Kamlung Racing’s Chris van der Drift claimed his fifth consecutive Porsche Carrera Cup Asia win from pole to take victory in Round 7, as the series made its thunderous return to Thailand at the Chang International Circuit. Second across the line and taking his maiden Porsche Carrera Cup Asia podium finish was 17-year-old Nico Menzel of PICC Team StarChase, followed by Clearwater Racing’s Craig Baird.

Pic2_Round 7 Overall Podium_l-r Nico Menzel_Chris van der Drift_Craig BairdIn Class B, 21-year-old Evan Chen took a superb win on his debut with the series, sharing the grid with his father, Max, and crossing the line sixth overall. Second was Thailand’s Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak of est Racing Team, who had the advantage of enthusiastic home crowd support, with OpenRoad Racing’s Francis Tjia in third.

Van der Drift’s win sees him extend his points lead at the top of the overall classification to nine points from Baird, with Team Porsche Holding’s Martin Ragginger in third. In Class B, a fifth place finish for Team Jebsen’s Yuey Tan sees him retain his place at the top of the leaderboard, but Tjia has closed the gap to just five points. Third in Class B mid-way through the season is Modena Motorsports’ Wayne Shen of Hong Kong.

The eventful 13-lap race was twice interrupted by Safety Car periods, meaning van der Drift had to power clear of the field three times: “My first start was amazing, probably the best so far this season. I just gripped up and took off. When the Safety Car came out for the first time, I thought ‘there goes my gap’, but I got a good start again. There weren’t many laps at speed, but the car felt great from the beginning. My congratulations to Nico as well on his first podium!”

With the new Thai circuit representing a level playing field, for the first time this season series rookie Menzel is not handicapped by lack of track knowledge, and was clearly thrilled to have shown his true potential: “It’s fantastic to take my first podium! The goal was to finish on the podium, so I’m very happy. My thanks to the team who did a great job. Usually all the drivers already know the track and it’s always my first time. I only have 30 or 40 minutes in which to learn the circuit, but this time we were all in the same situation.”

Pic1_Round 7 StartThe younger Chen, who had qualified second-fastest in Class B, impressed the entire field on his debut, getting past pole-sitter Vutthikorn to claim the category win. For his mother though, having both son and husband in the race made for some anxious moments: “I was thinking of my mom and hoping for a Safety Car!” said Chen.

Despite being a seasoned and vastly-experienced driver, Vutthikorn was almost overwhelmed by the attention of the local fans, who turned out in force to cheer him on: “There was a lot of pressure with so many fans and sponsors. I knew I must do well. I didn’t have a great start and Evan passed me at Turn 1, but I got the place back at Turn 2, and stuck with the overall drivers. After Turn 7, I was occupied with the car in front of me and I left the door open and he got by.”

While Evan may have been hoping for a Safety Car period, the opposite was true of Francis Tjia: “We had a good bunch up at Turn 3, and Evan did great to pass Vutthikorn. I wanted to have a run at him too, but the race interruptions meant it wasn’t possible. It’s a very, very good track, and the design allows for tight racing. Without a Safety Car tomorrow, the racing will be very close,” he predicted.

Round 7 was an action-packed affair. As the lights went out, the 28-strong field stormed off the grid with van der Drift away like lightning and immediately pulling a gap from Menzel. Behind the German, Baird found his way past Budweiser Team Absolute Racing’s Tung Ho-Pin, who fought back before getting boxed it by the hard-charging pack and dropping down to seventh.

Meanwhile Malaysia’s Alif Hamdan was flying, climbing from seventh on the grid and ploughing past Baird to go third before the Safety Car was called out for the first time. That saw van der Drift’s 6.99 second lead evaporate and closed up the field, with Nico in second from Hamdan, Baird, Ragginger and Team Jebsen’s Rodolfo Avila.

At the restart, while van der Drift got away cleanly for the second time with Menzel in pursuit, behind the pair Hamdan defended well from Baird until the seasoned New Zealand driver managed to get by. As Ragginger and Avila were locked in battle behind, they closed up to Hamdan, sandwiching him between them. Inevitably, the trio clashed, with Ragginger pulling clear, Avila hurtling into the barrier, and Hamdan hit from both sides. Both Hamdan and Avila were uninjured after the incident, while Ragginger went on to cross the line fourth ahead of Tung. The Austrian was subsequently handed a one race suspension and a reprimand for causing a collision.

The incident called saw the Safety Car deployed for the second time, pulling away just three laps from the flag. Again, van der Drift charged away, winning with a 1.077 second margin from Menzel.

After the drama of Round 7, which left the field frustrated by the lack of racing laps on a track all the drivers are enjoying enormously, Round 8 promises to be packed with plenty of high-speed thrills. When the battle for the overall and Class B titles resumes in the Land of Smiles, van der Drift will once again be joined on the front row of the grid by Menzel, with Tung and Ragginger behind.

Ben Potter

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