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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)

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