AP: Pre-season news 2008-02-04

Strongest Field Ever for Asia's Premier Sportscar Series The Porsche Carrera Cup Asia has announced the strongest line-up in its history for its sixth season as the region's premier sportscar series, and arguably one of the best ever seen in...

Strongest Field Ever for Asia's Premier Sportscar Series

The Porsche Carrera Cup Asia has announced the strongest line-up in its history for its sixth season as the region's premier sportscar series, and arguably one of the best ever seen in Asia. With entries yet to close, eighteen of the finest racers in the category from Asia, the Pacific and Europe have already signed up for the 11-round, four-country season which includes participation in no fewer than three rounds of the FIA Formula One World Championship.

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

Reigning Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Champion, two-time British GT Champion, FIA GT and Le Mans racer Tim Sugden of Britain returns to defend his title with GruppeM Racing and the Porsche Centre Qingdao. Sugden made his Asian debut with the series last year and clinched the championship after an eventful season which almost saw sportscar rookie Christian Jones grab the title in the Grand Finale at the Macau Grand Prix in November.

Jones, son of former Formula 1 World Champion Alan, wasted no time getting to grips with his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car having never raced a Porsche before. On the podium right from the opening round, the Australian recorded 11 top three finishes in 13 races. He's back for a second shot at the title, once again with the backing of Opes Prime.

Japan's Keita Sawa returns with Cref Motorsport determined to clinch the title which eluded him for two seasons, despite some breathtaking on-track performances. He finished second last season, just 14 points behind Sugden, and third in 2006.

Two of Hong Kong's leading racers, Darryl O'Young of Team Jebsen, champion in 2006, and Marchy Lee, who will contest a full season for the first time in 2008 racing for Team Betterlife, are both entered. O'Young competed in the final rounds of the series last year after completing his debut season in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup in Europe, the first Carrera Cup Asia graduate to do so, while Lee took six podium finishes (including two wins in Zhuhai) in the seven rounds he contested last year.

Also competing in Class A, for professional drivers, are Japan-based Sri Lankan Dilantha Malagamuwa and Hong Kong's Alain Li.

Malagamuwa finished a creditable seventh overall last year having shown his consistency. Li, who joined the series after a seven-year hiatus in 2005 and clinched the Class B title, for non-professional racers, in convincing style, once again proved he has the speed to be at the front of the field.

Another exciting newcomer to the series in Class A is Dutch-Indonesian racer Danny Chu. Chu competed successfully in the Dutch SuperCar Challenge last year, as well as in DNRT (Dutch National Racing Team) events.

Singapore's Ringo Chong makes a return after an absence of three seasons, having finished seventh overall in 2004, this time racing with Team Kangshun.

The masterstroke of the two categories, where non-professional racers compete alongside the professionals, providing invaluable experience, is never more in evidence than this year where the field is almost equally divided into the two.

Heading up the Class B entry is last year's winner PCS Racing's Mok Weng Sun of Singapore who made a spectacular series debut in the vastly competitive category. With drivers from the city-state no doubt eager to make their mark at the first ever Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix, where the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia will be an official support race, Mok is joined in Class B by fellow countryman Melvin Choo who will contest his second season with ThunderAsia Racing.

Also back in 2008 are season campaigner Philip Ma of Hong Kong and Tunku Hammam of Malaysia.

The category includes no fewer than five newcomers: Brothers Greg and Gerald Teo and David Lai Tak Sen, all with PCS Racing, and Australians Paul Tresidder and Greg Ward.

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

The Porsche Carrera Cup Asia 2008 will see the field contest 11 rounds in four countries, all racing identical 2008-spec Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars. The series will support three rounds of the FIA Formula One World Championship: The 2008 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix in Kuala Lumpur in March; the brand new 2008 Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix in September; and the 2008 Formula 1 Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai in October.

However, before the racing gets underway, an official test will be held at Malaysia's Sepang International Circuit followed by a spectacular season launch in Singapore in March.

-credit: pcca

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Series Porsche
Drivers Keita Sawa , Dilantha Malagamuwa , Tim Sugden , Darryl O'Young , Christian Jones , Paul Tresidder , Marchy Lee , Melvin Choo , Alain Li , Philip Ma Chingh Yeung , Ringo Chong