AP: Series Shanghai preview

Brilliant Field Gears Up for Season Opener A field crammed with talent, skill, determination and experience will line up for the start of the new Porsche Carrera Cup Asia season, which gets underway in support of the 2009 Formula 1 Chinese...

Brilliant Field Gears Up for Season Opener

A field crammed with talent, skill, determination and experience will line up for the start of the new Porsche Carrera Cup Asia season, which gets underway in support of the 2009 Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix on April 17-19.

Reigning, former and potential new champions join new faces for the first two races of the seven-meeting season, which will see the series race in Malaysia, right across China, Indonesia and Singapore.

Expected to mount a strong title defense right from the start is reigning Champion Darryl O'Young. The Team Jebsen ace has pledged to break his own record and take a third championship title for his team and for Hong Kong this year: "I am pleased to extend my cooperation with Team Jebsen to our sixth season. I have grown with them from a rookie in the championship all the way to two-time champion, so I am grateful for their continued support of my career. I hope to bring Hong Kong another championship crown!"

However, O'Young knows he'll have his work cut out: "With all top three contenders for last years' title coming back, it will be another close-run championship. There are some new drivers so there may well be some surprises amongst the top five in some races. We will just have to wait and see."

Just ten points separated the top three in Class A, the category for professional racers, following the nail-biting season finale in Bahrain last season, and O'Young's forecast of a tough season ahead looks to be accurate.

Having seen his Porsche Carrera Cup Asia crown snatched from him last year, Le Mans and FIA GT regular Tim Sugden of Britain is back with a vengeance with GruppeM Racing. Also returning to set the record straight is former Nurburgring and Daytona 24 Hours endurance winner, Porsche Supercup Vice-Champion and Porsche Carrera Cup Germany Champion Christian Menzel of Germany. Menzel made his Asian debut with Team StarChase last season, and will be keen to give his Nanjing, China team the Champion's trophy having lost out on the title by just two points.

However, there will be plenty of other drivers on the grid more than capable of giving last year's contenders a run for their money, not least of which will be Sri Lankan Dilantha Malagamuwa of Dilango Racing, Singaporean Mok Weng Sun of Team PCS Racing, and fellow countryman Ringo Chong of Team Kangshun.

Dark horse entries include young guns Rodolfo Avila, 22, of Macau, who made a highly successful switch to sports cars from single seaters last season, and 24-year-old Dutch Indonesian Danny Chu who developed in leaps and bounds during his debut last season.

The Class B category, for non-professional drivers, is also strong this season with Corum ThunderAsia Racing's Melvin Choo who, like Menzel, has a score to settle having missed out on the title last year to Malaysia's Tunku Hamman at the final hurdle. Joining Choo will be on-track adversaries Jacob & Co Racing driver Philip Ma of Hong Kong, who has contested every one of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia seasons since its launch in 2003, Team PCS Racing's David Lai of Singapore, and Lai's team mate Yuey Tan who joins the series full time this year.

Making their series debuts in Shanghai will be newcomers Mak Hing Tak of Hong Kong, who will contest the entire season with his OMAK Team, and guest driver Augusto Perfetti of Italy with Seminole Racing.

The curtain-raising races in Shanghai will also ignite the fierce competition between the Chinese drivers and teams. Seven Chinese teams take to the grid in Shanghai: Pan-Chinese Team Jebsen; OMAK Team and Jacob & Co racing out of Hong Kong; Qingdao's GruppeM Racing; Team StarChase of Shanghai; Wuhan's Team Kangshun; and the Asia Racing Team of Macau. In addition, drivers Darryl O'Young, Mak Hing Tak and Philip Ma all hail from Hong Kong, while Rodolfo Avila represents Macau, and Jeffrey Lee is from Chinese Taipei.

China is now the third largest market for Porsche, with 7,615 cars sold there last year. April's race meeting in Shanghai is the first of four meetings in China this season, signifying Porsche's commitment to a strong and growing market.

Supporting the Porsche 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 led to every new Porsche engine being filled with Mobil1 high-performance lubricant. Porsche 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

-credit: carreracup

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Series Porsche
Drivers Dilantha Malagamuwa , Tim Sugden , Darryl O'Young , Jeffrey Lee , Rodolfo Avila , Christian Menzel , Melvin Choo , Philip Ma Chingh Yeung , Ringo Chong , Mok Weng Sun