AP: Season preview

Porsche Carrera Cup Asia 2007 Season Preview Sterling Field Gears Up for Thrilling Season As it embarks on its fifth season with an official test on February 14 and 15 in Malaysia, the region's premier sportscar series has once...

Porsche Carrera Cup Asia 2007 Season Preview
Sterling Field Gears Up for Thrilling Season

As it embarks on its fifth season with an official test on February 14 and 15 in Malaysia, the region's premier sportscar series has once again surpassed itself with a fascinating line-up of exuberant newcomers and experienced professionals, all competing in the 997-based Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, the most powerful in history, which made its spectacular Asian debut last season.

The non-stop action right the way through the field which has become the hallmark of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia is thanks to the two-category system: Class A for professional racers and Class B, for non-professionals. Not only does the system provide unsurpassed on-track excitement for race fans, but the lure of joining the Class A ranks has proved a powerful incentive for former non-professionals, with several progressing through the ranks, as well as the field.

The Drivers

Since making its debut in 2003, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia has attracted leading drivers from far and wide such as Britain's youngest ever GT Champion Jonathan Cocker, who won the series in 2005, and fellow Britons Danny Watts and Simon Harrison. This year is no exception with exciting youngster Christian Jones, son of 1980 Formula One World Champion Alan Jones and an A1GP driver, racing for China's SCC team, and twice British GT Champion and Le Mans racer Tim Sugden competing with GruppeM Racing, joining the series for 2007.

Jones began racing karts at the age of 13, winning State and National Championships in his native Australia. He made a successful progression to cars, winning the 2004 Asian Formula 3 Championship at his first attempt. Jones' Porsche Carrera Cup Asia campaign will mark his sportscar debut.

Sugden began karting at 12, later becoming British Junior Champion. Success in single seaters and touring cars followed before a change of direction in 1997 saw him switch to sports car racing, clinching the British GT Championship for the first time that year. The following year he finished 4th overall in the Le Mans 24 hour race as well as taking his second British GT Championship, and has since continued his stellar sportscar career, with successes in the ALMS series, the Daytona 24 Hours, and the FIA GT Championship.

In 2005, Sugden won the Porsche Cup, awarded annually by Porsche to the most successful driver of customer owned Porsche cars worldwide. It is testament to the high regard in which the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia is held worldwide that Sugden has chosen to make a move East with the series.

Also limbering up for the new season during the test days at Malaysia's Sepang International Circuit will be Japanese ace Keita Sawa of Cref Motorsports. Making his debut at the start of 2006, Sawa vowed to take the championship title. However, such is the intensity of competition in the series, that two disastrous non points-scoring outings at the start of the season put pay to his title aspirations, although never before had the series seen a more delighted driver when he took a superb second place in the season-closer at the Macau Grand Prix. Finishing third overall last year with seven podium finishes in 12 rounds, Sawa is definitely a hot prospect for the championship this time out.

Luxury mobile handset maker Vertu made its debut last year with Briton Nigel Albon and the dynamic pairing returns for a second shot at the title this year. Albon never realized his full potential last season, and will be out to set the record straight this time, having missed taking the title by a whisker in 2003.

Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak is all set for his fifth season with the series. The Thai regularly displays flashes of sheer brilliance on track, but his true talent was impeded last year as he struggled to get to grips with the new car. Vutthikorn is the protege of one of Asia's all-time racing heroes, Charoensukhawatana Nattavude, and no driver could wish for a more experienced coach.

Sri Lankan Dilantha Malagamuwa is back for his fourth Porsche Carrera Cup Asia season. With a diverse racing background, which includes motorcycles, single seaters and sportscar endurance racing, the Team Hayashi driver is a popular figure in the paddock.

Hong Kong's Alain Li was promoted to Class A last season following a spectacular return to racing in 2005 after a six year absence which saw him dominate the Class B championship.

This season Li, racing this year with Sunseeker, will be glad to leave behind him the ill luck which dogged him last year, compounded by the fact he was forced to miss four races due to other commitments. Li's quiet resolve and understated determination make him the dark horse of the field.

As Li had done in 2005, last year newcomer to both the race tracks of Asia and the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, Australian Geoff Morgan, took the Class B category by storm, winning the championship and finishing 10th overall. His superb performance means that this year Morgan is promoted to Class A.

Although Class B may be for non-professional racers, the on-track action is just as thrilling and the competition certainly no less intense. After Morgan, who took the title with a 19-point margin, the next four drivers were separated by a mere seven points after 12 rounds.

For this season, the field is headed by Hong Kong's Philip Ma who finished third overall in 2006, followed by Ricardo Proost who made an excellent full-time debut last year finishing just two points behind Ma in the category and crossing the line 9th overall at the Macau Grand Prix.

Experienced sports and historic racer, Hong Kong's William "Chip" Connor returns for a third season, while Australian Peter Boylan has signed up for his second year with the series.

Returning after an absence of two years are Hong Kong brothers Siu Yuk Lung and Siu Tit Lung, who will be sharing driving duties this year. Also making a welcome return to the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia is Malaysia's Tunku Hammam who finished 9th overall in the series' debut year as Nigel Albon's partner.

Newcomer Melvin Choo of Singapore will be joining the Class B field. Choo successfully contested the inaugural JPM Integra Cup Malaysia last year in the Gentleman Championship category.

Guest driver for the test days will be another Singaporean, newcomer Ian Mao, who has competed in one makes series, as well as the famous Merdeka 12 hour race.

The Calendar The 12-round, 2007 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia gets underway as an official support race to the 2007 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix on April 8. Two further rounds will be held at Kuala Lumpur's Sepang International Circuit on May 6, before the series returns to Indonesia's Sentul Circuit on July 15, having made a hugely successful debut appearance there last year.

The second half of the season will be held entirely in China. Two rounds are provisionally scheduled at the new race track in Chengdu on September 9, while the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia will be a support race for a second round of the FIA Formula One World Championship in Shanghai on October 7. Zhuhai International Circuit in the burgeoning Pearl River Delta will host two races on November 4, before the series reaches its thrilling climax as part of the Macau Grand Prix on November 18.

Supporting the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia are two of the most recognised names in international motorsport, Mobil1 and Michelin. Mobil and Porsche have been partners since 1996. Close co-operation in research and development has led to every new Porsche engine being filled with Mobil1 high-performance lubricant. Porsche Carrera Cup Asia drivers also have the advantage of racing on cutting-edge tyres supplied by series partner Michelin. The consistent performance and leading technology of Michelin tyres constantly improve the performance of many teams in international motorsport. The partnership between Michelin and the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia has emerged from a worldwide agreement signed between Porsche AG and the Michelin group.

-credit: afos

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About this article
Series Porsche
Drivers Alan Jones , Keita Sawa , Dilantha Malagamuwa , Tim Sugden , Peter Boylan , Geoff Morgan , Simon Harrison , Jonathan Cocker , Charoensukhawatana Nattavude , Christian Jones , Melvin Choo , Danny Watts , Alain Li , Philip Ma