Fresh from their Porsche Carrera Cup 24 Hours of Spa triumph in Belgium at the weekend, Kamlung Racing’s Chris van der Drift and Yuey Tan of Team Jebsen lead an all-star cast as Asia’s leading GT championship makes its long-awaited return to Thailand this weekend.
Making its first appearance since 2005 in the Land of Smiles, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia makes its debut on the Hermann Tilke-designed, 4.5km Chang International Circuit at the weekend. Opened last year, it is the first FIA Grade 1 circuit for the country and has already hosted a round of the Japanese Super GT as well as Thailand’s first-ever round of the World Superbike Championship.
Leading the charge into the double-header which marks the mid-point in the series’ 13th season, van der Drift has a slim margin of just four points from fellow New Zealander, Craig Baird of Clearwater Racing. Although van der Drift has four race wins to Baird’s one, a DNF in Round 2 mean there is very little between the pair. However, the overall title is still very much open, with Team Porsche Holding’s Martin Ragginger quickly closing the gap to the top of the leaderboard. Making up for his absence in May, when he was on duty at the Nürburgring 24 Hours, the Austrian was back with a vengeance in Japan last month, taking pole position and two podium finishes to close up to third in the points.
Team Jebsen’s Rodolfo Avila of Macau is fourth, one ahead of PICC Team StarChase driver, 17-year-old Nico Menzel, who made his Porsche Mobil1 Supercup debut at the weekend, qualifying within two seconds of pole amongst the fastest Porsche drivers on the planet. China’s Tung Ho-Pin of the Budweiser Team Absolute Racing team and Team Yonda’s Ro Charlz Skyangel are tied in sixth, ahead of Malaysia’s Alif Hamdan and China’s Bao Jin Long.
Meanwhile the Class B title is also wide open. Tan has a nine-point advantage from OpenRoad Racing’s Francis Tjia who, although having a win to his name, like van der Drift, suffered a DNF in Round 2. A single point behind Tjia is 2012 Class B Champion Wayne Shen of Modena Motorsports, with Chinese Taipei’s Johnson Huang in fourth.
The weekend will be especially important for the three Thai drivers in the field who will be racing in front of a home crowd. Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak, entered with the est Racing Team, lies sixth in the Class B standings after what has been a rollercoaster season so far for the seasoned driver. Despite a pole position, race win and podium finish, three unlucky DNFs hide his true pace.
Fellow Thais Sontaya Kunplome of Racing Spirit Thailand, and True Visions Motorsports Thailand’s Suttiluck Buncharoen, contesting his debut Porsche Carrera Cup Asia season, will be on their best form for the local crowd.
Joining the Class B field for the Thailand rounds are father-and-son team Max and Evan Chen of Chinese Taipei. Father Max is no stranger to the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, having joined the inaugural season in 2003, winning the first-ever Class B title when it was introduced the following year. Son Evan made his debut with the series last year in Malaysia and impressed on his first outing in the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (Type 991).
Racing as part of the Thailand Super Series weekend, the return of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia is eagerly anticipated in a country which has passionately embraced motorsport for decades. The 28-strong field of international GT specialists can look forward to a welcome of the very widest Thai smiles on its triumphant return.
Points after Round 6 (Top 5)
1 68 Chris van der Drift Kamlung Racing 99
2 12 Craig Baird Clearwater Racing 95
3 86 Martin Ragginger Team Porsche Holding 69
4 20 Rodolfo Avila Team Jebsen 65
5 99 Nico Menzel PICC Team Jebsen 60