AP: Shanghai round 8 qualifying notes

A-Ha Racing's Matthew Marsh took his third successive pole position in as many rounds today by clocking the fastest time in qualifying for Round 8 of the Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia, the most high-profile race of the season at China's first...

A-Ha Racing's Matthew Marsh took his third successive pole position in as many rounds today by clocking the fastest time in qualifying for Round 8 of the Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia, the most high-profile race of the season at China's first ever Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend.

The 35-year-old Briton was overjoyed to have made his mark in the ultra-competitive field, where the fastest drivers were separated by just over one tenth of a second: "I came here after the wins in Beijing (where he took two wins) convinced I can win races. People may have thought those victories were just a flash in the pan, but today I've proved to myself it was not." He set his fastest time of 2:12.136 on his fourth lap of the 5.4km state-of-the-art Shanghai International Circuit and then sat out the rest of the 45 minute session.

Malaysian star and former European Formula 3 driver, Rizal Ramli was second quickest for the Crest Jaseri Racing Team and is looking forward to racing in anger on the world's most impressive new race track. "It's an interesting circuit," he said. "It's a good combination and very fast -- the fast corners definitely separate the men from the boys! If I can start well tomorrow -- be first into the first corner -- I'm confident I can control the pace."

Mobil1 VIP driver Alex Yoong admitted to being disappointed at not taking the top spot after a coming together with Siu Tit Lung in the early stages of the session which he fully admitted was his fault. After the incident, things just didn't come together for the former Formula 1 driver. "I'm a bit disappointed as I could have had pole today," he said. "But I'm looking forward to the race and there are plenty of overtaking opportunities on this track."

Fourth fastest was newly-crowed British GT Champion Jonathan Cocke of GruppeM Racing, who had run second for much of the session. The Porsche Asia Pacific VIP driver is making his Asian debut this weekend and has had to quickly acclimatise to a new circuit, the considerable heat, and a new car which requires a radically different driving style to his regular racing vehicle. Despite adjusting quickly, Cocker was not entirely satisfied: "It was so close -- just one tenth of a second. It's a little frustrating." The likeable and talented 18-year-old was not surprised by the levels of competition in Asia, saying: "I didn't come here feeling complacent and expect to win easily, although I got in the car for the first time and was right on the pace straight away." With the qualifying times so close, the race result is wide open and Cocker is in no doubt about his plans for Sunday's 10 lap race: "I want to win!" he said.

Series leader Nattavude Charoensukhawatana of Thailand was fifth quickest for Fuspeed Racing, ahead of Team Jebsen's Darryl O'Young.

Quickest in Class B was Hong Kong's Philip Ma, with class leader Max Chen close behind. Chen had an exciting outing, but not necessarily for the right reasons, spinning several times. "Lots of people told me the best way to take the first and second turns, so I was trying out the best line," he said. The combination of trial and error, the only way to tackle a brand new race track, as well as new brake pads fitted just before the session, meant qualifying was less than easy. However, Chen was not disappointed to be behind Ma: "The times were so close. I'm really looking forward to some entertaining dicing with Philip tomorrow."

After a close-run qualifying session, there is no doubt that Round 8 of the Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia will be one to remember as the series plays its part in motor racing history -- China's first Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend -- and every single driver is up to the task.

Supporting the series 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 high technology tyres, supplied by series partner Michelin, that have consistently improved 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 in 2001.

The Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia runs as part of the Asian Festival of Speed, organised by Malaysian-based Motorsport Asia Limited.


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Series Porsche
Drivers Alex Yoong , Rizal Ramli , Darryl O'Young , Matthew Marsh , Philip Ma Chingh Yeung , Nattavude Charoensukhawatana