One of the most remarkable stories from the 12 Hours of Sepang was the comeback of the #26 Absolute Racing Audi. It was hit on the opening lap and was nearly two laps down. Yet, 12 hours later, it was on the podium.

By Steven Walton

At the first corner on the first lap of the 12 Hours of Sepang, Henk Kiks was hit in the back by another car, causing him to spin.

His #26 Absolute Racing Audi had a puncture and he had to limp back to the pits and rejoin the race nearly two laps behind the leaders.

“Basically I just wanted to go home,” Kiks said of the first lap.

“Everybody always says it’s a long race, it’s a long race, but once you’re 200 seconds behind after the first two laps … now you’re basically thinking ‘well that’s it’,” he explained.

‘More of a win for us than P3’

But the race wasn’t over after turn one. After 12 more hours of racing, Kiks and his teammates – Akash Nandy and Christopher Haase – were on the podium spraying champagne.

The #26 Absolute Racing Audi pulled off a remarkable comeback and finished third. In the end, it was only one minute and 20 seconds behind race winners R&B Racing.

“Chris was very quick during his stints, Henk was very consistent, so really happy to be here,” Nandy told Asian Motorsport after the podium.

“I think we can say that this is more of a win for us than P3,” he said. “If you had told me that we would be on the podium after the first lap, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

‘What Haase did is out of this world’

At the end of the first hour, the #26 Audi was down in 12th and two laps behind the leaders. By the halfway mark, it was 8th, but still two laps behind.

Just before the eight-hour mark, the team appeared to benefit from the two safety cars. After that, the Audi rapidly closed in on the leaders and by the end, it was back on the lead lap.

“The comeback of the #26 was outstanding,” Absolute Racing team principal Ingo Matter told Asian Motorsport.

“There you also have to definitely mention Chris Haase, what Haase did is out of this world, like how he got the car back in the double stints, also Akash, Akash was evenly outstanding and to have those two then pushing the car back in front, it was quite amazing to see.”

Kiks, the amateur driver in the team, also praised the efforts of platinum-rated Haase and silver-rated Nandy.

“These guys did an amazing job, you don’t know the half of it.”

“There’s issues with the air conditioning, there’s issues with the drinking system and these guys put in double stints, and this [heat in Malaysia] is not like northern Europe.”

‘We picked up performance’

Haase, who has won the 12 Hours of Sepang twice, said this year’s race was tough, “but we definitely always had this mentality [of] we never give up, we kept pushing.”

“Towards the end, I think we picked up a bit of grip in the car, we picked up performance, we came back,” he said. “It’s just great, it’s a great feeling … when it pays off and you’re on the podium.”

Haase finished the race with the fastest lap – and it was eight-tenths quicker than the best lap of race winners R&B Racing.

The #26 Absolute Racing Audi was joined on the overall podium by its sister car, the Absolute Racing #911 Porsche of Andrew Haryanto, Eshan Pieris and Dorian Boccolacci. It finished second.

Matter, the Absolute Racing team principal, said: “To have both cars on the podium is awesome and we have to come back next year to get the top step.”

Full results from the 12 Hours of Sepang are available here.

Header image credit: 12 Hours of Sepang

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