HONG KONG'S LE MANS CAR MAKES TRACK DEBUT

Hong Kong's Le Mans car has seen its first taste of action -- and drivers Matthew Marsh and Darryl O'Young are delighted with the results.

The Noble Group-GruppeM Racing duo tested their Porsche GT3 RSR for the first time at the UK's Snetterton circuit in preparation for their opening race at Monza, Italy in just over a week.

The testing session came just five days after the team was officially launched in a blaze of publicity in Hong Kong.

"Last week's launch was the first tangible evidence of all the hard work, and the positive reaction from all the supporters was very pleasing," said Marsh. "Today, though, was huge. Before today there was always an element of doubt. What would it be like to drive an RSR? Could we handle it? Now we know the answers. All is well -- we can do this!

"We were within a second of the times set by the other car run by GruppeM [driven by Jonathan Cocker and Tim Sugden]. This is Darryl's first trip to Europe, yet he adapted very well to a circuit he had never seen before and ended the day two tenths of a second faster than me. He has shown we made the correct choice of co-driver."

Noble Group-GruppeM Racing are attempting to become the first Hong Kong team to compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours, the world's greatest endurance race. The team will take part in four endurance races in Europe, one at Zhuhai and another in Florida in an effort to be invited to Le Mans in June 2006.

Wednesday's session marked the car's first outing in bauhinia colours after it arrived from the USA in late May and was stripped and rebuilt at GruppeM's UK workshop.

Marsh and O'Young drove the car in four 50-minute sessions while Sugden, a hugely experienced driver, also took a couple of turns behind the wheel to give them feedback.

Team engineer Steve "Doc" Bunkhall was happy with the day's events. "It was a very satisfactory start," he said. "The car was reliable and the drivers performed well."

The car was taken back to GruppeM's workshop in Hemel Hempstead, north of London, to be prepared for departure to Italy on Monday.

The Monza race on July 10 is part of the Le Mans Endurance Series, a season of six-hour races around Europe designed to help teams and drivers get in shape for Le Mans.

O'Young added: "The day went as we planned. We both got a good feel for the car and we're going away happy and excited about Monza."

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