AP: Macau pre-race notes

Title Decider on the Unforgiving Streets of Macau The 2005 Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia title will be decided on Macau's legendary Guia street circuit on November 20, in what promises to be one of the most thrilling races ever. Just...

Title Decider on the Unforgiving Streets of Macau

The 2005 Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia title will be decided on Macau's legendary Guia street circuit on November 20, in what promises to be one of the most thrilling races ever.

Just 17 points separate the top four drivers on the leaderboard, and with 20 up for grabs for the win, the title could go to any one of them. Even more intriguingly, of the four, only championship leader and reigning British GT Champion Jonathan Cocker has no previous experience of the demanding -- and unforgiving -- Guia Circuit. In fact, it will be the first time he has ever raced on a street circuit. Cocker is well aware of the challenge facing him but he has shown throughout his first season in the series that he can quickly get to grips with any new circuit, however demanding.

Thailand's Charoensukhawatana Nattavude trails Cocker by a mere five points having led the championship from round two right up until the race in Shanghai last month. Nattavude has a wealth of experience at Macau having competed there for many years in touring cars and, more recently the Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia. Racing for Chinese outfit, SCC Racing, clinching the title on their home ground in Macau would be a fitting finale to a superb debut season for the team.

However, another man on a charge in Macau will be Team Jebsen's Darryl O'Young. The 25-year-old Hong Kong driver has notched up an impressive six podiums so far this season -- including two memorable wins in Beijing mid-season -- but will put any thought of titles and points behind him for the final round, concentrating only on victory in the race.

Defending champion A-Ha Racing's Matthew Marsh is another driver with considerable experience of the Guia Circuit, having competed there in single seater and saloon cars, as well as the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. Marsh began the year in dominant form with a win in the opening round, and comes to the final race of the season with a run of two podiums under his belt. He is still in the frame to take the title for a second time despite being 17 points adrift of Cocker, particularly when the nature of the Guia Circuit can be relied upon to produce plenty of unexpected additional drama!

Other series regulars who, although out of contention for the title, will have their sights firmly set on capturing the prestigious end-of-season win include Team Thailand's Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak who sadly had to miss two rounds in the summer which, so crucial is each and every point, was enough to take him out of championship contention despite a superbly impressive season. Sri Lanka's Dilantha Malagamuwa, currently sixth on the leaderboard, will line up in Macau as will Briton Nigel Albon, despite his massive shunt in practice in Shanghai last month. The talented Eurokars Racing driver, who last contested a full season in 2003 missing out on the title by just four points to Hong Kong racing legend Charles Kwan, will be looking to put the bad luck with which he has been plagued all season firmly behind him with a good result in Macau.

Class B, for non-professional racers, has provided plenty of thrills and spills all year and ensured the action continued throughout the field. Alain Li, who returned to racing at the start of the season after a break of several years and who had never before competed in a Porsche, has been the star of the Class all year. However, fellow Hong Kong driver William "Chip" Connor could still put pay to Li's title aspirations. Eleven points separate the two but, as all drivers are required to "drop" one score, Connor could still wrestle the championship title from Li.

Also lining up in Macau will be the ever-popular Philip Ma of Hong Kong, and Vutthikorn's Team Thailand team mate Sontaya Kunplome, competing in his first full season.

And if the field of skilled Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia drivers, each fighting for all-important points and victory were not enough to guarantee a truly memorable season climax, the addition of a fascinating line-up of guest drivers is sure to add even more to the tension on the grid.

Porsche Motorsport Sweden is fielding Nichlas Karlsson of Sweden who impressed in Shanghai last month, qualifying second fastest behind Cocker, and Jorma Vahanen of Finland.

GR Asia has a strong three-car line-up for Macau, including touring car specialist Richard Meins who made his Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia debut last month in Shanghai, but was hampered by a serious bout of food poisoning. Despite this, Meins still finished the race, and his considerable experience of the Macau street circuit will make him one to watch. Joining Meins is New Zealander Rob Wilson. As well as a varied and successful single seater and sportscar racing career, UK-based Wilson has earned a reputation as one of the world's premier driver coaches.

Also in the GR Asia squad is Hong Kong driver Nick Thomas. Thomas also brings a long and successful racing career to the team, most recently in this year's Merdeka Millenium 12 Hour race in Malaysia where he and fellow drivers Clive Bates and Joe Sevack were 3rd overall and 2nd in class in a Porsche 996. He was also the Open Class winner in this year's Classic Car Club of Hong Kong Club Championship, also in Malaysia, winning every race he finished bar one.

The 2005 Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia season began in March, where the opening round was a support race to the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Malaysia. The series then returned to Sepang International Circuit for a further two rounds in May, and on to Thailand's Bira Circuit in June. July saw the series attract more than 20,000 spectators to Beijing's Goldenport Circuit, before moving to South Korea and the Taebaek track in August. The penultimate round was the second supporting event to a round of the 2005 FIA Formula One World Championship, this time in Shanghai.

Since its inception at the start of 2003, the series has earned a substantial and enthusiastic fan and media following which continues to grow rapidly. Television coverage of the series is also impressive with pan-Asian broadcasts provided by leading satellite station StarSports, while more than 7,500 minutes of racing action from the Asian Festival of Speed (AFOS), under which the Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia runs, are being shown in 504 broadcasts across China this year, bringing the total global television audience for AFOS to 750 million homes.

Supporting the Porsche Infineon 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 Infineon 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 Infineon Carrera Cup Asia has emerged from a worldwide agreement signed between Porsche AG and the Michelin group

The Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia runs as part of the Asian Festival of Speed, organised by Malaysian-based Motorsport Asia Limited.


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Series Porsche
Drivers Dilantha Malagamuwa , Charles Kwan , Jonathan Cocker , Sontaya Kunplome , Matthew Marsh , Clive Bate , Richard Meins , Alain Li , Philip Ma Chingh Yeung , Nattavude Charoensukhawatana