AP: Malaysia round one Sunday report

Convincing Win for Hong Kong's Marsh A-Ha Racing's Matthew Marsh got his campaign to defend his Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia title off to literally a flying start today, winning the opening round with an impressive margin of almost ...

Convincing Win for Hong Kong's Marsh

A-Ha Racing's Matthew Marsh got his campaign to defend his Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia title off to literally a flying start today, winning the opening round with an impressive margin of almost three seconds in front of the Formula 1 fans at Malaysia's Sepang International Circuit.

However, there was drama even before the race began. Pole man and local hero, Rizal Ramli of Jaseri Racing was heartbroken after he was forced to abort the start just seconds before the off, having set the fastest time ever in a Porsche 911 GT3 machine on Malaysia's Sepang International Circuit the previous day. "I don't know what happened, but I couldn't engage first gear. It was five, maybe even four seconds before the start. I have to put this behind me now and look forward," said an emotional Ramli.

At the re-start, the race was shortened from 10 to nine laps of the 5.6km circuit.

For Marsh, the win in front of the Formula 1 crowd made up for his disappointment in Shanghai last year, when he crossed the line first but a penalty later cost him victory: "What I learned in Shanghai taught me a lesson. On the grid there I was in the wrong frame of mind - too aggressive. I was so lucky to learn a lesson and win the championship. This weekend, I was very fortunate to win obviously," he said, referring to the last-minute retirement of hot favourite Ramli.

It was a good day for Hong Kong drivers with Team Jebsen's Darryl O'Young taking second spot after a strong drive which saw him hold on to his position off the start during some frenzied driving amongst the field, and survive an incident which damaged his exhaust.

"It was tough for a while at the start, but I held them off and from there just put my head down and looked forward," said the 24-year-old. "It's a great start to our season!"

Third was Charoensukhawatana Nattavude of Thailand, giving his SCC Racing team a podium finish in their first ever race outside China. The seasoned professional was delighted to have been awarded the drive by SCC following the retirement of Fuspeed Racing's Adrian Fu at the end of last season. "I thought I would disappear from the series," he said, "But SCC has given me this opportunity which is tremendous. This result is great for the team."

Starting from 6th on the grid, Nattavude was involved in the frenzied action off the start, but his skill and experience ensured he emerged unscathed: "At Turn 1, I took the inside. I didn't see what happened, but someone made contact and I saw water on my windscreen and then realized it wasn't from me! Later on I could see Danny getting closer and my temperature gauge was flashing so I had to ease off." The Thai made it through, however, to take the final podium spot.

British single seater ace and guest driver this weekend Danny Watts just missed out on a podium finish in his first outing in a Porsche since 2002. Watts finished fourth, just ahead of reigning British GT Champion Jonathan Cocker and, although his goal going in to the weekend was a top three finish, was pleased with his progress nonetheless: "I needed just one more corner!" he said. "I had a rocket of a start and made up a couple of places. I tried to conserve my tyres early on as I knew it would help me later. I was all over the back of Nattavude and had to keep watching out for Jonathan (Cocker) behind me. I really enjoyed the weekend and made massive progress throughout. A new car, a new circuit, and I've beaten drivers with tons more experience in this than me. I owe a huge 'thank you' to Porsche Asia Pacific and Noble Group for this great opportunity. I'd love to come back -- if I could be back tomorrow, I would."

It was a disappointing return to the series for Eurokars Racing's Nigel Albon. On the opening lap, Albon was tapped which put him into O'Young, damaging the radiator and putting a premature end to his race.

It was a highly successful weekend for yet another Hong Kong driver, Alain Li. In his first race in six years and inaugural competition in a Porsche, Li took victory in Class B and an impressive 10th overall. "I didn't have the best start, but tried to hold on to my position. The guys in front were a little too quick for me, but it makes me even happier that it's such a competitive field." However, Li would not be drawn on his Class B title aspirations: "Maybe it's a little too early to start eyeing the championship, but it's a good start. I really didn't expect this!"

Second in Class B was fellow Hong Kong driver Philip Ma, with Sontaya Kunplome, of Team Thailand, in 2nd and 3rd respectively.

In Class A, Marsh tops the points table followed O'Young, Nattavude, Cocker and the second Team Thailand driver, Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak. Li tops the Class B leaderboard followed by seasoned campaigner Ma, and series newcomers Kunplome and William E. Connor II.

The Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia returns to Malaysia's Sepang Circuit for Rounds 2 and 3 of the 11-Round series on May 14 and 15. This season the series will also visit Thailand, Beijing, South Korea, Shanghai - where it is once again a support race to a round of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship -- before the final round as part of the Macau Grand Prix weekend in November.

<pre> Round 1 Results

Pos No  Driver                          Cls     Entrant                         Time
1    1  Matthew MARSH (HKG)             A       A-Ha Racing                     20:16.079
2   88  Darryl O' YOUNG (HKG)           A       Team Jebsen                     +10.971
3   36  C. NATTAVUDE (THA)              A       SCC Racing Team                 +14.039
4   20  Danny WATTS* (GBR)              A       Porsche Asia Pacific            +14.303
5   38  Jonathan COCKER (GBR)           A       Jonathan Cocker                 +14.851
6   18  Vutthikorn INTHRAPHUVASAK (THA) A       Team Thailand                   +18.238
7   19  Sven HERBERGER* (GER)           A       Sven Herberger                  +19.033
8   83  Jerome HASLIN* (FRA)            A       Porsche Asia Pacific            +19.805
9   17  Nicklas KARLSSON* (SWE)         A       Porsche Motorsport Sweden       +29.765
10  11  Alain LI (HKG)                  B       Alain Li                        +36.959
11  63  Manit VRAVUT* (THA)             A       Porsche Asia Pacific            +42.677
12  98  Philip MA (HKG)                 B       P. Ma                           +52.258
13  28  Sontaya KUNPLOME (THA)          B       Team Thailand                   +94.582
14  21  Jak CHAMIKORN* (THA)            B       Porsche Asia Pacific            DNF
15  89  Nigel ALBON (GBR)               A       Eurokars Racing                 DNF
16   8  William E. CONNOR II (HKG)      B       William E. Connor II            DNF
17  55  Rizal Ashram RAMLI (MAS)        A       Jaseri Racing Team              DNS
18   6  Dilantha MALAGAMUWA (JPN)       A       A1 Racing                       DNF

*Non series registered.

Fastest Lap: Matthew Marsh/A-Ha Racing: 2:13.401 (Lap 2)

-pprplus-

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About this article
Series Porsche
Drivers Rizal Ramli , Jonathan Cocker , Charoensukhawatana Nattavude , Matthew Marsh , Danny Watts , Alain Li , Philip Ma Chingh Yeung