AP: Series Zhuhai qualifying report

No-Nonsense Jones Masterful in Zhuhai Australia's Christian Jones was on scorching form today, taking pole position for Round 5 of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia. Jones showed his mastery of the 4.3km Zhuhai International Circuit early on in...

No-Nonsense Jones Masterful in Zhuhai

Australia's Christian Jones was on scorching form today, taking pole position for Round 5 of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia. Jones showed his mastery of the 4.3km Zhuhai International Circuit early on in the 30-minute qualifying session, clocking a lap of 1:39.607, a time which was not to be bettered.

Jones, who is looking for backing to complete the rest of the season, proved once again he is a force to be reckoned with in just his second season of GT racing. The team was forced to leave its engineer behind in Australia, but this was no hindrance to the on-form 28-year-old who lies third in the Championship standings: "It was perfect!" he said. "The set up was good, but I haven't driven at all since (the last rounds in) Shanghai, so I was a bit worried about my driving. Last season we won two races in a day in Chengdu. I don't want to jinx it, but I hope to repeat that tomorrow."

Starting the first of tomorrow's two races tomorrow alongside Jones will be GruppeM Racing's Tim Sugden, who came within 0.026 of a second of Jones' time. The Briton was frustrated as he struggled to judge braking distances: "The car was good enough for pole, but unfortunately the driver wasn't!" he said. In the closing minutes of the session, it all came together for the experienced Sugden, although he couldn't better Jones' time.

On the second row of the grid will be the Hong Kong duo of Darryl O'Young of Team Jebsen and Team BetterLife driver Marchy Lee.

Lee's session was dramatically interrupted mid-way when he was erroneously pulled in to Parc Ferme by track marshals. Not only did the interruption break his concentration, it also lost him valuable track time. After he was released, and pitted for a tyre change, he had time for just one more lap before the chequered flag. "We work so hard, it's a real shame," said a disappointed Lee. "It was a mistake on their part, but I lost three or four laps. It's not a problem where I am on the grid, but it was unnecessary."

The top six drivers were separated by less than a second, with Championship leader Christian Menzel of Team StarChase fifth quickest, ahead of SC Global Racing's Matthew Marsh.

Menzel, who has a nine-point lead in the standings from O'Young, is new to the Zhuhai track: "I was disappointed because the gear cut sensor was broken. That is one point why I lost time. But for tomorrow I'm very optimistic, and I'm happy to have the chance to fight a little bit." With such a strong field, and four drivers willing to give no quarter in front of him on the grid, he will have his work cut out in tomorrow's race.

Marsh, competing with series newcomers SC Global Racing, believes the team is finding its feet in this, its first season. The 2004 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Champion said: "To be half a second off the series leader is a big step forward. Patrick (de Groot) has quickly understood what his driver needs, and is giving me a fabulous car."

Class B points leader going in to Round 5, Melvin Choo of ThunderAsia Racing, took pole in the category ahead of Malaysia's Tunku Hammam, and Philip Ma of Hong Kong.

Said Choo: "I'm a bit disappointed because I didn't get a clear lap, and I actually did my fastest lap in traffic. My knowledge of this circuit helps me a lot." Hammam's session was brought to an abrupt end when he spun off, but not before he had clocked the second- fastest Class B time: "I braked too late and locked up at turn one, so I was in the gravel. But I'll do my best to beat Melvin tomorrow!" The Malaysian is second in the Class B standings, 16 points behind Choo.

Ma, like Choo, is hoping his experience on this circuit will help him tomorrow: "I was stuck in traffic in the beginning. I came in and changed tyres and then did my best time."

In searing temperatures, fitness and stamina are crucial, with the majority of drivers choosing not to wear cool suits for the session. Said O'Young: "I elected not to use mine as I saved 7 0x00bd kilos in weight. The heat didn't hinder me though -- I'm very fit!"

-credit: porsche.com/carreracup

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Series Porsche
Drivers Tim Sugden , Matthew Marsh , Christian Jones , Christian Menzel , Marchy Lee , Melvin Choo , Philip Ma Chingh Yeung