AP: Asia series 2008 season preview

Porsche Carrera Cup Asia 2008 - Bigger, Better...and even Faster! The region's premier sportscar series, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia is poised to unleash its strongest field yet as the sixth season gets underway next week. Eighteen exceptional...

Porsche Carrera Cup Asia 2008 - Bigger, Better...and even Faster!

The region's premier sportscar series, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia is poised to unleash its strongest field yet as the sixth season gets underway next week. Eighteen exceptional sportscar drivers from across Asia, the Pacific and Europe, all driving identical 2008-spec, Michelin-shod Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, will take to the Sepang International Circuit for the first two races of the 11-round season.

The new car, built by Porsche Motorsport in Weissach, Germany, boasts a 420bhp engine, an increase of 20bhp over last season's model, additional torque, and an upgraded gearbox. Design modifications which, combined with the engine upgrades, will further enhance performance ensuring even faster and more exciting racing this season, include the bumper panel from the 911 GT3 road car at the rear.

This year's entry is nothing short of spectacular, and almost equally divided into Class A and Class B entries meaning two epic season-long battles are on the cards.

Class A, for professional racers, includes no fewer than three former champions: Reigning Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Champion, two-time British GT Champion, FIA GT and Le Mans racer Tim Sugden of Britain, who returns to defend his title with GruppeM Racing; 2006 winner Darryl O'Young of Hong Kong, who became the series' first graduate to the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup last year; and 2004 Champion Matthew Marsh of Hong Kong. Marsh is mounting his challenge to take a second Porsche Carrera Cup Asia title with the new SC Global Racing, with backing from Singaporean luxury real estate company SC Global Developments.

Joining the trio are a number of series newcomers, plus several drivers who were strong championship contenders last season.

One driver who had the title in his grasp in the final round of last season was Australian Christian Jones. In one of the most dramatic moments in the series' five-year history, a minute error on Macau's unforgiving street circuit cost Jones, son of former Formula 1 World Champion Alan, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia title. It was a crushing end to his superb debut season of Porsche racing, which saw 11 top three finishes in 13 races. He's back for a second shot at the title, once again with the support of Opes Prime, and was lightning quick during last month's official test.

Malaysian Super Series Champion Sri Lankan Dilantha Malagamuwa finished a creditable seventh overall last year is back, as is Hong Kong's Alain Li with his Sunseeker Asia entry. Li joined the series in 2005 after a seven-year hiatus and clinched the Class B title that year, his first season racing a Porsche, in convincing style.

Following his impressive results during a partial season last year, Hong Kong's Marchy Lee returns to the series full time in 2008 with Team BetterLife. Also returning is Singapore's Ringo Chong, racing with Team Kangshun. Chong last competed in the series in 2004 when he finished seventh overall.

Making his Asian debut this year is one of the world's most talented sportscar drivers, German Christian Menzel, racing with Team StarChase. Menzel has competed in the prestigious Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup for the last four seasons, finishing fifth overall last year, he won the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany in 2005, the 24 Hours of N0x00fcrburgring in 1998, and the Daytona 24 Hours GT category in 2001 in a Porsche 911 GT3 RS.

Another exciting newcomer to Class A is Dutch-Indonesian youngster Danny Chu. Chu began racing karts at the age of 10, and originally dreamed of becoming a rally driver before he had his first taste of circuit racing and changed course. He successfully competed in the Dutch SuperCar Challenge last year, as well as in DNRT (Dutch National Racing Team) events, and his Porsche Carrera Cup Asia debut marks his first full season of motorsport.

The Class B category enables non-professional racers compete alongside the Class A drivers, providing both invaluable experience and enormous incentive.

Heading up the Class B entry is reigning Champion PCS Racing's Mok Weng Sun of Malaysia. Racing for Singapore, Mok made an impressive series debut in the vastly competitive category last year. With drivers from the city-state no doubt eager to make their mark at the first ever Singapore Formula One Grand Prix, where the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia will be an official support race, Mok is joined at PCS Racing by Singaporeans Greg Teo, who will share driving duties with brother Gerald, and David Lai, with ThunderAsia Racing's Melvin Choo back for a second season.

Flying the flag for Malaysia is Tunku Hammam, who made a welcome return to the series last season. Also back in 2008 is seasoned campaigner Philip Ma of Hong Kong.

Representing Australia are Paul Tresidder and Greg Ward. Tresidder was eighth overall in the 2007 Australian GT Championship and third in the Porsche Drivers Challenge, while Ward has contested two partial seasons in the championship and one in the NSW Production Sports series.

The provisional 2008 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia calendar is as exciting as its driver line-up and includes stops at Asia's finest race tracks. Following next weekend's opening rounds, the series next travels to China's "Paris of the East", Shanghai next month, before moving to the burgeoning Pearl River Delta region and Zhuhai International Circuit for the Pan Delta Super Racing Festival in June. In July, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia returns to Indonesia's Sentul International Circuit as part of the Asian Festival of Speed weekend.

In September the series will be part of motor racing history as an official support race at the ground-breaking 2008 Formula 10x2122 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix weekend at the Marina Bay street circuit. Not only will the drivers be competing at the most talked-about motorsport meeting of the year, but the new circuit will provide a completely level playing field for seasoned campaigners and newcomers alike.

The Porsche Carrera Cup Asia then travels on to the third Formula One event on the calendar as an official support race to the 2008 Formula 10x2122 Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai. The season-closing grand finale is once again scheduled for the Macau Grand Prix in November.

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: porsche.com/carreracup

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Series Porsche
Drivers Dilantha Malagamuwa , Tim Sugden , Darryl O'Young , Matthew Marsh , Christian Jones , Paul Tresidder , Christian Menzel , Marchy Lee , Melvin Choo , Philip Ma Chingh Yeung , Ringo Chong