’t get past Mitch Gilbert so we pretty much had to just hold station until the chequered flag,” Thong explained.

Starting from the fourth row for the standing start in race two, Thong made a great getaway, holding position into turn one, but by turn three, he - like those around him - were faced with a rapidly slowing Alex Yoong in the middle of the esses, the reigning champion suffering a broken right rear wheel as the result of contact on the race into turn one. The melee that ensued saw cars off in different directions, and drama for Richelmi soon after as he suffered his own failure, forcing Thong to take avoiding action which dropped him to the tail of the top ten.

The Audi TEDA Racing driver though calmly refocused and set about regaining his lost positions, locking in on the tail of Phoenix Racing Asia team-boss Marchy Lee who was amongst the fastest drivers in the field, the two breaching an almost five second gap to the battle for the lead across the final laps, to finish right on the tail of fourth-placed Martin Rump, Thong in the process setting a new Audi R8 LMS Cup lap record for Suzuka.

“After the drama early in the race, I was well down on the leaders, they were gone, but once through to be sixth behind Marchy, we could just focus on catching the leaders. If we’d had another lap or two, who knows what might have happened, but still I can be happy to come away from a circuit with such great history as Suzuka, and be the race lap record holder for the Cup, that will be a nice addition to the resume.”

For Thong, his next commitment will be back at Suzuka where he will join forces once more with Marchy Lee for the third event of Blancpain GT Series Asia on 24-25 June, where they will be looking to continue the form that has them sitting second in the overall standings after four of 12 races.

“This weekend has been incredibly valuable for our Blancpain GT Series program, it will put us ahead of many of our rivals as we get to the mid-point of the season. Importantly for us, the Pirelli tyre we use in Blancpain is different and we have been very successful tuning the car around it, so I’m really looking forward to coming back here, it should be a fantastic weekend!”

Keep up to date with Shaun Thong Racing via;

Website; www.shaunthong.com

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/shaunthong/

Instagram; shaunthong

 

Suzuka International Circuit, Japan (10 June, 2017)

Qualifying #1 (15-minutes)

1. 15. Alessio Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:02.712

2. 86. Mitchell Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:02.738

3. 11. Stephane Richelmi (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:03.060

4. 1. Alex Yoong (Team Audi R8 LMS Cup Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:03.133

5. 8. Shaun Thong (Audi TEDA Racing Team Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:03.321

 

Qualifying #2 (15-minutes)

1. 31. Franky Cheng (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:02.679

2. 86. Mitchell Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:02.694

3. 15. Alessio Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:02.806

4. 18. Martin Rump (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:02.918

5. 1. Alex Yoong (Team Audi R8 LMS Cup Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:03.009

8. 8. Shaun Thong (Audi TEDA Racing Team Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:03.343

 

Suzuka International Circuit, Japan (10 June, 2017)

Rnd#3 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup (12-laps)

1. 15. Alessio Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3)

2. 86. Mitchell Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +7.050

3. 11. Stephane Richelmi (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +7.555

4. 8. Shaun Thong (Audi TEDA Racing Team Audi R8 LMS GT3) +8.291

5. 88. Marchy Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) +11.746

 

Suzuka International Circuit, Japan (11 June, 2017)

Rnd#4 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup (12-laps)

1. 31. Franky Cheng (Audi R8 LMS GT3) 

2. 15. Alessio Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +1.762

3. 86. Mitchell Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +5.257

4. 18. Martin Rump (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +5.582

5. 88. Marchy Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) +7.487

6. 8. Shaun Thong (Audi TEDA Racing Team Audi R8 LMS GT3) +8.955

 

Championship Points (after four rounds of 10)

1. Alessio Picariello (89), 2. Franky Cheng (58), 3. Mitch Gilbert (48), 4. Martin Rump (42), 5. Shaun Thong (41), 6. Marchy Lee (38)

Shaun Thong impresses as leading Audi driver in Thailand

Chang International Circuit, Thailand                19-21 May, 2017

Rnd#3/4 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia

The Audi Hong Kong team of Shaun Thong and Marchy Lee were full of confidence coming into the second event of 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia, the Audi pair had claimed their maiden GT Asia Series race win in 2016 at Buriram’s Chang International Circuit, and they were third in the standings coming into the Thai event after a strong start to the season in Malaysia.

Practice saw mixed results, but ahead of qualifying the Phoenix Racing Asia team had them within reach of the leaders, although qualifying saw them both just ninth fastest in their respective groups. That didn’t deter them though with the brilliant silver and gold #5 Audi charging to second in both 60-minute races to elevate them to second in the championship race a third of the way into the season, just two points off the title lead!

Marchy Lee started the opening race, avoiding some early carnage at the front of the field to move forward with some dramatic overtaking moves to hand Thong the car during the compulsory mid-race pit stop in third position. Thong rejoined in fifth and quickly worked his way back into the top three, the 21-year old amongst the fastest drivers on the circuit to cross the line within sight of the leaders.

Ultimately he and Lee crossed the line in third place, but post-race investigations saw the second placed machine handed a 30-second penalty, giving the Audi Hong Kong team second overall and a share of the championship points lead.

“Marchy did a great job off the start making some incredible overtaking moves, before working his way up to third,” Thong said. “Then it was up to me to make the most of that opportunity despite the late surge from my Audi Cup rivals Alex [Yoong] and Alessio [Picariello].”

Whilst Lee’s moves early were impressive, Thong’s pace was outstanding, the 21-year old amongst the fastest drivers on track, and consistently amongst the fastest Audi drivers as he weathered the ongoing storm from Phoenix Racing Asia team-mate - three-time Audi R8 LMS Cup champion Alex Yoong.

Thong’s pace was again impressive during the second event of the weekend, working his way up to the top four ahead of the compulsory pit stop, his lap times even more impressive when you consider he was running on the same tyres on which he finished the opening race, his best lap - 1:35.348, mere hundredths slower than team-mate Marchy Lee’s best of 1:35.256 on new tyres..

Ultimately Lee was able to chase down Audi Cup rival Jeffrey Lee and Ferrari’s Jiang Xin late in the race to cross the line in second position despite the late race attention of Jeffrey Lee’s team-mate, 2017 Audi Cup points leader Alessio Picariello.

The Thailand result now classifies the #5 Audi Hong Kong team second in points, just two points down on Englishman Hunter Abbot after four of 12 events with Suzuka in Japan the next event on the calendar in five week’s time.

“It’s a great result, but importantly we grabbed valuable championship points and at the same time, we were the leading Audi in both races here in Thailand,” Thong said. 

“I am delighted to wrap up the weekend with two second placed finishes, but for me I feel I performed very well and drove two very good stints against some tough opposition - Alex Yoong in race one, and Alessio Picariello in race two - in both cases neither of them were able to make it past.

“It was also nice to be amongst the fastest drivers on the circuit in race two despite being on old tyres, when many around me were on new rubber.

“I have to say a big thanks to Audi Hong Kong and the Phoenix Racing Asia team who gave me a competitive and trouble free car in which we are able to challenge again for the title this year. We have a long way to go, but it has been a great start to the season!”

The third event of Blancpain GT Series Asia will be at the iconic Japanese Suzuka circuit on 24-25 June, with Thong and Lee’s next commitment also coming at Suzuka, on 10-11 June for the second event of the 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup.

Keep up to date with Shaun Thong Racing via;

Website; www.shaunthong.com

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/shaunthong/

Instagram; shaunthong

 

Chang International Circuit, Buriram, Thailand (20 May, 2017)

Qualifying #1 (15-minutes)

1. 37. Anthony Liu (Ferrari 488 GT3) - 1:34.020

2. 38. Rino Mastronardi (Ferrari 488 GT3) - 1:34.331

3. 86. Mitchell Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:34.471

4. 999. Hunter Abbott (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 1:34.540

5. 39. Jiang Xin (Ferrari 488 GT3) - 1:34.744

9. 5. Marchy Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:35.451

10. 6. Alex Au (Team Audi R8 LMS Cup Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:35.486

 

Qualifying #2 (15-minutes)

1. 7. Alessio Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:33.576

2. 999. Max Buhk (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 1:33.648

3. 6. Alex Yoong (Team Audi R8 LMS Cup Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:33.682

4. 38. Rui Aguas (Ferrari 488 GT3) - 1:33.728

5. 37. Davide Rizzo (Ferrari 488 GT3) - 1:33.911

9. 5. Shaun Thong (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:34.232

 

Chang International Circuit, Buriram, Thailand (20 May, 2017)

Rnd#3 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia (60-minutes)

1. 38. Mastronardi/Aguas (Ferrari 488 GT3) - 34-laps

2. 5. Lee/Thong (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) +14.814

3. 6. Au/Yoong (Team Audi R8 LMS Cup Audi R8 LMS GT3) +15.870

4. 7. Lee/Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +16.822

5. 18. Yoon/Rump (Audi R8 LMS GT3)

 

Chang International Circuit, Buriram, Thailand (21 May, 2017)

Rnd#4 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia (60-minutes)

1. 999. Buhk/Abbott (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 35-laps

2. 5. Thong/Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) +11.135

3. 86. Patel/Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +11.750

4. 39. Wiser/Xin (Ferrari 488 GT3) +12.828

5. 7. Picariello/Lee (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +15.875

Championship Points (After 4 races)

1. Hunter Abbott (63), 2. Shaun Thong/Marchy Lee (61), 3. Mitchell Gilbert/Aditya Patel (58)

Shaun Thong narrowly misses victory on TCR Asia Series debut

Zhuhai International Circuit, China                           12-14 May, 2017

Round #5/6 2017 TCR Asia Series

Just days out from the third event on the 2017 TCR Asia Series calendar, Shaun Thong was invited to join the Audi Hong Kong team behind the wheel of the #3 Audi RS3 LMS TCR to support the title aspirations of younger brother Jasper.

Having never competed in the 2-litre turbo, front-wheel-drive TCR touring car previously, Thong was on a steep learning curve, but despite that, and the constantly changing conditions, the 21-year old claimed his third podium for the season in his third championship start to lay solid foundations for a strong season ahead.

“I came into this weekend with high hopes and I think we showed plenty of promise during two days of open practice in the dry which allowed me to run consistently at the top of the timesheets,” Thong explained. “Once the rain started though as qualifying arrived, we weren’t quite as competitive due to the characteristics of the gearbox mapping.

“In the opening dry race - my first standing start in the RS3 - I didn’t get away as cleanly as I would have liked and dropped back a little before mounting a recovery to latch onto the tail of the top two, which became the leader after Jasper was unfortunately given a drive-through penalty.

“I waited then to attack for the lead and allowed my brakes to cool and I got the timing almost perfect to take the lead into turn nine, but I was on the outside which lined me up for the next corner for which I was on the inside. Sadly I never got that far as the other driver took us both out into the gravel and I was unable to complete the race.

“It was devastating result for me as I was so close to a debut win! I later reviewed the manoeuvre and still believe that it was possible to take the lead around the outside, although the other driver was not given a penalty as a result.”

Mother nature was the big winner in race two, with light rain falling as the cars went out onto the circuit, yet despite a 5-minute extension to the start of the race to let the weather settle in, all but one team remained on slick tyres, but as the field rolled around to prepare for the start, the heavens opened again, and Thong quickly dived into pit lane to change, whilst others started on their slick Michelins.

Ultimately the wet tyres were the only choice and eventually every remaining car on track pulled in to pit lane, but by that stage the one team who had made the change was more than half a lap ahead.

Shaun Thong was consistently the fastest driver on the circuit, hauling in the leaders to cross the line third just 13-seconds down but only seven seconds from second, but there just weren’t enough laps left to make it to the top step of the podium.

“I did the best I could for race two, but ultimately the team that won, won before the start with that decision to change to wet weather tyres - from there we were all only running for third place. For me it was a great experience to put into my pocket - driving a car so different to the Audi R8 LMS GT3 - despite the disappointment in the first race I think I provided some good overtaking action and some drama to entertain the spectators, and I hope to be returning to TCR Asia Series soon.”

For Thong, his focus now returns to GT3 competition, with the second event of the 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia at Chang International Circuit in Thailand this weekend, the scene of his Audi Hong Kong victory in the 2016 GT Asia Series alongside Marchy Lee, the two starting amongst the favourites for victory.

“It feels fantastic to be back racing in Buriram again with Blancpain GT Series Asia - I have good experiences and memories from this circuit as I won round three of GT Asia there in 2016, and also claimed a podium finish in the Asian Le Mans LMP3 category.

“I am well prepared for what our competition will throw at us, but I think everyone will be more prepared than ever as well. I started the season with a positive result with that podium finish in Malaysia, and I am really looking forward to converting that performance into my first win of 2017 this weekend!”

Keep up to date with Shaun Thong Racing via;

Website; www.shaunthong.com

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/shaunthong/

Instagram; shaunthong

Round#5/6 - 2017 TCR Asia Series

Zhuhai International Circuit, China

Qualifying - 13 May, 2017

1. 2. Kantadhee Kusiri - Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR - 1:50.249

2. 23. Abdul Kaathir* - Honda Civic TCR - 1:51.120

3. 39. WS Lai - Honda Civic TCR - 1:51.623

4. 32. Diego Moran - Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR - 1:51.948

5. 3. Shaun Thong - Audi Hong Kong Audi RS3 LMS TCR - 1:55.546

6. 5. Jasper Thong* - Audi Hong Kong Audi RS3 LMS TCR - 1:56.561

 

Round#5 - 2017 TCR Asia Series

Zhuhai International Circuit, China

14 May, 2017

1. 23. Abdul Kaathir* - Honda Civic TCR - 14-laps

2. 39. WS Lai - Honda Civic TCR +7.079

3. 32. Diego Moran - Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR +8.585

4. 5. Jasper Thong* - Audi Hong Kong Audi RS3 LMS TCR +23.735

5. 98. Eric K*. - Seat Léon TCR +33.479

DNF. 3. Shaun Thong - Audi Hong Kong Audi RS3 LMS TCR - 13-laps

 

Round#6 - 2017 TCR Asia Series

Zhuhai International Circuit, China

1. 98. Eric K*. - Seat Léon TCR - 14-laps

2. 99. Alex Liu* - Seat Léon TCR +6.083

3. 3. Shaun Thong - Audi Hong Kong Audi RS3 LMS TCR +13.122

4. 39. WS Lai - Honda Civic TCR +20.539

5. 65. Douglas Khoo* - Seat Léon TCR +22.249

DNF. 5. Jasper Thong* - Audi Hong Kong Audi RS3 LMS TCR - 8-laps

* TCR CUP

Shaun Thong starts Audi R8 LMS Cup season with Sepang podium

Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia                               6-7 May, 2017

Round #1/2 Audi R8 LMS Cup 2017

Audi Hong Kong’s Shaun Thong made his full-time debut in the Audi R8 LMS Cup at Malaysia’s Sepang circuit and immediately made his presence felt, the new pilot of the Audi TEDA Racing Team R8 making the podium in the maiden race of the season, before backing up to leave the first event of the year in fifth place in the outright standings.

Taking the wheel of the #8 Audi with the livery that was behind Alex Yoong’s three championship titles added a little bit more attention to the 21-year old’s first full season in ‘the Cup’ but reigning GT Asia Series Pro-Am Cup champion Thong took it all in his stride, and was looking forward to what would be his fifth event in the championship.

“I’m honoured to be able to campaign a car with the livery that wore the coveted #1 over recent seasons, but also to represent Audi Hong Kong as we enter the sixth season of the Audi R8 LMS Cup,” Thong admitted.

Quick through unofficial practice, Thong was able to carry that pace into the official sessions but admitted he was a little off in opening qualifying, despite being just half a second from pole position, and only five one thousandths of a second off a second row start.

He held his ground off the rolling start for the opening round of the season, and spent the opening stanza of the race monstering Phoenix Racing Asia team-mate and three-time champion Alex Yoong, even audaciously flashing his lights at the former F1 driver to let him know he was there.

Ultimately the move paid off, Yoong running wide and off the circuit, before rejoining with an airborne leap back onto the circuit which forced the local star into a spin, allowing Thong through the fourth. Very quickly that turned into third as his Blancpain GT Series Asia rival Mitch Gilbert slowed dramatically with a driveshaft issue, the Hong Kong driver moving into third place to open his 2017 ledger with a third placed finish.

Sunday’s second race too saw plenty of pace from the young Audi Hong Kong driver where he finished behind team-mate and mentor Marchy Lee, but like Lee, was unable to achieve the best from his new Pirelli tyres, one of the big changes for the 2017 Cup season.

Despite the challenge, Thong was typically upbeat about the result and his points haul which sees him fifth in the outright standings, and just ten points behind reigning champion Yoong who holds down second place overall.

“It has been a positive start to the Audi R8 LMS Cup season with a podium finish.” Thong admitted. “It is my first full season in the Cup although I have been a guest driver a number of times in past seasons. 

“In race two I felt I could have done better with my push-to-pass* strategy but at the same time I feel that I am yet to fully understand the Pirelli tyres. I felt like they continued to change lap to lap, which hurt my race pace and stopped me from moving further up the order.

“In general the weekend has been very productive, standing fifth in the championship with a long way still to go is a pretty good start. I think the key to winning this championship is to finish every race and collect good points and to minimise any errors.”

For now Thong’s focus returns to the Blancpain GT Series Asia, with the second event of the new championship at the Chang International Circuit at Buririam in Thailand [20-21 May], a venue where he - and team-mate Marchy Lee - claimed their first win of the season in GT Asia last year, on their way to second outright in the championship, however in the interim, Thong has another guest appearance to make.

“I received a last-minute call up to be on the grid for the third event of the 2017 TCR Asia Series for this coming weekend in the Phoenix Racing Asia squad alongside my brother Jasper and Hong Kong entertainer Alex Fong at Zhuhai in China, an opportunity I am really looking forward to.”

Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia (6 May, 2017)

Qualifying #1 (15-minutes)

1. 15. Alessio Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:01.3422. 86. Mitchell Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:01.598

3. 1. Alex Yoong (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:01.620

4. 18. Martin Rump (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:01.841

5. 8. Shaun Thong (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:01.847

8. 88. Marchy Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:02.207

 

Qualifying #2 (15-minutes)

1. 15. Alessio Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:00.9162. 1. Alex Yoong (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:01.056

3. 86. Mitchell Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:01.287

4. 18. Martin Rump (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:01.475

6. 8. Shaun Thong (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:01.785

7. 88. Marchy Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:01.900

 

Rnd#1 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup (13-laps)

1. 15. Alessio Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3) 2. 18. Martin Rump (Audi R8 LMS GT3) 

3. 8. Shaun Thong (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3)

4. 31. Franky Cheng (Audi R8 LMS GT3) 

5. 88. Marchy Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3)

 

Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia (6 May, 2017)

Rnd#2 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup (13-laps)

1. 1. Alex Yoong (Audi R8 LMS GT3)

2. 15. Alessio Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3) 3. 86. Mitchell Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3)

4. 31. Franky Cheng (Audi R8 LMS GT3) 

5. 18. Martin Rump (Audi R8 LMS GT3) 

6. 88. Marchy Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3)

7. 8. Shaun Thong (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3)

 

Championship Points (after two rounds of 10)1. Alessio Picariello (45-points), 2. Alex Yoong (31), 3. Martin Rump (28), 4. Franky Cheng (24), 5. Shaun Thong (21), 6. Marchy Lee (18), 7. Mitch Gilbert (15), 8. Akash Nandy (12), 9. KO You (5), 10. Jeffrey Lee (2)

Keep up to date with Shaun Thong Racing via:

Website: www.shaunthong.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shaunthong/

Instagram: shaunthong

Shaun Thong claims Blancpain GT Series Asia podium in Sepang

Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia                          8- 9 April, 2017

Round #1/2 Blancpain GT Asia 2017

Early April in Malaysia marked Shaun Thong’s return to competition at the wheel of an Audi R8 LMS GT3, the 21-year old GT Asia Series Pro-Am Cup champion rejoining Phoenix Racing Asia and Audi Hong Kong alongside experienced veteran Marchy Lee for the maiden season of the new Blancpain GT Series Asia.

Fast in practice, the two Audi drivers were consistently amongst the top teams fighting for a podium result in Malaysia, and despite some tough challenges across the weekend, Thong delivered, taking he and Lee to two top five finishes including third in race two - in the process grabbing a share of third place in the championship points after two of 12 races.

For season 2017, whilst the championship is different, so too is Shaun Thong’s direction, the Hong Kong resident turning full-time to motorsport as an official driver for Audi Hong Kong, his sole focus for the season - winning races - and Malaysia was the first step towards that goal.

“I’ve been dreaming about the day I could become a full-time professional racing driver, and now that it’s happened, I’m so glad it is with Audi, and more importantly for me, Audi Hong Kong.

“Blancpain GT Series Asia was a great platform for me to continue my second season with Phoenix Racing Asia, with a number of very experienced teams and factory drivers coming into the Series from Europe.

“Almost immediately we were amongst the fastest cars in the field through unofficial testing and then when official practice began. As we did last year, Marchy qualified first, largely amongst the amateur drivers, whilst I went into the session which was largely filled with professional drivers. Eleventh place was okay, but as a racing driver, I wanted to be at the front of the field, that said if I’d qualified in the first group, I would have been P3..!

“Because of our ranking as ‘silver’ drivers, our car - like that of the other silver-silver combinations - has to carry an extra 25-kilograms of ballast, so I was knocking myself out comparing my times with team-mate Alex Yoong, because he was able to brake another 10 metres later than me.. I thought he truly was a superman until the team reminded me I had that extra weight onboard and he didn’t [Yoong’s team is Pro-Am].

“Marchy started the first race and spent much of his stint behind the safety car, we pitted early to allow us to get out of some traffic that was holding Marchy up, and I managed to move forward pretty quickly. I had a fantastic battle with star European drivers like Jules Gounon, Raffaele Marciello and Jesse Krohn and was able to get past them and up to second at one point before fading to fifth at the end of the race as tyre wear slowed my pace. It was great to be able to fight with guys that have so much GT experience, it was a great test to see just how competitive we will be this season.

“In race two I started, but got caught up in someone else’s accident at turn two which saw me forced off the circuit to avoid an incident - in these tough championships you cannot afford a DNF [did not finish] so I had to make sure first the car was safe and I had nowhere else to go. That dropped me back down the order, but I charged back to the top ten and handed the car to Marchy in a position to finish on the podium.

“He had a great battle with the leaders and was second until the final two laps when another of the Audis was able to come through on fresher tyres and take the position away, but a third place in the first event of the year was a good result, and being third in the championship gives us a great foundation to attack for the top of the leaderboard over the next few events.

“Fortunately the next event at Buriram in Thailand [20-21 May], we won last year, so we’ll be calling on a lot of that data to be right in the mix again at the front of the field!”

For Shaun, his next commitment is rejoining Phoenix Racing Asia and Audi Hong Kong for the opening round of the 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup where he will be once more at Sepang in Malaysia, and also back in a championship where his only start in 2016 netted him a podium finish!

* teams are allocated four sets of new tyres for qualifying and the two 60-minute races, they can use them however they like however most try to allow three good sets for the two races, and have to then decide which race will see a change to new tyres for the second leg after the compulsory mid-race stop, and which race they will continue on the same tyres.

Sepang International Circuit, China (8 April, 2017)

Qualifying #1 (15-minutes)

1. 86. Mitchell Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:04.180

2. 37. Anthony Liu (Ferrari 488 GT3) - 2:04.362

3. 99. Darryl O’Young (Porsche GT3-R) - 2:04.880

4. 5. Marchy Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:04.985

5. 88. Jules Gounon (Porsche GT3-R) - 2:04.990

12. 6. Alex Au (Team Audi R8 LMS Cup Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:07.307

 

Qualifying #2 (15-minutes)

1. 6. Alex Yoong (Team Audi R8 LMS Cup Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:03.248

2. 999. Raffaele Marciello (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 2:03.255

3. 7. Will Stevens (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:03.462

4. 13. Franky Cheng (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:04.075

5. 38. Rui Aguas (Ferrari 488 GT3) - 2:04.151

11. 5. Shaun Thong (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 2:04.803

 

Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia (8 April, 2017)

Rnd#1 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia (60-minutes)

1. 86. Gilbert/Patel (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 26-laps

2. 999. Abbott/Marciello (Mercedes AMG GT3) +9.062

3. 91. Millroy/Krohn (BMW M6 GT3) +18.247

4. 888. Sugden/Syzmkowiak (Mercedes AMG GT3) +20.121

5. 5. Lee/Thong (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) +26.885

10. 6. Au/Yoong (Team Audi R8 LMS Cup Audi R8 LMS GT3) +39.417

 

Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia (9 April, 2017)

Rnd#2 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia (60-minutes)

1. Davide Rizzo/Anthony Liu (Ferrari 488 GT3) - 27-laps

2. 86. Patel/Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +26.697

3. 5. Thong/Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) +29.355

4. 999. Marciello/Abbott (Mercedes AMG GT3) +36.247

5. 888. Syzmkowiak/Sugden (Mercedes AMG GT3) +42.926

9. 6. Yoong/Au (Team Audi R8 LMS Cup Audi R8 LMS GT3) +52.010

Championship Points (after two rounds of 12)

1. Mitchell Gilbert/Additya Patel (43-points), 2. Hunter Abbott/Raffaele Marciello (30), 3. Shaun Thong/Marchy Lee (25), 3. Anthony Liu/Davide Rizzo (25)

Shaun Thong annouce debut R8 LMS Cup Season with TEDA

Thong Pilots Official TEDA Racing R8 LMS                 March 29, 2017

2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup

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**Text and Picture derived from Audi Motorsports Asia**

- 2016 top three of Yoong, Picariello and Rump return

- Mitchell Gilbert and Shaun Thong join for full debut seasons

- Asian GT3 series to visit Malaysia, Japan, Korea and China

Beijing, March 28, 2017 – Asia’s leading motorsport stars will be joined by some of the world’s hottest young talent in the Audi R8 LMS Cup’s sixth season. The one-make sprint series is set to cut a swathe across the region with 10 rounds of action across five race weekends.

Series champion for the past three consecutive years, Alex Yoong, returns this year keeping up his record of competing in every Cup season thus far. The former Formula One driver will compete for Team Audi R8 LMS Cup in the coming season.

After a hugely impressive debut season, Alessio Picariello returns for another shot at a title he missed out on by a single point in 2016. The 23 year-old MGT Team by Absolute driver topped the championship on three occasions last season but missed out on the trophy after a dramatic season finale in Shanghai to finish second overall.

Martin Rump of Champion Racing Team was another standout youngster from the Cup’s 2016 season. His four race victories were the most of any driver and the 20 year-old Estonian will be looking to build on his third place overall finish in the season ahead.

Adding to the tussles between youth and experience that played out last season in the Cup will be Mitchell Gilbert, who joins for a debut season, and Shaun Thong, who will compete in his first full season.

Gilbert, who will race with OD Racing, finished third overall in last year’s Porsche Carrera Cup Asia after recording two victories in the series. The 22 year-old Australian showed his potential to adapt quickly to the Audi GT3 car by clocking some impressive lap times in the Audi R8 LMS Cup’s pre-season test event in January.

Shaun Thong, the Young Driver Development Programme participant for the Asian platform of Audi, will race a full Cup season for the first time with Audi TEDA Racing Team. As part of his development process the young Hong Kong native took part in the Audi Sport TT Cup in 2015 as well as being part of the first all-Asian team to enter the Nürburgring 24 Hours for the past two seasons, along with regular Audi R8 LMS Cup appearances.

Audi R8 LMS Cup champion in 2012, Marchy Lee, will return this season as part of Team Audi Hong Kong. The co-owner of Cup service provider, Phoenix Racing Asia, is another who has appeared in every season of the sprint series since its launch.

Cheng Congfu will also return in the FAW-VW Audi Racing Team car for 2017. The Chinese star closed out a challenging 2016 on a high with a top 10 finish in the FIA GT World Cup in Macau and will be looking to rediscover the form that saw him finish as Audi R8 LMS Cup runner-up in 2015.

Korean star driver K.O. You returns for another season with the Cup as part of Team Audi Korea and will be looking to push on from his GT3 class victory alongside Alex Yoong and Marchy Lee in the finale of the Asian Le Mans Series earlier this year.

More driver announcements will be made shortly.

Launched alongside the Audi R8 LMS Cup in 2012, Audi Sport customer racing Asia builds on the global customer racing platform of Audi. In addition to the Audi R8 LMS Cup, in 2016, the programme supported entries into some of Asia’s and Europe’s leading motorsport series and events including the FIA GT World Cup at the Macau Grand Prix, the Sepang 12 Hours, GT Asia Series, and the Nürburgring 24 Hours.

The Audi R8 LMS Cup’s sixth season will begin with Rounds 1 and 2 at the Sepang International Circuit on 6-7 May.

2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup calendar

Official Test / May / Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia
Rounds 1&2 / May 6-7 / Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia
Rounds 3&4 / June 10-11 / Suzuka International Racing Course, Japan
Rounds 5&6 / July 15-16 / Korea International Circuit, South Korea
Rounds 7&8 / September 9-10 / Shanghai Audi International Circuit, China
Rounds 9&10 / October 20-21 / Zhejiang International Circuit, China

Maiden Podium Finish for Thong as Guest Driver at Fuji Audi R8 LMS Cup

Fuji Speedway, Japan                                          10-11 October, 2015 

Rnd #11/12 Audi R8 LMS Cup 2015                                                

Shaun Thong secure his maiden podium in the Audi R8 LMS Cup championship after seeing him starting from 5th in Race 1 and moving to take the podium position away from Championship contender Franky Cheng in the closing stages. In Race 2 Thong delivered an amazing finish to take home 4th after gaining weight penalty from his Race 1 podium finish. 

" I am very pleased with my performance this weekend, I was fast since the first session and i was 2nd in both Free Practice sessions. However I did not transfer this performance into qualifying as i made some mistakes in the best lap and i was only good for P4 and P5 on the starting grid. However I raced well to make up some positions and nothing can be more delighted to finish on the podium under a very tough grid! I guess if i started further front, i am confident to challenge for the win!" Said Thong

Shaun Thong Wrapped Up Audi Sport TT Cup Season in 6th Overall

Hockenheim Circuit, Germany                         17-18 October, 2015

Season Finale Audi Sport TT Cup 2015

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The 2015 Audi Sport TT Cup has came to an end here in Hockenheim Circuit, alongside the finale of the 2015 DTM season. Audi Sport Customer Racing Asia's talent Shaun Thong concluded his first Touring Car season in 6th overall. 

On Saturday the Hong Kong young gun qualified 4th on the grid, just 0.3 behind Audi Sport's Factory driver Rene Rast from Pole Position. However Thong suffered from suspension failure immediately after the lights went off and he dropped out of contention. On Sunday's Race 2, Thong also suffer from tough luck after starting from 5th after an early contact which damaged his steering column but managed to gathered valuable points in P12 to secure 6th Overall in the championship. 

To recap the 2015 Audi Sport TT Cup season, Shaun Thong's only podium and only win was from the German street circuit Norisring where he show cased his adaptability in changing conditions in qualifying and race to secure a double Pole Position and a race win. 

Thong also took 2 top 10 finishes in Nurburgring after intense battle with the leading pack but he ran out of Push to Pass at the end to launch an attack to the front. 

" It wasn't the weekend i want to finish the season, my speed is promising this weekend and i was really aiming to finish top 3 in the championship although the chance is very minimal. But after starting from P4 and P5 and yet failing to secure a good finish, it is disappointing but it is positive on the other hand that i have learnt how to race better in the future. I enjoyed my season with the Audi Sport TT Cup although it took me awhile to fully understand the car, but i believed the experience i had this year will aid me in the future." Said Thong. 

A Magical Weekend for Shaun Thong at the Audi Sport TT-Cup Norisring!

Norisring Street Circuit, Germany                          27-28 June, 2015

Rnd#3/4 Audi Sport TT Cup 2015

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Hong Kong's Shaun Thong took a light to flag victory in the renown Norisring Street circuit in Hamburg, Germany after he started from Pole Position under the changing weather conditions and held off his rival for 15 laps and took home his first ever victory in the inaugural Audi Sport TT Cup and also his first in Touring Cars racing. 

" I am lost of words!! But i am extremely delighted to have put my beautiful Audi TT Cup racer on a double pole position this weekend and now i have converted my Pole Position into a race win! Thank you my mechanics and my helper Tim for make every decisions on spot and providing me a winning car. It was a really good recover from the first weekend in Hockenheim as that weekend was really rough but after today's result i am more relief and knowing I am able to win boost my confidence a lot more! " Said Thong. 

However the winning streak did not continue on Sunday although Thong made a rocket start off the line but a cold rear tire at lap 1 has spun him around and dropped the 3rd. He lost further places in the race due to racing incidents contact but he came home 16th, gaining valuable points for the championship. 

Solid result for Hong kong rising star Shaun Thong's 24H Nurburgring Debut!

Nurburgring Nordschleife, Germany                           18th May, 2015

2015 ADAC Zurich 24 Hours of Nurburgring

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Shaun Thong completed his first 24 Hours of Nurburgring with a Solid P12 finish, it also marks a successful weekend for Thong and his team. 

Marchy Lee started the race and and his stint was then took over by Ex Formula 1 driver Alex Yoong and Chinese star Franky Cheng later on. Shaun Thong was the 4th driver to get into the car and was lapping consistently at 8:40 pace which was impressive with the Hard Compound Michelin S9L. 

Whilst Yoong and Cheng fought hard through the night under difficult situation under fog and damp conditions, the #15 Audi R8 LMS Ultra made it through the night safely and was moved up to P15 after avoiding failures and accidents in the Eifel. Shaun Thong was the first driver to start a stint in the morning at 7am and he made an amazing double stint and also recorded the teams fastest lap of the race at a 8:36 lap, eventually making 2 positions in his double stint and the car was then passed over to Yoong and Cheng whereas Lee was handed with an hour to go and the Full Asian Lineup crossed the line 12th to record their inaugural success of their ADAC Zurich 24 Hours of Nurburgring Excursion. 

" i think we could have gain 1 or 2 more positions at the closing stage if we push more but I am very pleased with 12th place for my first ever 24 Hours race and it was a true showcase of team spirit, my teammates did a fantastic job to hustle the car through this challenging yet unpredictable circuit. Moreover the whole TKL motorsport team worked 110% flat-out to achieve this result. I have to credit all mechanics and engineers who made this result possible for us! " Said Thong. 

 

24 Hours of Nurburgring Qualification Race

Nurburgring Nordschleife, Germany                     12th April, 2015

2015 24H 6Hours Qualification 

Shaun Thong has made a great return to the "Green Hell" for his second time here for the Qualification race of the 2015 24Hours of Nurburgring and delivered a solid P6 finish among his Full Asian line up team Alex Yoong, Marchy Lee and Frankie Cheng.

The team supported by Audi Race Experience TKL squad feels ready for the Main 24 Hours event in a month time and for the first time the Asian team will participate in the infamous 24 Hours of Nurburgring Endurance race.