Team Porsche Holding’s Martin Ragginger laid down the gauntlet to his rivals in the 30-minuite Qualifying session to set the starting grids for Rounds 9 and 10 of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia at the 5.543km Sepang International Circuit.
Demonstrating the closeness of the competition, the top seven were all covered by less than one second around the Malaysian F1 track, but there is no question that this weekend Ragginger is gunning for his first Porsche Carrera Cup Asia victory of the season.
With a wheel-perfect performance, the Team Porsche Holding ace recorded the best lap of 2:09.487 early in the session and, try as they might, his rivals could not match the on-form Austrian. PICC Team StarChase driver Nico Menzel, at just 17 the youngest driver in the field, left it until the closing minutes to storm to the front row of the grid alongside Ragginger, with a lightning lap just 0.032 of a second off pole. Making up the second row of the grid for Round 9 will be overall championship leader Chris van der Drift of Kamlung Racing and Budweiser Team Absolute Racing’s Tung Ho-Pin.
In Class B, it was 2013 category champion, Egidio Perfetti of Spark Motorsports, who took pole ahead of Thai driver Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak of est Cola Racing Team and Team Jebsen’s Yuey Tan.
With each driver’s second-best time setting the grid for Round 10, van der Drift will start from pole with Ragginger alongside, and Menzel and Tung behind.
Said Ragginger: “My Team Porsche Holding did a really good job on the preparation. I’m very happy with this result. With the first set of tyres everything went OK. With the second set, I had a lock up at Turn 1. The sectors were better on the second run, but I couldn’t manage [a better time] because I lost four tenths at Turn 1, and to get this back in the Cup is not so easy.”
Menzel, who took his first two series podiums in Thailand last month, again showed extraordinary pace: “My qualifying was not perfect, but in the end the session worked out OK. The first stint was not the best. In the second stint I made a small mistake and then hit some traffic at the last sector and lost some time, so I know pole was possible, but I think we can be happy with second. It’ll be a great fight in the race was everyone is very close.”
With points leader van der Drift behind them, both Ragginger and Menzel will be looking for good starts in Round 9. Said van der Drift: “I need to get points; that’s my main goal. Qualifying is more difficult here because of the heat, so there’s a very small window with the tyres. In the race though, I’ll be out to cause some trouble!”
While Class B points leader Tan may have lost out on pole to Perfetti, the Singapore driver was positive ahead of Sunday’s double header: “We came in quite realistic this weekend and knew Egidio and Vutthikorn were going to be quick, but I’m actually quite happy that we’re a little closer to them than we were in some of the other races. We’ve definitely found a little bit here, and I’m content with that. Of course, if I can make up some places in the race, that’s what I’ll try!”
With the intensity of the competition reaching fever pitch as the 28 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia drivers vie for all-important championship points, Rounds 9 and 10 promise to be as scorching as the Malaysian sun
Round 9 qualifying (Top 6)
1 86 Martin RAGGINGER (AUT) Team Porsche Holding (CHN) 2:09.487
2 99 Nico MENZEL (GER) PICC Team StarChase (CHN) +0.032
3 68 Chris VAN DER DRIFT (NZL) Kamlung Racing (CHN) +0.063
4 58 TUNG Ho-Pin (CHN) Budweiser Team Absolute Racing (HKG) +0.236
5 20 Rodolfo AVILA (MAC) Team Jebsen (HKG) +0.482
6 12 Craig BAIRD (NZL) Clearwater Racing (SIN) +0.584
Round 10 Qualifying Top 5
1 68 Chris VAN DER DRIFT (NZL) Kamlung Racing (CHN) 2:09.610
2 86 Martin RAGGINGER (AUT) Team Porsche Holding (CHN) 2:09.712
3 99 Nico MENZEL (GER) PICC Team StarChase (CHN) 2:09.760
4 58 TUNG Ho-Pin (CHN) Budweiser Team Absolute Racing (HKG) 2:09.833
5 12 Craig BAIRD (NZL) Clearwater Racing (SIN) 2:10.131