Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia newcomer and winner of Round 1, Malaysian Rizal Ramli, is looking to continue his winning streak when the series returns to his “home” circuit, Sepang International Circuit on May 7 to 9.
Ramli, competing with the Malaysian Crest Jaseri Racing Team, made a huge impression during his first outing in the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, a support race to last month’s Petronas Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix, by taking pole position, leading the race from start to finish, and opening up a margin of more than two seconds over the next-placed series registered driver, reigning champion Charles Kwan of Hong Kong. Kwan meanwhile was busy doing battle with eventual 2nd placed man Sven Herberger of Germany. Although ultimately unable to pass him, Kwan thrilled the crowds with a superb display of driving skill which has become the signature of the Team Infineon-Novellus champion.
The next two rounds could tell a different story, however, now that the hugely talented field of sports car pilots from across the Asian region has the measure of Ramli. The 27-year-old former British Formula 3 Championship driver can expect some tough challenges as the series returns to the searing temperatures of the 5.6km Sepang track for two, 10-lap races.
“I am under no illusion that the competition this year is not going to be fierce, especially from experienced drivers like Charles Kwan, Charoensukhawatana Nattavude and Matthew Marsh,” said Ramli. “I expect they will give me a hard time, but I’m a fighter and I will fight to the end.”
Fuspeed Racing’s Nattavude had a somewhat disappointing qualifying session for Round 1, starting from 6th on the grid. However the Thai veteran recovered to finish the race in 4th, just missing out on a podium place but putting him third on the championship leaderboard going into the next rounds.
A-Ha Racing’s Matthew Marsh can also be expected to be on a charge after a frustrating opening round saw him qualify 2nd fastest behind pole-man Ramli, but finish the race in fifth
Newcomers to the Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia this season acquitted themselves well in their maiden outings, with Team Jebsen’s Darryl O’Young coming in just one position short of his goal of 5th in his first race. The Chinese youngster is making a quick adjustment from single seater racing to sports cars and could well be one to watch this season.
Sri Lankan Dilantha Malagamuwa, racing for IWS Holdings, also did well in his first outing to finish 8th, with Ringo Chong of Singapore coming in 10th for Eurokars Racing.
The newly-introduced Class B, for experienced amateur and gentlemen drivers, proved a tremendous success providing a second thrilling battle within the field. Philip Ma of Hong Kong heads the class championship standings going in to the next rounds, with another series newcomer, Toshihide Hashimura of Japan hot on his heels.
Class B has already attracted one newcomer, Scott Miau. Born in the USA, the 33-year-old lives in Taipei and has competed in Supercar and endurance events in Taiwan and at China’s Zhuhai International Circuit. Miau will contest the remainder of the season from the Sepang rounds onwards.
One element all the drivers will have to contend with again next month is the scorching heat at Malaysia’s state-of-the-art racing facility which adds to the physical demands on the competitors. Said Ramli, “Believe it or not, the temperature in the car when I was on the grid was nearing 50 degrees Celsius – it was so hot! Thank goodness I had a “cool suit” which helps cool down my body temperature. Without it I don’t think I would last the whole distance. When your body overheats you become tired, and when you become tired your concentration and reflexes become slow.”
However hot the temperatures inside the cars, it won’t cool the drivers’ determination to pick up valuable championship points and all will be raring to go come May 9. “The Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car is no slouch; it is a serious racing machine that is quick, reliable and fun to drive,” said Ramli. “Down the pit straight in Sepang at speeds in excess of 240km/h you only brake right after the 100 metre marker, which gives you only a couple of tenths of a second to decelerate to about 70km/h to go through the first and second turn – amazing, isn’t it?” Little doubt the Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia field will once again have spectators on their feet.
Report from 28/04/2004
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