AP: Round one Sepang race report

Menzel Storms to Victory in Opening Round Germany's Christian Menzel and China's Team StarChase took victory in the opening round of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia today, an official support race to the Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix.

Menzel Storms to Victory in Opening Round

Germany's Christian Menzel and China's Team StarChase took victory in the opening round of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia today, an official support race to the Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix. Second was Marchy Lee, racing for Team BetterLife in his first full season with the series, ahead of fellow Hong Kong driver Darryl O'Young of Team Jebsen.

Defending Champion Tim Sugden of GruppeM Racing had pushed Menzel to the limit throughout the race, while at the same time holding off a determined Lee, but a puncture in the final lap saw him limp across the line in 5th.

In Class B, Malaysia's Tunku Hammam took the win ahead of Australian newcomer Paul Tresidder and Hong Kong's Philip Ma.

Menzel, who is making his Asian racing debut this weekend, was pleased with his win but admitted it had not been an easy task: "It was absolutely not easy at all! It was a very difficult race. My speed was a bit slow -- I was losing one or two 10ths each lap. Tim was faster than me and he really pushed. I drove on the limit, and Tim was very unlucky to have the puncture. It was a very nice race."

Hammam was delighted to take the first Class B win of the season, particularly as he had managed to dodge an opening lap incident: "I stayed out of trouble! After that I saw Alain (Li/Sunseeker Asia) ahead of me, but there was no point in chasing him as he is Class A." This season, Class B points will be awarded on a separate scale, rather than on overall finishing position.

Like Menzel, Lee was sorry for Sugden's misfortune, but believes he is capable of pushing even harder: "They were locking up a lot, and maybe that's why Tim picked up a puncture, I don't know. It's the first race of the year, so there was no point in taking unnecessary risks. There's a long way to go." O'Young was also pleased to have picked up 16 points for 3rd, having paid the price for a brake bias adjustment prior to the race. That resulted in a spin early on but he made a quick recovery and charged back through the field.

Off the start, Sugden and Menzel were two abreast in seconds, with the latter gaining the advantage at the first turn. Behind them, drama struck the Class B field with a racing incident at turn four involving PCS Racing's Mok Weng Sun, Ringo Chong of Team Kangshun and Melvin Choo of ThunderAsia Racing. Hammam then took the lead ahead of Tresidder and Ma, and crossed the line with an impressive margin.

Meanwhile, at the front of the pack, O'Young, who had started from 4th on the grid, got by Lee to go 3rd, before his spin put him back down to 7th (albeit not for long), behind Christian Jones of Team Opes Prime, who was only just able to race after suffering with a virus, and SC Global Racing's Matthew Marsh. As O'Young climbed back up through the field, he set the fastest lap of the race.

Menzel, Sugden and Lee were tightly packed together, with Sugden reeling the German back in every time he tried to pull out a gap, and the determined Hong Konger keeping both well within his sights. The gap between the leading pair was down to 0.172 seconds at one stage. O'Young had climbed back up to 4th by the middle of the 10-lap race, but was never able to challenge the leading trio.

With spectators on the edge of their seats, the final lap spelled disaster for Sugden and, having put up a tremendous fight for the lead for almost the entire 10 laps, the Briton did well to nurse his car across the line at all.

After his first outing with the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, Menzel was full of praise for both the series and his fellow drivers: "It is clear this is a professional series, both in terms of the car preparation and the drivers. The first five are not little boys. If you sent Tim or Marchy to the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, they could be in the top ten."

Round 2 of the Porsche Carrera Cup will be held tomorrow prior to the start of the Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix.

-credit: porsche.com/carreracup

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