Phoenix Racing Asia team owner and driver Marchy Lee believes winning this year’s Blancpain GT Series Asia Silver Cup title with Audi Hong Kong co-driver Shaun Thong proves the region has the talent to compete on the international stage.
The Hong Kong ace is one of Asia’s best known drivers following success at home and abroad over the past 20 years. However, the arrival of Blancpain GT Series Asia at the start of 2017 has seen a number of high-profile factory stars from outside the region - including the likes of European Blancpain GT Series champion Maxi Buhk, 2x Le Mans winner Earl Bamber and former Ferrari F1 Driver Academy member Raffaele Marciello - compete against established names like Lee this year.
Lee and Thong missed out on the overall GT3 Drivers’ title by just three points at Zhejiang’s season finale last weekend when contact from another car in the second race sent their Audi spinning down the order. However, the crew won twice and scored podiums in half of the season’s 12 races to finish as the highest-placed all-Asian crew. Five Silver Cup victories - the categorisation for cars featuring professional driver line-ups - also netted them the class title.
“It’s fantastic for Asia and Hong Kong that Shaun and I were leading the overall championship right up to the final race of the season,” he said. “We were fast and consistent all year, and - without the incident - had the pace to challenge on Sunday. But there’s no point talking about that - what happened, happened.
“Instead, I’m very proud of what Phoenix Racing Asia has achieved in only its second season. The team spirit has been amazing on both sides of the garage with our two cars, and I must say that Shaun and Alex Au really stepped up to meet the performances required for this level of racing. When combined as Phoenix Racing Asia, the Audi Hong Kong and Audi R8 LMS Cup points would have seen us finish second in the Teams’ standings. Again, a great achievement.”
Heading up an official Audi Sport customer team meant Lee could have drafted in established factory drivers to bolster Phoenix Racing Asia’s line-up, just as others did. However, he’s adamant this year’s results mean more after being achieved with all-Asian crews.
“I feel like we have a certain responsibility to promote and advance motorsport in Asia, so I was adamant when putting the programme together that we would only have drivers from the region. I could have brought in some of Audi’s very good silver-graded drivers from Europe, but that doesn’t help promote the talent we already have here in Asia, like Shaun. We didn’t need to win the Silver Cup to justify that decision but an all-Asian crew winning obviously sends a strong message. I’m very proud to be part of that.”
Lee also feels SRO’s expertise, which has been honed around the world over the past 25 years, contributed towards Phoenix Racing Asia’s success.
“The championship’s consistency of service and level of organisation has been a big factor,” he added. “As a team owner and driver it can be difficult in some other series to concentrate on just racing, while the team can also become frustrated. But, honestly, those problems don’t exist in Blancpain GT Series Asia. BoP is often a cause for concern but no-one has complained about it and we’ve found the rules to be very consistent and fair. That generates a positive atmosphere in the paddock and also guarantees a stable platform where young Asian drivers can learn.”
Lee and Thong will be presented with their Silver Cup championship trophies during SRO Motorsports Group’s glittering 2017 prize-giving ceremony and 25th anniversary gala in Paris on November 24, while Blancpain GT Series Asia’s 12-race 2018 campaign begins at Sepang in Malaysia on April 14/15.