PICC Team StarChase and fledgling sportscar star Nico Menzel made a promising start to their 2015 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia campaign at the season-opening double header in support of the prestigious Chinese F1 Grand Prix in Shanghai last weekend.

At just 17 years-of-age, Menzel, son of Christian who was a two-time champion with the successful team, is the youngest-ever driver to tackle Asia’s most competitive and professional international sportscar championship. Switching from a successful career in open-wheel single seater cars to the mighty Porsche 911 GT3 (Type 991), plus acclimatising to unfamiliar race tracks, has meant a steep learning curve for Nico, but one which he is scaling with impressive speed.

PICC Team StarChase driver Nico MenzelQualifying was challenging due to tyre problems, resulting in a fourth row start amongst the 28-strong field for both races.

With tyre strategy crucial over the 12-laps of Shanghai’s 5.451km F1 track, PICC Team StarChase planned the long game in Round 1, preserving the tyres and maintaining the pace all the way to the chequered flag. As Nico’s confidence in the car increased, so did his pace, impressing as he closed up towards the more experienced front-runners. Although not in podium contention on his debut, Nico nevertheless thrilled the crowds with a final lap, two-abreast duel with a rival.

Round 2 was Nico’s baptism of fire. Despite a superb performance to cross the line in fifth – and setting the fastest lap of the race – a coming together with a rival resulted in a post-race penalty which demoted him to 13th.

Despite the penalty, which Nico accepted in true sporting spirit, he was pleased with the enormous progress made over just three days, and his increasing confidence in the car: “It was a great first weekend with PICC Team StarChase and the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia! Our pace was really good. In Round 2, the car sustained some damage during the incident, so without that I think a podium would have been realistic. I’m definitely happy to have improved so much over the weekend.”

Said StarChase Chief Operations Officer Mr. Robby Niermann: “At this high level of international competition, setting the fastest lap of the race and earning points in both rounds is an impressive achievement. This weekend we have seen Nico’s enormous potential, and with more track time, we have no doubt we are going to see him quickly realise his full potential.”

PICC Team StarChase and the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia have now been given a glimpse of the capabilities and natural talent of this young contender who has motorsport in his genes. All eyes will be on the team when they return to the race track next month at South Korea’s F1-standard track for Rounds 3 and 4 from May 15-17.

Ben Potter

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