PHOENIX RACING ASIA CREATES HISTORY WITH THE AUDI RS3 LMS TCR
23 April 2017
Text/Photos: Motorsport Media
TCR Asia Series, Zhuhai International Circuit, China (21-23 April, 2017)
Audi Hong Kong’s Jasper Thong has converted his maiden TCR Asia Series pole position to Audi’s first ever victory with the all-new Audi RS3 LMS TCR at China’s Zhuhai Circuit today, the 17-year old leading from start to finish with a mature display of driving despite some immense pressure from behind.
“I’m really happy to be able to represent Audi Hong Kong and take the stunning new Audi RS3 LMS TCR to it’s first ever victory in TCR,” Thong admitted post race wearing a smile he couldn’t disguise. “I can’t thank Marchy [Lee], Rene [Koneberg], my parents, the team and all my supporters enough for giving me this incredible opportunity. Marchy was incredible, he’s such a great mentor and he was able to give me very wise counsel on what I should do which allowed me to just focus on the job at hand.”
For Lee, who is contesting just his second event with the new Audi RS3 LMS TCR, he was impressed with his young charge and pleased to have been able to present Audi with concerting their maiden pole position with the new car, to their first ever victory.
“Jasper and I had a long chat before the race and I told him he needed to focus, to not worry so much about what was happening behind and to be consistent, and I’m please to say he did just that. He withstood a lot of pressure from behind, and I wasn’t sure coming into the final lap whether he would be able to withstand it, but he drove with great maturity to give us the victory. That said, it is just one race, the thing now is to stay out of trouble starting from eight on the grid for race two [the top eight qualifiers are inverted for the start of race two] to gain as many points as possible and focus on the championship. We’ve ticked two boxes, now lets go for the third!”
Despite two less than ideal starts during the season opener in Malaysia, Thong made the perfect getaway in Zhuhai, making it to the first corner first, then defending all the way to the flag.
He did come under fire though from Sepang winner Kantadhee Kusiri in a Volkswagen, and then Honda’s Tin Sritrai and finally fellow Audi driver David Chen, withstanding all attacks to cross the line a mere 15 one hundredths of a second clear of Kusiri.
“I had a great start and then had a great battle with Kusiri,” Thong admitted. “I was told not to focus too much on the mirrors and what was going on behind me and just concentrate on the job ahead of me. On the last lap I knew I had the inside run after he tried to pull alongside and I just held my ground.”
Unfortunately for Thing’s high-profile team-mate Alex Fong the result wasn’t everything he had been hoping for, cold tyres catching the entertainer out on the final corner, spinning him into retirement, although he admitted he did succeed in meeting his first goal.
“Goal number one was to complete the race without a mark on the car, I achieved that,” he laughed. “Sadly goal number two was to complete the race and I fell a bit short on that one, but fortunately I have the chance to do it all over again this afternoon during race two, and I’m looking forward to that!”
Sadly SK [Byron] Tong too fell short of completing the race, mid-pack contact on the opening lap spinning him at turn seven, before the resultant damage spun him into the gravel the lap afterwards and retirement.
“I had a good start but was squeezed by one of the other drivers and that turned me around and did dame to the right rear,” he explained. “Unfortunately something then appeared to be out of alignment in the rear and I spun the next lap and got beached in the gravel, so it was game over from there. We’ll be back for race two though and try to build on the good start we had at Sepang.”