Win for van der Drift in Sepang

| Photographer Credit: Porsche Carrera Cup Asia

Two rounds of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia took place over the weekend which saw a win for Kiwi Chris van der Drift and a maiden victory for 17-year-old Nico Menzel of Germany. Menzel won Round 9 at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit, second across the line was pole-sitter, Team Porsche Holding’s Martin Ragginger, followed by Clearwater Racing’s Craig Baird of New Zealand.

Round 10 saw Kamlung Racing’s Chris van der Drift bring his number of Porsche Carrera Cup Asia wins to seven. Second once again was Ragginger, with Menzel taking his fourth consecutive podium finish.

In Class B, it was Spark Motorsports’ Egidio Perfetti who took the honours in both Rounds 9 and 10, leading from pole to flag. On scorching form, he finished Round 10 fifth overall having successfully challenged a number of the professional drivers. Taking the runner-up position in both races was est Cola Racing Team’s Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak, the Thai driver’s performance gaining momentum with each outing. Third in Round 9 was Modena Motorsports’ Wayne Shen after OpenRoad Racing’s Francis Tjia was taken out in the closing stages of the 10-lap race, while Class B points leader Yuey Tan of Team Jebsen took the final podium place in Round 10.

With four more races on the 2015 season to go, van der Drift tops the overall leaderboard with a 19 point advantage over fellow countryman Baird. Third is Menzel, 23 points behind Baird, with Ragginger’s two podium finishes promoting him to fourth ahead of Budweiser Team Absolute Racing’s Tung Ho-Pin rounding out the top five. In Class B, Tan has strengthened his hold at the top of the points, with Wayne Shen moving up to second, 17 points behind. Inthraphuvasak jumps to third, two points in front of Francis Tjia after an unlucky weekend for the OpenRoad Racing driver, while Team Betterlife’s Li Chao of China lies fifth.

Kamlung Racing’s tyre strategy was to save the new set for Round 10, and van der Drift kept a level head in what was the second thriller of the weekend: “It was a really great race. I had a good start, but Martin [Ragginger] got beside me, which was very good for him as I knew he was on old tyres. I knew I had to find a hole as soon as possible. After the Safety Car, it was about managing the restart and not making any mistakes. I kept looking in my mirrors and saw Craig [Baird] had moved up to fourth, so the win is good for me as it puts some more points between us.”

Said a clearly delighted Menzel, who is competing in his first season of sportscar competition, after his maiden series victory: “It’s just fantastic, especially after our double podium in Thailand! It was a very tight race. At T1 after the restart, I think Ragginger made a small mistake and I used that to overtake. It’s just fantastic to win here, especially as my PICC Team StarChase fan club is here!”

Understandably disappointed to have missed out on a win after a stellar performance in qualifying, Ragginger, who set the fastest lap of Round 9, was quick to praise his young rival: “Nico drove a really good race. I had some problems warming the tyres during the Safety Car period, and I think he had more success with that than me, but it was a good race. The tyres came back after three laps, but I could only follow him.”

Having won all four races which he has started this season, Perfetti again put in a remarkable performance to take the Class B victories in both rounds, the team choosing to run on used tyres in Round 9, saving the fresh rubber for the final race of the day: “I learned a lot from the first race, and in the second it all just came together. I truly enjoyed it. It’s good to see I can still put some pressure on the professionals. In the opening laps, I was able to pass a few cars which put me in a position to fight. I have to say, the level of competition in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia is getting higher and higher.”

With the race for the highly-competitive Class B title wide open, Tan was delighted to earn some more silverware and even more importantly, championship points: “I had two pretty ordinary starts, so lost a few positions. I had used tyres in the second race, but we had made some set-up changes so actually the car was much better than in Round 9. There are still four races to go, and anything can happen in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia. We are bunched up at the top [of the leaderboard], no joke!”

Round 9 was a white-knuckle thriller from start to chequered flag, with pole-sitter Ragginger storming off the grid and confidently setting off towards the flag. Behind him, Menzel didn’t make the best getaway, locking up into Turn 1. van der Drift took full advantage, the pair two-abreast into Turn 1 with the New Zealand driver powering into second. Menzel recovered quickly and fought back, but almost immediately came under attack from Team Jebsen’s Rodolfo Avila, who was a man on a mission. While it looked as though the PICC Team StarChase driver was fully occupied keeping his Team Jebsen rival at bay, he dramatically dived past van der Drift to reclaim second, Avila following him through to claim third in the order.

Avila was still on a charge though, and Menzel was forced to defend again. Behind the pair, the next to challenge van der Drift was Baird, but the Safety Car interrupted that particular battle, closing up the field.

At the restart on Lap 6, Ragginger led the field away, but Avila was back on a charge, nudging Menzel to indicate it was very much game on. A battle of epic proportions ensued as Menzel challenged Ragginger for the race lead with Avila hanging on to his tailpipe.

As the trio dived into the last corner, a brilliant move by Menzel saw him get by Ragginger to take the lead. Avila tried to follow, forcing Ragginger off the track to go second before an incident dropped him down the order. Behind the front-runners, Baird got by van der Drift to go third.

Menzel set about pulling a gap from his challengers, stretching his advantage to 1.455 seconds by the flag. Behind him, Avila was ploughing his way back through the field, heading a five-car pack with Tung, Perfetti, Skyangel and Hamdan. Battling for position with Hamdan, Skyangel spun, taking out Francis Tjia who had been running third in Class B until that point. It was a disappointing outcome for Tjia, who was blameless in the incident. That gave the third place in Class B to Modena Motorsports’ Wayne Shen.

Round 10 was a match for action, with Ragginger grabbing the lead from van der Drift off the start. Tung got by Menzel to go third, but the young German was immediately in hot pursuit. van der Drift reclaimed the lead from Ragginger under braking on the opening lap, and Tung tried a move on the Team Porsche Holding’s driver which he couldn’t make stick until the next lap. Although now up to second in the order, Tung was adjudged to have made a false start and handed a drive-through penalty.

On the following lap, Ragginger reclaimed second place which he was not to relinquish. However, the race was far from over when the Safety Car was called out on Lap 3, closing up the field.

At the restart on Lap 6, van der Drift was off like a rocket, pulling away from the chasing pack. Menzel kept Ragginger firmly in his sights, but wasn’t in a position to challenge for position before the flag. Further down the order, Avila mounted an attack on Baird, who defended with superb precision to hold his position. With Tung out of contention, Baird then closed in on Menzel, putting the youngster under pressure in the closing stages.

The final laps saw a frantic battle between Avila, Perfetti and Malaysia’s Alif Hamdan, who had climbed from 11th on the grid to eighth in the order, eventually crossing the line in sixth having got by Avila.

In searing heat and humidity, and with cockpit temperatures reaching an estimated 60 degrees Celsius, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia drivers had endured two, 10-lap races of unrelenting competition and proved, once again, why the championship has earned a reputation as the benchmark to which all others aspire.
Later this month, the 28-strong field of the finest GT drivers ever assembled in Asia will be back in action at the most glittering fixture on the calendar supporting the F1 Singapore Grand Prix. There, the battle for the overall and Class B titles will resume on the demanding Marina Bay street circuit from September 18-20. Who will be victorious under the sparkling lights of the Lion City? With a level of competition unmatched in Asia, and with two of the most coveted titles in motorsport up for grabs, it’s just too close to call.

Round 9
Pos No Driver/Nationality Class Entrant/Nationality Time
1 99 Nico MENZEL (GER) PICC Team StarChase (CHN) 24:48.808
2 86 Martin RAGGINGER (AUT) Team Porsche Holding (CHN) +1.455
3 12 Craig BAIRD (NZL) Clearwater Racing (SIN) +2.651
4 68 Chris VAN DER DRIFT (NZL) Kamlung Racing (CHN) +4.620
5 20 Rodolfo AVILA (MAC) Team Jebsen (HKG) +7.613

Round 10 Results
Pos No Driver/Nationality Class Entrant/Nationality Time
1 68 Chris VAN DER DRIFT (NZL) Kamlung Racing (CHN) 23:52.617
2 86 Martin RAGGINGER (AUT) Team Porsche Holding (CHN) +3.065
3 99 Nico MENZEL (GER) PICC Team StarChase (CHN) +4.799
4 12 Craig BAIRD (NZL) Clearwater Racing (SIN) +5.784
5 88 *Egidio PERFETTI (SIN) B Spark Motorsports (HKG) +8.090

Overall Points after Round 10 (top 5)
Pos Comp No Driver Entrant Points
1 68 Chris van der Drift Kamlung Racing 174
2 12 Craig Baird Clearwater Racing 155
3 99 Nico Menzel PICC Team StarChase 132
4 86 Martin Ragginger Team Porsche Holding 120
5 58 Tung Ho-Pin Budweiser Team Absolute Racing 95

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