Kamlung Racing’s Chris van der Drift extended his lead in the 2015 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia title chase by taking his sixth consecutive win in Round 8 of the 14-race season.
Taking the second podium of his debut Porsche racing season was PICC Team StarChase driver Nico Menzel, with a wheel-perfect performance from second on the grid and setting the fastest lap of the race in the process. Third across the line at Thailand’s Chang International Circuit was Budweiser Absolute Racing’s Tung Ho-Pin of China.
In Class B, it was newcomer Evan Chen who took his second victory on his series debut. He, and second-place local hero Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak of est Cola Racing Team, had the crowds on their feet with a riveting cat-and-mouse battle for the Class B lead. Third in the category, after brilliantly getting by title rival Yuey Tan of Team Jebsen, was OpenRoad Racing’s Francis Tjia.
The weekend saw significant changes to the overall championship leaderboard. van der Drift now has 15 point lead from Clearwater Racing’s Craig Baird in second. Menzel climbs to third in the standings ahead of Tung, who moves up to fourth, two points clear of Team Porsche Holding’s Martin Ragginger who was suspended from Round 8 following a racing incident in Round 7. In Class B, Francis Tjia has closed the gap to rival Team Jebsen’s Tan to just three points, while Modena Motorsports’ Wayne Shen retains the third spot.
While van der Drift’s victory looked effortless, it was meticulously planned as the New Zealander was mindful of the two Safety Car periods in Round 7: “My start was OK but Nico’s was better and I had to make sure I had him covered. It was matter of finding where the grip was after the heavy rains overnight, finding the speed, and then not making any mistakes.”
A delighted Menzel, at 17 the youngest driver in the field, a second podium in as many races was the perfect end to a strong weekend: “Qualifying was good, and that was key this weekend. The first few laps of this race I had to fight with Ho-Pin, but the car was very good. For our championship campaign, this has been an amazing weekend, but we need to take it race-by-race.”
Tung, who was racing in his new Budweiser Brewmaster Reserve livery, was pleased to have the chance to show off his new colours: “It’s great to be on the podium! To begin with I was able to attack Nico on a few occasions, but in the second half of the race I struggled a bit so couldn’t keep up. We’ve been in the top three in terms of pace all year, so we’ll definitely be back here on the podium again.”
The undisputed stars of the show, Chen and Vutthikorn, clearly enjoyed their battle. Said Chen: “It has been a special weekend. Yesterday, we only had four or five laps of racing, but today it was full throttle for 13 laps! It was really intense. I think Vutthikorn could overtake me any time he wants to, but he is also very good at defending.”
Vutthikorn, who has had a season of mixed fortunes so far was delighted with his pair of podium finishes on his home track: “I’m very happy. This is the first time this season I have finished the race on a Sunday. I have to say a big thank you to my sponsor for not giving up on me!”
As the lights went out, van der Drift was away, once again with Menzel in hot pursuit. However, the German was forced to defend from a hard-charging Tung. That allowed van der Drift to begin to pull away at the front.
Meanwhile, behind Tung, Team Jebsen’s Rodolfo Avila and Clearwater Racing’s Craig Baird were embroiled in a fight for position. The pair came together with Avila’s car damaged in the impact, forcing his retirement. While Baird continued, he quickly came under fire from Team Yonda’s Ro Charlz Skyangel.
With Menzel fending off Tung, and Baird keeping Skyangel at bay, behind them Vutthikorn and Chen had the crowds on their feet, switching positions in a thrilling high speed chase for the Class B victory.
As the field charged towards the finish line, there was disappointment for China’s Bao Jin Long of Zhen Tong Auto. Running in eighth, just metres from the chequered flag, Bao spun, and Francis Tjia flew past to claim the position.
Having made a spectacular return to Thailand, with two action-paced races at the new Buriram track, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia embarks upon the second half of the 2015 season next month. Asia’s premier sportscar championship returns to Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit for Rounds 9 and 10 from September 4-6. There, Malaysian Alif Hamdan will be back in action and the talented young Malaysian is guaranteed to give his home supporters plenty to cheer about.