AP: Rounds two, three Malaysia preview

Fireworks on the Cards for Malaysian Thriller Fireworks are definitely on the cards this weekend for Rounds 2 and 3 of the region's premier sportscar series, the Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia, as the highly-competitive field lines up for two...

Fireworks on the Cards for Malaysian Thriller

Fireworks are definitely on the cards this weekend for Rounds 2 and 3 of the region's premier sportscar series, the Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia, as the highly-competitive field lines up for two 20-lap races on the shortened version of Sepang International Circuit (SIC).

A-Ha Racing's Matthew Marsh got his title defence off to a brilliant start at the season opener, held as part of the Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend in March, with a convincing win, but faced with such intense competition, a repeat performance may not be easy.

In a dramatic opening round, local hero Rizal Ramli had set a phenomenal qualifying lap to take pole position - the fastest lap ever at SIC in a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car - but was sensationally forced to abort the start just seconds before the off. The 28-year-old Jaseri Racing Team driver was crushed by the disappointment, but is ready to bounce back.

"To be perfectly honest, I was devastated and it's still in my mind wondering what would have happened if I had started the race, but I have to try and forget about it and look forward to the next round. As usual, I will give my very best in every race," he said.

Ramli describes his personality as laid back and relaxed but, once the race is on and the adrenalin rush kicks in, it's serious and he's determined to do well for his Malaysian team as well as himself at this final visit to his home circuit in 2005.

However, victory in the upcoming rounds of Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia is wide open and Hong Kong youngster Darryl O'Young is on great form this season having already bagged a podium finish for his Team Jebsen, as has seasoned campaigner and hard-charging driver Charoensukhawatana Nattavude of China's SCC Racing Team, making its international debut with the series this year.

Add to the fray reigning British GT Champion Jonathan Cocker who, at just 18 is the youngest competitor in the field, Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak flying the flag for Team Thailand, and Eurokars Racing's Nigel Albon, who will be looking to put a win between him and the disappointment of his DNF in the opening round, and the prediction of on-track fireworks looks almost a certainty.

Gene Lee of Korea makes his series debut this weekend, entered in Class A. Lee is in the Porsche Asia Pacific car for the races, and his attendance at the official test day in February obviously made an impression on the talented Korean!

Class B, for gentlemen drivers, is no less competitive and newcomer to the series Alain Li of Hong Kong has proved an exciting addition. Sixth overall on the championship leaderboard and leading Class B after one round, Li returned to racing this season after a six year hiatus and was immediately on the pace. As in Class A however, it is early days and the likes of Philip Ma, also of Hong Kong, Vutthikorn's Team Thailand partner, Sontaya Kunplome and William "Chip" Conner, will all have Li firmly in their sights this weekend.

Another factor which is bound the shake things up this weekend is the shortened version of SIC on which the races will be run. The official test day and opening round were both held on the full circuit, and the unfamiliar shortened track will be new to all the drivers.

And if the inevitable high-octane thrills and spills were not exciting enough for fans of all things automotive, the awesome new 997-based Porsche 911 GT3 Cup will be unveiled at the SIC in Malaysia this weekend. The new car made its first ever appearance in Asia at the Shanghai Motorshow last month, and its presence at SIC will give Malaysian fans a chance to see the impressive new model up close. The new car will make its debut in the series next season, and there has already been intense interest from teams and competitors in the car, of which only 18 units will be available.

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 to 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.

About Infineon

Infineon Technologies AG, Munich, Germany, offers semiconductor and system solutions for automotive, industrial and multimarket sectors, for applications in communication, as well as memory products. With a global presence, Infineon operates through its subsidiaries in the US from San Jose, CA, in the Asia-Pacific region from Singapore and in

Japan from Tokyo. In fiscal year 2004 (ending September), the company achieved sales of Euro 7.19 billion with about 35,600 employees worldwide. Infineon is listed on the DAX index of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and on the New York Stock Exchange (ticker symbol: IFX). Further information is available at www.infineon.com.

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About this article
Series Porsche
Drivers Rizal Ramli , Darryl O'Young , Jonathan Cocker , Sontaya Kunplome , Matthew Marsh , Alain Li , Philip Ma Chingh Yeung