The Porsche Carrera Cup Asia will be in action this weekend at Japan’s picturesque and challenging Fuji International Speedway for Rounds 5&6 of the 14-race 2015 season. The 28-strong field of international driver joins their Porsche Carrera Cup Japan counterparts on the race programme, further strengthening the Porsche motorsport ties in the region following a successful debut there in 2014.
Returning to the series in Japan is Martin Ragginger of Team Porsche Holding, absent from Korea last month while on duty at the legendary Nürburgring 24 Hours where he and his team mates, amongst them 2012 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion Alexandre Imperatori, took a podium finish in their class in a Porsche 997 GT3 R. Having missed out on two opportunities to add to his points tally, Ragginger now lies joint sixth on the leaderboard along with Budweiser Team Absolute Racing’s Tung Ho-Pin and Team Porsche Korea guest driver for Rounds 3&4, Myung Gil Choi.
Also back with the series for the Japan rounds are Christian Chia, who joins brother Francis Tjia, fourth in Class B, and Michael S. on the OpenRoad Racing team. Racing for the first time this season will be American Henri Richard of Silicon Tech Racing LLP, while standing in for Kenneth Lau for the second time this year will be popular driver Samson Chan with Arrows Racing.
On the podium in three of the four last races, memorably opening the season with an outright victory, Clearwater Racing’s Craig Baird leads the charge to Japan with an 11-point advantage over fellow New Zealander and series newcomer, Chris van der Drift. van der Drift, a former International Formula Masters Champion and GP2, A1GP and Superleague Formula driver, races with Kamlung Racing, a Porsche dealer team entered by the KLM Group.
A long-time supporter of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, the Hong Kong-based KLM Group has automotive brand operations in China, Hong Kong, Macau and the Middle East, and includes in its impressive portfolio the Porsche Centre Shenzhen Nanshan.
Following the phenomenal success of Baird and van der Drift’s fellow countryman Earl Bamber, who in just two years was propelled from the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia ranks to a full Porsche Motorsport LMP1 factory driver, both Baird and van der Drift are showing once again the extraordinary wealth of motorsport talent a country with a population of approximately 4.5 million produces.
Third in the chase for the overall championship title is Team Yonda’s Ro Charlz Skyangel. The 25-year-old Singapore driver made his Porsche Carrera Cup Asia debut last season and continues to impress with his increasing pace and consistency amongst the highly-experienced field. Skyangel leads series newcomer, 17-year-old Nico Menzel of PICC Team StarChase, by three points, while Team Jebsen’s Rodolfo Avila of Macau lies fifth on the leaderboard.
The points situation is even tighter in the highly-competitive Class B category for non-professional drivers, where 2012 champion Wayne Shen of Modena Motorsports leads Avila’s Team Jebsen team mate, Yuey Tan of Singapore, by a single point. Just 17 points covers the top six drivers, and fans can expect impressive comebacks from the likes of 100 PLUS Racing Team’s Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak of Thailand, who with two DNFs so far this season has had more than his share of bad luck, and Michael S., fifth in class in Round 2 but with a DNF in the last round dropping him down the leaderboard.
The 4.5km Fuji International Speedway, host to a round of the FIA WEC, is a firm favourite with all the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia drivers who have raced there. Its location in the foothills of the stunning Mount Fuji and its taxing combination of a lightning-quick 1.5km straight on one side, and tight corners on the other, requires both brains and courage to conquer. In addition to the challenges the track layout presents, changeable weather conditions can see grip change quickly and radically.
While Bamber took both overall victories in Fuji last year, his protégé Alif Hamdan of Malaysia became only the second Class B driver to stand on the overall Porsche Carrera Cup Asia podium in the series’ history after a stunning second place finish behind his mentor. Hamdan, this year contesting the overall title having clinched the Class B championship in 2014, currently lies ninth on the leaderboard but will be relishing the opportunity to return to the track he mastered so impressively on his debut.