Sepang 12 Hours: Audi Sport Team Phoenix claims victory at inaugural Intercontinental GT Challenge

 2016 Sepang 12-hour Audi R8 LMS no.15 The Sepang 12 Hours endurance race saw Audi trio of Christopher Haase, Robin Frijns and Laurens Vanthoor claim victory in wet conditions. The trio from Audi Sport Team Phoenix crossed the line with one lap in hand. That also meant that Vanthoor and Audi became the first champions in the history of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.

At the start of the Sepang 12-hour, the weather conditions at the Sepang International Circuit were excellent for racing and that was exactly what some of the best GT-drivers in the world did. Earl Bamber of the Manthey Racing Porsche squad took a brilliant start, jumping from third to first. Behind him there was a great scrap for second, between the no.9 K-PAX Racing McLaren, Bamber’s no.912 Manthey Racing Porsche and the no.50 Spirit of Race Ferrari. For almost a complete stint the trio went nose to tail over the Malaysian asphalt. At this point in the race both the Audi Sport Team Phoenix cars had some problems in matching the speed of the leaders. Haase in no.15 Audi R8 LMS had started from the pitlane due to an electrical issue, but climbed from dead last to seventh by the end of the first hour.

2016 Sepang 12-hour formation lap 2016 Sepang 12-hour race start

Except for the no.9 KPAX Racing McLaren dropping out of contention due to suspension problems, that hierarchy barely changed during the first couple of hours, with the no.50 Ferrari using an alternate strategy to take the lead on a couple of occasions. However, during the fifth hour, the running order completely changed. As the first raindrops fell, the Audi cars were the first to shod rain tyres. That moved them both into the top three, with the no.15 R8 in first place and the no.16 in third.

2016 Sepang 12-hour race start2016 Sepang 12-hour Audi R8 LMS no.16

After some great driving in difficult conditions, the track went from wet to dry and back several times; it looked like the Team Phoenix cars were heading for the double, but a safety car intervention some two hours from the end meant that the no.16 car fell back into the claws of their competitors. When the green flags were waved, Bamber took it upon himself to swiftly pass the no.50 Ferrari and the no.16 Audi to claim second for the no.911 Porsche. René Rast brought the no.16 Audi home in third.

The Sepang result also meant that Audi took the manufacturers’ title in the Intercontinental GT Challenge. McLaren took the win in the Bathurst 12 Hour, Mercedes-Benz took top points in the Total 24 Hours of Spa, but by winning the Sepang 12 Hours, and scoring points with the second car as well; the brand with the four rings jumped to the first spot in the standings with 86 points, beating Bentley by a clear 35 points. McLaren and Mercedes-AMG both scored 49 points.

In the Pro-Am class of the GT3 category in the Motul Sepang 12 Hours, the fight between the no.35 HubAuto Racing Ferrari and the no.11 Prancing Horse of Singha Motorsport Team went down to the wire. The cars eventually finished in sixth and seventh overall, with the win narrowly going to the HubAuto Ferrari, driven by Morris Chen, Hiroki Yoshimoto, Shinya Hosokawa and Hiroki Yoshida. The Am-Am class of GT3 was won by the no.75 T2 Motorsport Ferrari of Gregory Teo Bee Tat, David Tjiptobiantoro and Christian Colombo, an excellent result for their very first race.

In the GTC class, the no.26 B-Quik Racing Audi and the no.67 GDL Racing Team Asia Lamborghini ruled the race, with the Huracan having a slight advantage during the early hours, when the bumblebee-colored Audi was hit by tyre trouble after only three laps. However, Henk Kiks, Daniel Bilski and Peter Kox staged a great comeback with their yellow-and-black Audi, to claim the class win and finishing just outside the top ten overall.

In the MARC category the fraternal duel between the no.91 Focus V8 and the no.93 Mazda 3 V8 turned out in favor of the latter, despite its early race off-track excursion. Jake Camilleri, Morgan Haber and Rob Thompson drove faultlessly after that, beating their MARC-teammates by two laps.

GT4 was always going to be dominated by the Ginetta G55 cars and for a long time there was little between the no.55 Simpson Motorsport car and the no.69 Aylezo Ecotint Racing G55. When the rain came down heavily some two hours from the end, the no.55 Ginetta had some issues in leaving the pitlane, effectively ending the class battle. Zen Low, Darren Burke and Dan Wells took the top step with the no.69 Aylezo Ecotint Racing G55.

In the Touring Car division the polesitter, the no.77 Jim Hunter Motorsport Subaru, had to start from the pitlane after an engine change, and although the Australian squad managed to fight its way back to the front, they eventually had to bow to the quick no.100 Amuse & SPV Racing Toyota, driven by Takashi Oi, Hitoshi Matsui, Takashi Ito and Kenny Lee. The no.77 Subaru finished in second, in front of the no.7 Team ST Powered Honda Civic. Despite having a very difficult race, Douglas Khoo, Naoto Takeda, Takuya Shirasaka and Ate Dirk De Jong managed to finish the race and claim the honors in the TC class.

2016 Sepang 12-hour results

1 Robin FRIJNS / Christopher HAASE / Laurens VANTHOOR Audi 12:01:33.824  *
2 Earl BAMBER / Nick TANDY / Patrick PILET Porsche +1 Lap
3 Pierre KAFFER / Rene RAST / Markus WINKELHOCK Audi +1 Lap
4 Pasin LATHOURAS / Michele RUGOLO / Alessandro PIERGUIDI Ferrari +3 Laps
5 Richard LIETZ / Frederic MAKOWIECKI / Michael CHRISTENSEN Porsche
+3 Laps
6 Morris CHEN / Hiroki YOSHIMOTO / Shinya HOSOKAWA / Hiroki YOSHIDA
Ferrari +8 Laps
7 Piti Bhirom BHAKDI / Carlo VAN DAM / Frank YU / Tanart SATHIENTHIRAKU
Ferrari +8 Laps
8 Manabu ORIDO / Kazuki HIRAMINE / Adrian ZAUGG Lamborghini +9 Laps
9 Adrian Henry D’SILVA / Garnet PATTERSON / Dominic ANG Ferrari +9 Laps
10 Alvaro PARENTE / Come LEDOGAR / Shane VAN GISBERGEN McLaren +15 Laps

Images courtesy of Sepang 12 Hours