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Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia Round 1 Qualifying Sepang International Circuit, MalaysiaNo-Nonsense Malaysian Newcomer Grabs Pole for Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia Season Opener

Malaysian Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia newcomer, 27-year-old Rizal Ramli put in a perfect lap during qualifying today clocking a time of 2:13.790 to take pole position for tomorrow’s 10 lap race at Sepang International Circuit. However, the session highlighted the competitiveness of the field, with less than a second separating the top four drivers.

A popular result with the local crowds, the Crest Jaseri Racing Team driver’s performance was even more remarkable given the limited amount of time the Ramli has spent getting acquainted with his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup machine. Said a genuinely surprised Ramli, who competed in the British Formula 3 series last year: “I took a risk this year as I’ve never raced one-to-one with these drivers,” he said. “Before yesterday’s practice sessions, I had only spent half an hour in the car, so I’m very surprised as my result today.”

Briton Matthew Marsh also had a good session, clocking the second fastest time of the day with 2:14.198. Marsh, who is competing as a series-registered driver for the first time this year, was pleased: “Yesterday my driving wasn’t that great, but we worked on the set up and as I drove out of the pits today, the car felt great. My out lap was brilliant and I actually had to slow down as I was catching up the other drivers,” he said. There was also an element of relief that he had got off to a good start for the season: “My sponsor, A-Ha, was in the grandstand today, so being in second position is good news for all of us!”

Title holder Charles Kwan of Team Infineon-Novellus was third quickest, but couldn’t quite top Ramli and Marsh’s times. Not entirely comfortable with the set up of the car, he will make changes before the start of tomorrow’s race, so could well have some surprises up his sleeve

“All the drivers are so close, the start is going to be very important,” said Kwan. “Even if you’re on pole, you have to be quick of the start of these races.”

Sven Herberger of Germany was fourth quickest. The professional instructor is more used to endurance racing in Europe, but the extreme temperatures of Malaysia did nothing to slow him. Briton Brian Saunders, making his return to Asia and to competitive racing this weekend, clocked the fifth quickest time, followed by Thailand’s Charoensukhawatana Nattavude. Nattavude, a strong title contender for much of last season, was surprisingly off the pace, but pole man Ramli is under no illusions as to where the competition will be in the race tomorrow. “I know I have to watch out for Charles and Natt!” he said.

Round 1 of the series is set to take up where the tremendous 2003 season left off, but with an even more competitive field and will be run over 10 laps of Sepang’s 5.543km at 13:00 tomorrow (March 21).

March 20, 2004

Report from 20/03/2004