Opening Victories for Sugden and Connor GruppeM Racing's Tim Sugden and Hong Kong racer William "Chip" Connor took victories in Class A and B respectively in the opening round of the 2007 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia today, held over 10 laps of the...
Opening Victories for Sugden and Connor
GruppeM Racing's Tim Sugden and Hong Kong racer William "Chip" Connor took victories in Class A and B respectively in the opening round of the 2007 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia today, held over 10 laps of the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.
By the chequered flag, Sugden had managed to pull out a gap of more than 1 ½ seconds from KK Motor's driver Marchy Lee, who had started from pole position, while SCC Racing's Christian Jones took the final podium place in Class A having fended off a spirited attack from Japanese ace Keita Sawa of Cref Motorsport.
Connor led the Class B pack after a series of unfortunate mishaps struck Malaysia's Tunku Hammam, who had made a brilliant series comeback yesterday taking pole position. Second in the category was Australian Peter Boylan who drove a stupendous race having started from the back of the grid after his car failed to start for the formation lap. Another Hong Kong driver, Philip Ma took the final podium place, having successfully pressured Ricardo Proost into an error.
Off the grid pole-sitter Lee and Sugden were neck and neck, however the Briton stole the march on the Hong Kong racer into the first turn and held the lead to the flag. Team Vertu's Nigel Albon made a blinding start from 7th on the grid, charging around the outside of the pack to slot in 4th, brushing Jones on the way before slotting in behind him.
Sawa was on a mission and a beautifully executed move on Albon put him up to 4th, and he began piling the pressure on Jones ahead of him. Jones held firm, however, refusing to let the experienced Japanese ace break his concentration. The gap between the pair was just over half a second at the flag.
Sugden was delighted to have taken victory on his Asian debut, particularly from his first standing start in more than almost 12 years. He was impressed with Lee's performance, not easing off at all until the final couple of laps: "He's good, really good," he said.
"Everyone had warned me about him. I knew if I gave him a sniff (of a chance of a win) it would spur him on. I was lucky that my start was good, just a little bit better than his (Lee's). I must say, I think pole should be on the inside. If it had been the other way, I wouldn't have passed him. That was good for me today, but will be bad tomorrow when I'm on pole. But I'm delighted with the win."
Marchy was equally pleased with a podium finish in his first race in the 997-based Porsche 911 GT3 Cup: "It was my first race in the car and I'm new, so I wasn't going to risk turning in at the first turn. I'm still learning the car and I know I need more confidence, but I was quick and I'm very pleased with a second place this time."
A podium finish in his first ever Porsche race was a superb result for Jones, but even more impressive was his ability to keep it all together under such intense pressure from Sawa: "It was hard work with him on my tail. I survived it, which is good. Nigel touched my rear bumper at the start -- let's say he "kissed it"! But I know I need to find some more speed."
Alain Lee, racing with Sunseeker Asia this season, proved he is right on the pace this year, having kept up with Albon before a clutch problem dashed his hopes this time out. However, Li was philosophical, noting: "I just need some luck now!"
In Class B, Hammam got away well and was leading the pack when he was hit and spun off. After a pit stop and a new pair of tyres, and he returned to the fray but the collision had affected the car's alignment, and his race was over almost immediately. Connor took over the lead and held steady to the flag, while Boylan was like a man possessed in his determination to make the podium.
Connor was delighted to begin the season with a win: "The track was incredibly slippery. I gained a few seconds' lead and then drove a fairly conservative race as another place wouldn't have made a difference to the Class B championship standings," he said.
Boylan's car had stubbornly refused to start prior to the formation lap, despite a new battery. Eventually, his mechanics got the show on the road, but the delay meant he started from the back: "From that point, I had the bit between my teeth," he said. "I knew I should not be there. I had got my times into the 2:15's, which I hadn't done before, so was really fired up. I worked my way through the field and made it on to the podium!"
Round 2 of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia will be held tomorrow (Sunday) at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, just prior to the 2007 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix.