Rnd#11/12 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia
Zhejiang International Circuit, China 13-15 October, 2017
For the second season in a row, Hong Kong’s Shaun Thong has taken out one of the most prestigious GT3 titles in Asia, winning the ‘Silver Cup’ title in the Blancpain GT Series Asia alongside team-mate Marchy Lee.
Coming into the Zhejiang championship finale, Thong and Lee held the outright points lead, and with solid experience from their circuit debuts just a week prior during the final round of the Audi R8 LMS Cup, both were immediately on the pace in practice, however inclement weather disrupted the progress of all teams as rain intensified across the race weekend.
A solid fourth placed finish in the opening 60-minute race saw the Audi Hong Kong pairing lead into the final round of the season by a single point, but within minutes of the final race of the season getting underway, the popular 21-year old was turned around by their title rivals team-mate, dropping him well down the order and with lots of work ahead of him.
From there both he and Lee charged through the field as often the fastest car on the circuit, but as the 60-minute mark approached, the team crossed the line in sixth position whilst their outright title rivals finished ahead of them to drop the #5 Audi back to third overall in points, an agonizing three points from the top spot. Whilst disappointed not to have converted their strong pace to another podium result, the team were awarded the ‘Silver Cup’ as the most successful silver-rated driving combination in the championship.
The award adds to the ‘Pro-Am Cup’ title Thong claimed in the 2016 GT Asia Series, a season where he and Lee also recorded two impressive season victories as they became the outright runner-up in the championship, their 2017 title adding further weight to their profile as the leading all-Asian GT3 team in the region.
“I’m disappointed to be sure, especially to be turned around by our title rival’s team-mate in a battle for position whilst still leading the championship,” Thong admitted. “Regardless of intent, it shouldn’t have happened, not with a championship on the line. I’d made a great start in the wet and passed him, but he put the nose down the inside at turn nine and around I went, fortunately without hitting anything, but that’s not the point. We’d managed to put ourselves in a position to win the championship without having made that kind of contact at all through the year - they were penalized for it post race, but by then it was effectively game over.
“To win the ‘Silver Cup’ is a great honour though, especially against such intense competition, it’s always nice to add something like that to the resume. It was also nice to go wheel-to-wheel against some of the best GT3 drivers in the world, and show that I was equally as competitive. Being faster than Maxi Buhk (rated globally inside the top ten best GT3 drivers of 2016) in the opening race in identical race conditions was satisfying and shows that I’m getting to the stage where I can compete at the very top level and be capable of winning.
“For now we move on to 2018. Plans are in discussion, but my aim is to continue to build my career and push myself against better and better competition. I have to thank my sponsors and Phoenix Racing Asia for their support this year, I have a string of trophies to show for our season, and an opportunity to take the main stage at the annual prize-giving ceremony in Paris later in the year, and that doesn’t hurt the profile either!”
Rnd#11/12 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia
Zhejiang Circuit, China (13-15 October, 2017)
Qualifying #1 (15-minutes)
1. 66. Chris Dreyspring (Lamborghini Huracan GT3) - 1:26.323
2. 86. Aditya Patel (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:26.745
3. 1. Aidan Read (Lamborghini Huracan GT3) - 1:27.037
4. 999. Hunter Abbott (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 1:27.184
5. 888. Tim Sugden (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 1:27.193
7. 5. Marchy Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:27.980
Qualifying #2 (15-minutes)
1. 86. Mitchell Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:26.745
2. 18. Martin Rump (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:25.729
3. 7. Alessio Picariello (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:25.815
4. 13. Franky Cheng (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:25.913
5. 999. Max Buhk (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 1:25.921
9. 5. Shaun Thong (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:26.141
Zhejiang Circuit, China (14 October, 2017)
Rnd#11 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia (60-minutes)
1. 86. Patel/Gilbert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 32-laps
2. 1. Read/Di Folco (Lamborghini Huracan GT3) +5.615
3. 999. Abbott/Buhk (Mercedes AMG GT3) +9.099
4. 5. Lee/Thong (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) +12.433
5. 888. Sugden/Syzmkowiak (Mercedes AMG GT3) +15.888
Zhejiang Circuit, China (15 October, 2017)
Rnd#12 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia (60-minutes)
1. 86. Gilbert/Patel (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 33-laps
2. 88. Heimgartner/Modell (Porsche GT3-R) +2.562
3. 18. Rump/Yoon (Audi R8 LMS GT3) +15.068
4. 999. Buhk/Abbott (Mercedes AMG GT3) +16.193
5. 66. Stuvik/Dreyspring (Lamborghini Huracan GT3) +19.824
6. 5. Thong/Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) +36.248
2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia
GT3 Championship Points (after 12 rounds of 12)
1. Hunter Abbott (161-points), 2. Mitchell Gilbert/Aditya Patel (160), 3. Shaun Thong/Marchy Lee (158), 4. Maximilian Buhk (100), 5. Tim Sudgen/Jules Syzmkowiak (82)
GT3 Silver Drivers Points (after 12 rounds of 12)
1. Shaun Thong/Marchy Lee (206-points), 2. Mitchell Gilbert/Aditya Patel (188), 3. Tim Sudgen/Jules Syzmkowiak (132)