Even in a season as packed full of highlights as the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia 2019, the stop in Sepang this year is truly a standout. Not only did Asia’s premier one-make racing series celebrate its historic 200th race, but this stop also saw the series host its first night race of the season and the first time ever racing under the floodlights at Sepang. This circuit was where it all started. Back in 2003 the first ever Porsche Carrera Cup Asia race was held right here on this legendary circuit. In the intervening years the series has held 42 races here, making Sepang second only to Shanghai as the most featured circuit in Carrera Cup Asia history.
200th Carrera Cup Asia race proves to be one of the season’s most exciting yet
Team Giltrap Group’s Will Bamber earned his third consecutive pole position of the season with a time of 2:06.138 for Round 6. As with his two previous poles, Bamber once again secured his P1 start within a tenth of a second. Hot on his heels was Porsche Holding’s Martin Ragginger, with a time of 2:06.229, with Team StarChase’s Philip Hamprecht taking P3 with his time of 2:06.416.
The drama in Round 6 started early, as Kamlung Racing’s Chris van der Drift stormed out of the starting grid to seize P2 from a P4 start, pushing Ragginger back to P3 and Hamprecht to P4. van der Drift was able to push up further into first place, before switching positions with fellow Kiwi Bamber a number of times until the two drivers ended up wheel to wheel in a fierce battle for first fought over a thrilling number of turns.
By the time lap 5 rolled around, a robust collision between van der Drift and Bamber allowed Ragginger to zoom ahead of the pack. van der Drift’s woes continued as he attempted to reclaim his position and almost immediately clipped Bunjong Motorsport’s Tanart Sathienthirakul, sending both drivers into the pits and ending their races. Bamber fought valiantly to stay in the race, however he also eventually retired to the pits as well.
The safety car came out on lap 6 and remained in place until lap 9. Once the safety car had been removed, Ragginger was able to hold onto his first place position, while Porsche China Junior Daniel Lu Wenlong began harassing Hamprecht from the rear, slowing both cars down and creating space for Team Jebsen’s Cui Yue to move up into third place ahead of Lu. Ragginger used the battle behind behind him to pull far ahead and secure his second victory of the season, while Hamprecht came in second and Cui earned his first podium of the season coming in third.
“I really didn’t expect to do as well as I did.” Said Cui at the after-race press conference. “I started in P5, so I knew it was going to be a tough race. However, the safety car was good for us, we’d saved the tires so I was able to get a good start once the safety car had been removed.”
Earl Bamber Motorsport’s Antares Au clinched his first pole of the season for the Pro-Am class with a time of 2:08.543, followed by Novu Racing Team’s Yuey Tan on 2:08.840. OpenRoad Racing’s Francis Tjia clocked in a time of 2:08.845, just 0.005 seconds behind his close rival Tan.
For Round 6, the Pro-Am class followed a different formula from previous races. This was no longer the Tan and Tjia show, as the two racers whose rivalry had dominated the season up until now were muscled out of proceedings by Au, OpenRoad Racing’s Michael S. and Presido Jakarta Ban Racing’s Ahmad F. Alam. Alam doggedly pursued Michael S. for first place, but was unable to supplant him, and ended up crossing the finish line less than two-tenths of a second behind him. The podium saw Michael S. earn his first career victory, with Alam in second and Au in third. Modena Motorsports’ John Shen was awarded the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia medal for his performance in the race.
Carrera Cup Asia’s first ever race under the floodlights at Sepang
With Bamber in pole, Ragginger in second and Hamprecht in third – based on their second fastest laps in the qualifying session – the first night race of the season wasted no time in ramping up the excitement. Ragginger, buoyed by his Round 6 victory, slickly slipped into first place from his P2 start, while van der Drift – who began the race in P9 following a five grid penalty due to his collision in Round 6 – neatly threaded his way through to P4.
The action slowed on the first lap as the safety car came out and remained in place until lap 4 due to the chaotic start to the race. Once the safety car was removed, the action heated up again with van der Drift challenging Porsche China Junior Daniel Lu Wenlong for third place, as the reigning champion drove wheel-to-wheel with the youngest Pro driver on the track before edging ahead of him to sit behind Bamber.
The safety car came out once again on lap 6, bunching up the drivers and erasing Ragginger’s lead. Once the safety car had left the track, van der Drift wasted no time in challenging Bamber for P2.
Having maintained an impressive defensive rearguard action, Bamber eventually succumbed to van der Drift’s tenacity on lap 10 and ceded second place to him. As the battle for second place was underway, Ragginger took the opportunity to pull far ahead, securing himself a second victory of the day. van der Drift was the second to cross the line, however he was eventually disqualified after the race due to a fuel irregularity. This left Bamber taking second place and Hamprecht as the third member on the podium.
The Pro-Am class saw Tjia initially put in a strong performance, having started in P1, a position he maintained for the majority of the race until an unfortunate restart after the second safety car saw him spin out and finish the race in 8th. This left the field open for Alam to storm into first place, followed by Michael S. and series guest Andrew Haryanto racing for Zheng Tong Auto.
Tan made a strong attempt to break into the top three, however both Michael S. and Haryanto were refusing to budge, shutting the door on every attempted pass Tan made. The action to his rear gave Alam a significant amount of breathing space, and by the time he crossed the finish line in first he was a comfortable five seconds ahead of second place finisher Michael S., while Haryanto claimed third place. OpenRoad Racing’s Marcel Tjia was awarded the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Medal for his performance in the race.
Ragginger locks in a third victory to make Carrera Cup Asia history in Round 8
With the starting grid for Round 8 determined by the fastest laps in Round 6, the final race of this thrilling, historic weekend started with Hamprecht in pole, Cui in P2 and Lu in P3. As soon as the starting lights extinguished, Ragginger wasted no time in moving up from his P5 start, jostling his way into second place before the end of lap 1. Hamprecht and Ragginger pulled away from the pack, leaving the first half of Round 8 a two-horse race between the German in first and the Austrian in second. van der Drift lead the mid-grid scrum, with Lu, Cui and Bamber snapping at his heels. Ragginger piled on the pressure as Hamprecht stoically defended his narrow lead, closing the door on several strong attempts until Ragginger finally found his opening and slipped into first. Now it was Hamprecht’s turn to apply the pressure, driving right up against Ragginger’s break lights.
The battle for first gave van der Drift room to pull ahead of the scrum and join Ragginger and Hamprecht, making it a threeway struggle out in front. The final few laps saw some of the most intense and exciting racing of the whole season, as the three leads pulled out all the stops, with each driver both attacking and defending at various points. With all three putting in a flawless performance, there was very little to separate them.
Ragginger eventually came out victorious, making Carrera Cup Asia history as the first ever driver to achieve a perfect triple race weekend. van der Drift made up for his bad luck in the previous two races by claiming second, while Hamprecht took third.
“It’s so close in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, so tight” said an elated Ragginger at the after-race press conference “You make one mistake and it’s all over. My car was fantastic this weekend, my team has done incredible work. So my job was to finish the race with no mistakes, and thankfully I managed to deliver.”
The Pro-Am starting grid saw Au in pole, followed by Tjia and True Vision Motorsports Thailand’s Suttiluck Buncharoen. Tan began the race in an unenviable 7th place, however the 2015 Pro-Am champion was determined to make his mark on the weekend after a disappointing first two races. Tan swiftly moved up the pack, passing six of his fellow drivers to sit behind Alam, who himself had moved up into first place. The top trio was rounded out by Buncharoen, who started in third and maintained his position while the other drivers shifted around him.
Tan managed to take first place from Alam, before further disaster befell Alam as he spun out on lap 10, ending his race. This gave space for Au to move up into second, however by this point Tan had developed an almost nine second lead ahead of second place. The race finished with Tan gleefully claiming his first podium of the weekend and solidifying his position at the top of the championship table.
Au gained second place for the second time this weekend, while Buncharoen earned his first podium of the season. John Shen was once again awarded the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Medal.
A tie at the top of the Dealer Trophy leaderboard
Owing to Ragginger’s stunning perfect race weekend, Porsche Holding have jumped to the top of the Dealer Trophy leaderboard to join Team StarChase in joint first place. Hamprecht, driving for Team StarChase, had the overall second best performance of the weekend, and now both teams are sitting pretty with 126 points each. Will Bamber and Team Giltrap Group have slipped behind slightly, and now trail the top two by 17 points with a grand total of 111 points. Chris van der Drift may have had a disappointing weekend for Kamlung Racing, however, keen Carrera Cup Asia watchers know all too well that the three time champion should never be discounted, as his undeniable skill on the track could see him make up the 24 point difference between Kamlung and the top two throughout the back half of the season. With almost half the season left to go, there’s still plenty of scope for more movement in the Dealer Trophy standings.