Kiwi Chris van der Drift clinched the 2015 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia overall championship after the title chase went right down to the wire at the final race of the 14-round season. Team Jebsen’s Yuey Tan of Singapore lifted the Class B honours by a single point after a white-knuckle finale which almost saw the longed-for title slip through his fingers.
Second overall at the conclusion of what has been a momentous season for the region’s premier sportscar championship was Clearwater Racing’s Craig Baird, 14 points ahead of Nico Menzel, the 17-year-old PICC Team StarChase driver emerging as an exciting new talent in his Porsche Carrera Cup Asia debut season. Fourth in the standings is Budweiser Team Absolute’s Tung Ho-Pin after a strong end to his 2015 campaign, while Team Porsche Holding’s Martin Ragginger, who missed four races of the season, rounds out the top five.
Runner-up to Tan in the Class B championship is est Cola Racing Team’s Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak of Thailand after a four-way fight to the finish between Tan, Modena Motorsports’ Wayne Shen, third, and OpenRoad Racing’s Francis Tjia, fourth. Team Betterlife’s Li Chao finished fifth on the leaderboard.
Thanking his Kamlung Racing team for what has been a fairytale debut for the 29-year-old New Zealander, newly-crowned champion van der Drift commented: “It all began here in Shanghai in April after I got a last-minute call-up. We finished on the podium after my first race in a 911, but then had a DNF. But we came back with a double win and pole position in Korea. It’s great racing with these drivers and the competition in the series is very strong. It keeps you sharp that’s for sure!”
For Tan, it was an emotional title win after a year in which he kept his head down and focused on the main prize, his impressive consistency proving crucial. Heading in to Round 14, which was interrupted by a brief Safety Car period, Tan had a five-point advantage over Inthraphuvasak, but all the top four drivers remained in contention. Understandably, the pressure began to take its toll, nerves getting the better of him allowing all three of his rivals to get by. For two miserable laps for Tan, it looked as though the Class B title would go to Vutthikorn, until Francis Tjia was tripped up by tyre wear, spinning and dropping down the order. Said Tan: “I was thinking ‘I’m not winning this thing at the moment’, with a few colourful metaphors thrown in! Wayne came at me hard and strong after the Safety Car, but we kept it clean and it was a really good race. I was really lucky to have taken pole position and the extra point that went with it.”
Sharing the track with their Porsche Team counterparts in the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Shanghai, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia field took to the 5.45km circuit on Friday for a single qualifying session to set the grids for both races. Ragginger set the fastest overall lap, securing pole for Round 13, while Menzel’s second-fastest time saw him secure pole for the final race of the season. Tan was the quickest amongst the Class B field, earning what was to be a crucial additional point for pole.
As the lights went out for the start of Round 13, Ragginger got away well and didn’t look back, winning from van der Drift and Team Jebsen’s Rodolfo Avila. Baird crossed the line in sixth behind Tung. Tan, meanwhile, was unable to capitalize on his Class B pole, his hard-charging rival Wayne Shen grabbing the win and Francis Tjia nudging the Singaporean down to third.
That set the stage for what was a truly epic season finale, with van der Drift and Baird both in contention for the overall championship, and the four Class B rivals all intent on claiming the crown.
van der Drift stole the march on Menzel off the start, but the youngster fought back, reclaiming the lead and making full use of his new tyres. Menzel set about pulling a gap from the chasing pack, setting the fastest lap of the race. At the restart after the mid-race Safety Car period, he controlled the pace superbly to retain the lead and thunder to the flag more than two seconds ahead of Ragginger in second. Ragginger had got past van der Drift who, with his eye on the main prize, was taking no chances. Tung took the final podium after a superb drive.
The four Class B contenders were locked in a relentless battle, with first Vutthikorn getting by Tan, followed by Francis Tjia and then – crucially – Wayne Shen. As Tan fought desperately to gain some ground on Shen, suddenly Tjia spun, promoting the Team Jebsen driver back up to third and making him the new Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Class B champion.
After 14 hard-fought races across six countries, the Shanghai double-header contained all the ingredients that have made the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia the most admired and respected sportscar championship in the region: the highest standards of motorsport; fair, exciting and close racing; and the most iconic sports car ever built, the Porsche 911 GT3 (Type 991) Cup.