Hong Kong's Le Mans team unveil car
Hong Kong's history making Le Mans team are ready for their first taste of action after unveiling their racing car in the SAR today.
Noble Group-GruppeM Racing took the covers off the Porsche GT3 RSR - which features the Bauhinia symbol emblazoned on the roof - at an official launch ceremony outside 1/5 club in Star Street, Wanchai.
Co-drivers Matthew Marsh and Darryl O'Young posed for pictures with the car which they hope will carry them to glory in the world's greatest endurance race, the Le Mans 24 Hours, in June next year.
"This is a fantastic moment for SAR motorsport," said Marsh. "We have brought the car here to show Hong Kong people that we truly mean business. The Bauhinia flag will be flying proudly at Le Mans next year - and we intend to prove we belong there."
O'Young added: "It's a magnificent racing machine and I can't wait to get behind the wheel. We're going testing in the UK next week and our first race at Monza is just three weeks away. We're ready to roll."
The two drivers fielded questions at a launch press conference in 1/5 attended by dozens of media before stepping outside to unwrap the car.
The launch was rounded off by a glamorous VIP cocktail party at 1/5 yesterday evening attended by more than 200 people including sponsors, supporters and celebrity fans.
Marsh and O'Young also revealed that Hong Kong fans would have the chance to watch them in action later this year - in the China round of the FIA GT Championship. The 11-race series for GT cars, which is staged across Europe and Asia, visits Zhuhai on October 23 and Marsh said Noble Group-GruppeM Racing would "almost certainly" be there.
"Our other four races this year are all in Europe, so it would be tremendous to compete in a top-class event on Hong Kong's doorstep," he said. "We're finalising arrangements to take part and it would be fantastic if local fans could turn out in numbers to support us."
The road to Le Mans begins on July 10 at Monza, Italy, when the team will compete in a 1,000-km, six-hour event that is part of the Le Mans Endurance Series (LMES). They will compete in further LMES races at Silverstone in August, Nurburgring in September and Istanbul in November, interspersed with the Zhuhai date.
After a winter break, Marsh and O'Young will take the car to Florida next March for the USA's most high-profile endurance race, the 12 Hours of Sebring. A good result in that race, backed up by consistent performances in the LMES, will be enough to secure an invitation to the Le Mans 24 Hours in June 2006.
The two drivers will head to the UK early next week to begin testing at Snetterton, ironically the circuit where Marsh - the reigning Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia champion - began his racing career as a teenager in the mid-1980s.
Briton Marsh, 36, a Hong Kong resident for 14 years, has spent the past year piecing together corporate sponsorship for the ambitious project. It will be the first time that a car owned and sponsored by SAR companies and piloted by Hong Kong drivers has gone wheel to wheel with the world's best at Le Mans.
The project has been made possible by the support and enthusiasm of two Hong Kong companies - Noble Group and the William E Connor Group - and GruppeM Racing, the UK-based outfit that is one of only two teams worldwide to carry Porsche "factory supported" status.
Another piece in the jigsaw was fitted last month with the announcement that Canadian-Chinese driver O'Young, 25, had joined the team. Born in Vancouver to Hong Kong parents, O'Young came "home" to the SAR 18 months ago to begin competing in the Carrera Cup.
O'Young added: "We have the car, we have the driving expertise, we have the technical support and we have the sponsorship package. This is a team with 'made in Hong Kong' stamped all over it. Now, it's time to race, and we aim to give the people of Hong Kong something to be proud of."