Just when the competition looked like it couldn’t get any closer for the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia championship, Team Formax’s Chris van der Drift stormed through Sepang International Circuit to take a critical win in Round 7 that puts him on top after both table leaders were sent spinning after a Turn 1 collision.
The morning’s qualifying session were a perfect reflection of just how talented and hungry this year’s drivers are. With less than 0.4 seconds separating the top 5, it was among the closest qualifying sessions seen in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia history.
Van der Drift took the fastest time of the morning with a blistering 2:08.486 lap-time, just 0.008 seconds ahead of Team StarChase’s Philip Hamprecht who took P2 with 2:08.494. Ready to face off for first place, Team Porsche Holding’s Martin Ragginger snagged a hasty P3 with 2:08.545 just ahead of joint table leader FAW T2M’s Will Bamber on P4 with 2:08.778.
But the grid was shaken up immediately after the start of the race as Team C&D’s Yuan Bo, steaming through Turn 1, braked too late and collided with Absolute Racing’s Tanart Sathienthirakul, sending Sathienthirakul spinning and bringing out the safety car in the first lap. The clash sent ripples through the first-turn pack, eventually resulting in Will Bamber spiraling off the track and Ragginger left fully stopped and sideways in the middle of the track.
The unfortunate turn of luck forced Bamber to cede the championship lead as he, alongside Sathienthirakul and Yuan Bo, had no choice but to retire from the race. Ragginger, narrowly escaping the same fate, was pushed to last place. Later, Team Jebsen’s Cui Yue was forced to retire after car troubles resulting from the crash. A 10-place grid reduction for Round 8 was given to Yuan Bo after the race for his role in causing the crash.
Meanwhile, Hamprecht and van der Drift managed to stay one step ahead of the fracas, where they locked horns for a short battle that saw Hamprecht overtake van der Drift on Turn 3 for the lead. Following not far behind was Porsche China Junior team’s Andrew Tang whose quick manuevering allowed him to avoid the crash to slot into third place.
With the safety car out, the action was quickly halted for 2 laps, resetting the grid when the race began again with 11 laps to go.
Hamprecht was quick to put on pace after the restart, gaining momentum as he gradually built a gap between him and van der Drift while Tang, facing enormous pressure from Force Asia’s Akash Neil Nandy, slipped behind the race leaders as he was left defending from third.
The true heroics of Round 7 came from Ragginger, who refused to give up despite entering lap 4 in last place. Desperate to recover as many championship points possible, the Austrian driver charged through the Pro-Am ranks going from 22nd to 17th to 12th in just two laps.
Hamprecht appeared to be in solid command of his lead as the race entered its final stages, but Malaysia’s blazing heat began taking its toll on the 19-year-old’s tyres, slowing his pace just enough for van der Drift, waiting in the wings, to execute a surgical pass to take the lead in Lap 10. Hamprecht did not give up easily, reacting instantly with an unsuccessful counterattack before losing pace and watching van der Drift pull ahead for the win.
In the end, van der Drift took the victory to jump to the top of the championship tables, followed by Hamprecht in second and Tang, earning his third podium finish of the season, in third place. Salvaging what he could from a bad situation, Ragginger streaked through the ranks to finish in sixth just 0.1 seconds behind Nandy in fifth, while Porsche China Junior Team’s Zhang Dasheng put on a good show to finish fourth.
With both the previous leaders out, van der Drift now leads the championship tables, followed closely by Ragginger in second and Bamber in hanging on to third.
“[Hamprecht] really made me work for it. I sat there and waited to see where I was stronger and tried to the best with my strong points. With 4 laps to go, I managed to catch up with him really quickly. I had just one chance to pass and I made the pass, so that was really good. Well done to him, from there I really thought he had me, but managed to come back toward the end,“ Chris van der Drift said in the press conference after the race.
Hamprecht’s second place win earned Team Starchase first place in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Dealer Trophy, continuing their climb toward current Trophy leader Team Porsche Holding.
In Pro-Am, Team Jebsen’s Yuey Tan put in one of his best performances so far this season, starting in P1 for Pro-am and P10 overall, two spots ahead of season rival and Pro-Am point leader Evan Chen of Kamlung Racing, who started in P2.
Adding to his successful qualifying, Tan conducted a flawless start, gunning at the lights and rapidly pulling ahead of his fellow Pro-Am competitors. Equally impressive in his start was Modena Motorsports’ Wayne Shen who leaped off the line to get on the inside of Chen going into Turn 1, forcing Chen to the outside and back into fifth place as Team Betterlife’s Li Chao and True Visions Motorsports Thaiand’s Suttiluck Bunchareon took advantage of the open door to make the pass.
Chen quickly recovered, however, gathering pace on the third turn and eventually clawing his way back behind Shen after making a clean pass on Chao and Bunchareon.
It was then a game of cat-and-mouse, with Shen expertly deflecting Chen’s cautious attempts to pass from behind. Not wanting to risk his point lead, Chen was hesitant to pull the trigger for much of the race, toying with Shen’s defenses but unable to find an opening for much of the race.
With less than a third of the race to go, Chen finally spotted the opportunity to pull the trigger, taking advantage of a wide turn by Shen to cut in the inside and make a clean pass.
Meanwhile, Tan enjoyed a pocket of clean air in front of the Pro-Am drivers but just behind the Overall pack, charging through the race uncontested but maintaining a swift pace.
Pushing until the end, Tan finished first in Pro-Am and sixth overall to achieve a first place tie in the championship points with Chen, who finished second. Shen rounded out the Pro-Am podium in third.
“ The race went really well today. I had a good start and managed to get away from all the problems we had at the side of the track. After that I put my head down and just tried driving as fast as possible, because in the past in Japan I took my foot off the gas a bit and drove a little safer and he caught me – I remembered that. So this time around I decide to push all the way to the end and leave the gap as big as humanly possible and make sure nothing was left to error. Good day for me,“ Yuey Tan said during the press conference after the race.
Porsche Carrera Cup Asia – Round 7 Results
|1||7||Chris van der Drift||Team Formax||29:30.873|
|2||99||Philip Hamprecht||Team StarChase||29:32.192|
|3||10||Andrew Tang||Porsche China Junior||29:36.746|
|4||19||Zhang Dasheng||Porsche China Junior||29:47.364|
|5||29||Akash Neil Nandy||Force Asia Racing||29:48.705|
|6||86||Martin Ragginger||Team Porsche Holding||29:48.816|
|7||5||Yuey Tan Yu Hian||PA||Team Jebsen||29:53.420|
|8||68||Evan Chen Yi Fan||PA||Kamlung Racing||29:58.071|
|9||55||Bao Jinlong||Zheng Tong Auto||30:03.017|
|10||16||Wayne Shen||PA||Modena Motorsports||30:05.042|
|11||9||Li Chao||PA||Team Betterlife||30:17.532|
|12||21||Francis Tjia||PA||OpenRoad Racing||30:20.013|
|13||3||Michael S.||PA||OpenRoad Racing||30:20.901|
|14||23||Paul Tresidder||PA||Paul Tresidder||30:27.057|
|15||69||Christian Chia||PA||OpenRoad Racing||30:29.400|
|16||78||Suttiluck Buncharoen||PA||True Visions Motorsports Thailand||30:33.519|
|17||8||Preeda Tantemsapya||PA||Racing Spirit Thailand||30:37.591|
|18||22||Siu Yuk Lung||PA||LKM Racing||30:38.356|
|19||2||Kenneth Lau||PA||Arrows Racing||30:56.621|
|20||17||Fung Yui Sum||PA||Arrows Racing||31:10.847|
|21||28||John Shen||PA||Modena Motorsports||29:44.614
|22||77||Cui Yue||Team Jebsen|
|23||12||Will Bamber||FAW T2 Motorsport|
|24||15||Tanart Sathienthirakul||Absolute Racing|
|25||88||Yuan Bo||Team C & D Auto|