The Audi R8 LMS Cup, which attracts a growing number of racing drivers since the 2012 season, enhances the spectrum of one-make cups on offer in Asia. For the 2015 season, the movers and shakers at Audi Sport customer racing Asia have come up with something new again – from an improved clutch to standing starts.
As many as 22 competitors compete on the six Audi R8 LMS Cup race weekends in Asia. Two sprint races per event are held. The one-make cup long since visits venues outside China, the Cup’s original home. In addition to two events in China, this season’s calendar also includes races in South Korea, Malaysia and Japan. The one-make cup stars in Taiwan for the first time as well. The public can enjoy the Audi brand in double pack on two weekends: the Audi R8 LMS Cup and the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC appear together on October 11 at Fuji (Japan) and November 1 at Shanghai (China).
The Cup competitors stage thrilling door-to-door battles in two sprint races each race weekend. The race format has been tweaked for this season. Flying starts previously saw the race action begin, now a standing and a flying start are on the agenda. For this purpose, the Audi R8 LMS is equipped with a so-called ‘launch control’ that assists drivers at the standing start. A lighter clutch for more agile response, a rear wing mounted further back for greater aerodynamic downforce and a modified brake balance system round off the innovations. All these changes better cater for the drivers’ wishes.
The super pole qualifying is also new. After the 15-minute qualifying session, the best eight drivers compete against the clock over a single lap. A new equivalence concept ensures greater performance parity. After the weight of the driver and their gear is determined, so much ballast must be mounted in the car so that bodyweight and ballast combined weigh a minimum of 80 kilograms. As a result, light drivers no longer have an advantage.
The drivers enjoy greater tactical freedom in 2015: previously, only one set of tires was allowed for qualifying and the races – now two sets are permitted. Another tactical element established itself last year. A push-to-pass system enables the drivers to briefly release extra power. Its use is limited, which in turn increases the number of exciting maneuvers during the races. Another strategic element is used to prevent one driver from dominating. The three best drivers at every race must start the following race with ballast weight. Since this rule was enforced a year ago, the race fans and spectators have regularly been treated to a feast of unusual and fascinating maneuvers.
This year, the teams are allowed to work at the race tracks with their own technical personnel – previously a centralized, single service provider was used. Teams deciding against this can still use the previous service provider, which provides an arrive and drive race deal.
The Audi Sport customer racing Asia activities are not solely restricted to the Asian region and Audi R8 LMS Cup. The 19-year old Shaun Thong from Hong Kong will contest the Audi Sport TT Cup in Europe this year. In addition, he will share a cockpit in the Blancpain Endurance Series with Marchy Lee and Markus Winkelhock. Audi Sport customer racing Asia cooperates with the renowned racing team Phoenix Racing in the GT3 endurance series. Thong will also be a member of the first ever Asian driver line-up to contest the 24 hours at the Nürburgring with the Audi race experience. Deploying the various talents in selected races is an integral component of Audi’s young driver development program in Asia. The race cars that Thong drives in Europe also advertise the Audi R8 LMS Cup.
Another field of activity is the GT Asia racing series. Several Cup drivers fly the flag again this year for the Audi R8 LMS Cup in this pan-Asian championship, when they go chasing points together with customers in the Audi R8 LMS ultra. In this way, the Audi Sport customer racing Asia program does not simply shape the motorsport landscape in and around China, but in fact helps the Cup to establish a prominent profile in other regions of the world.