Text: Brent Co / Photos: Brent Co | posted August 08, 2013 19:49
Audi R8 LMS Cup makes successful debut outside China
The 2013 Audi R8 LMS Cup makes its first trip out of China for its third leg to the new Inje Speedium in South Korea. It was Alex Yoong in the lead after four rounds coming into Inje, but he faces the same problem with all other drivers with unfamiliar conditions in the new circuit. Inje Speedium is a very unique racetrack with a mix of fast and slow corners and varying elevation. "Despite being a relatively short track at 4.2-kilometers, it takes quite a number of laps to learn. With some tracks, you'd be familiar with it after about 4 or 5 laps. It takes at least 10 laps here in Inje, and I find it quite challenging, especially with the elevation changes," said Yoong.
It was New Zealander Earl Bamber who set the pace during qualifying clocking in at 1:34.273 ahead of the pack. Second was Chinese driver Adderly Fong with 1:35.390, Hong Kong driver Marchy Lee on third spot with 1:35.451, and Chinese driver Cheng Cong Fu in fourth with 1:35.825; the three drivers were all within half a second apart on the timesheets. Korean driver Kyong-ouk You qualified in fifth with 1:36.090. Points leader Yoong unfortunately misjudged track conditions and sent his car crashing hard into the barriers on his fourth lap rendering it out of commission for the first race due to damaged engine mounts.
It was an explosive opening lap for the fifth round, a four car collision occurred at the first corner involving Korean driver K.o. You, Cheng, Zhang Ran and Massimo Vignali. The incident forced officials to dispatch the safety car immediately, this kept the running order pretty much the same as the starting order save for the retirements and drivers who got lucky breaks avoiding the mayhem. Sun Zheng, Pekka Sarinen and Jacky Yeung were among the lucky drivers. As the safety car was brought back in after the sixth lap, Bamber sped away with Fong and Lee following in tow. As the race went on, the Kiwi managed to pull ahead extending his lead as Lee tried to keep up with Fong.
In the amateur class, it was Alex Au dominating the pack with a hard charging Eric K behind him. Eric lost out during the first-lap mayhem along with Hong Kong celebrity racer Aaron Kwok sliding down to 12th and 13th spots, respectively. Eric was able to claw his way back up the order to chase Au. Running a consistent third was Yeung.
It was a clean start for Round 6 as the drivers obviously didn’t want a repeat of the previous round. Unable to join the race was Zhang Ran, due to a bent chassis from the crash from the last round. Making a good start from the back of the grid was Yoong, climbing up to 7th after the first lap. Yoong desperately needed to claw his way up the order to make up for missing the previous round. No too far behind was Sarinen also making his move climbing up the order.
On the second lap, Jeffrey Lee made an uncharacteristic mistake spinning out at the last corner, dropping down from 9th to dead last. Meanwhile, Massimo Vignali retired on the third lap. On lap 4, Cheng would drop down the order from 4th to 7th after a spinout while pressuring Fong.
In front of the order, Bamber continued his dominance notwithstanding the chase by Marchy Lee and Fong. Behind them was a three-way battle between local star K.o. You, Yoong and Cheng.
The race would soon take a dramatic twist on the 14th lap as the Kiwi would literally hand the lead over to Lee as he retires to a fuel supply issue. Cheng with Yoong in tow would manage to get ahead of the Korean driver on the same lap.
Towards the end, Fong would find himself spinning out while make a daring maneuver to overtake Lee at turn 1 on the penultimate lap. The final order was Marchy Lee in 1st, Adderly Fong in 2nd and Cheng Cong Fu in 3rd.
Alex Au managed to pull ahead in the Amateur class as Eric K and Aaron Kwok, were busy battling each other for most of the race. Au’s performance scores him a double win for the weekend extending his championship lead. Round 6 definitely made up for the lackluster action and pace of Round 5. The drivers were definitely running at more comfortable speeds being more familiar with the track.
Adderly Fong leads the championship after Korea with 105 points followed by Marchy Lee in 2nd with 91 points, while Alex Yoong slides down to third with 89 points. Alex Au continues to dominate the Amateur Class with 124 points followed by Eric K with 86 points, while Zhang Ran (Naomi) is in third with 58 points.
With that, we say goodbye to the unique Inje Speedium and the Korean grid girls. The Audi R8 LMS Cup moves to Sepang, Malaysia for Rounds 7 and 8 on August 30 to 31 which will coincide with the Merdeka Millenium Endurance 12-hour Race where three Audi R8 LMS cars will also be competing in.