AP: Zhuhia rounds 10, 11 preview

Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Title Race for Zhuhai Debut Tension is mounting as the region's premier sportscar series, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, prepares to make its debut at the Zhuhai International Circuit for the penultimate meeting of the...

Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Title Race for Zhuhai Debut

Tension is mounting as the region's premier sportscar series, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, prepares to make its debut at the Zhuhai International Circuit for the penultimate meeting of the 2006 season. Three drivers are in contention to take the Class A honours, and the championship could be decided this weekend.

At the top of the leaderboard going in to Rounds 10 and 11 is Team Jebsen's Darryl O'Young, competing in his third season. This year has seen the coming of age of the talented 26-year-old Hong Kong driver, with five victories to his name so far earning him a 12 point advantage at the top of the points table. Two victories in Zhuhai would secure him the 2006 overall title even before the final round at the Macau Grand Prix next month.

However O'Young's arch rival, the vastly-experienced Japanese racer Shinichi Yamaji, comes to Zhuhai on a winning streak having won the last three races in commanding style. The Tomo Racing ace, who is making his Porsche Carrera Cup Asia debut this year, is a seasoned Japan GT Championship campaigner, has been a class winner in the Macau Grand Prix Guia Race, and in 2001 competed in the Daytona 24 Hour Race and the Suzuka 1000km where he finished 3rd in his class.

Still very much in contention with three rounds - and a potential top score of 60 points - to go is 2004 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion Matthew Marsh. The Hong Kong driver's 2006 campaign looked to be in jeopardy at the start of the season after sponsorship glitches, but Gates GR Asia came to the rescue and Marsh has repaid their support with five podium finishes and a determination to stay in the running for the title.

Now out of the running for top honours but overdue for a race win is Cref Motorsports' Keita Sawa, another series debutante this season. The Japanese driver has so far recorded four podium finishes but, so crucial is very single point in this hotly-contested series, that a DNF and a points deduction in Malaysia at the start of the year put pay to his title aspirations.

Chinese team SCC Racing's Charoensukhawatana Nattavude, having been replaced for the Shanghai round earlier this month by Rose Tan, stands 12 points behind Sawa, followed by Yamaji's Tomo Racing team mate Kazuyuki Nishizawa who suffered a set back when he failed to score any points in Indonesia in July.

Team Vertu made its series debut this year with British driver Nigel Albon. In a season of dramatic ups and downs, Albon has provided some of the most thrilling on-track action of the year, and is another driver overdue for a win.

Affable Sri Lankan Dilantha Malagamuwa, racing with Team Hayashi, has had a consistent season, scoring points at every round and with his best result so far coming at Beijing's demanding Goldenport Circuit in June.

Nattavude's SCC Racing team mate and fellow Thai Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak, like several of the drivers in the field, took time getting to grips with the new features of the 997-based Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car which was introduced this year, but has recently returned to the sharp end of the field.

In Class B, Australian Geoff Morgan blasted onto the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia scene two races into the current season, and tops the leaderboard in the category, for non-professional racers, with a margin of eight points over fellow countryman and newcomer Rusty French. Morgan is more than ready to graduate to Class A next year, but has a title to clinch first which certainly won't be easy.

Currently third and fourth in the Class B standings are Hong Kong drivers William "Chip" Connor and Philip Ma, while Ricardo Proost, racing a full season this year for the first time, is just three points adrift of Ma.

The stage is set for a thrilling battle over two races on the Zhuhai International Circuit that could just decide the 2006 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion.

-credit: porsche.asia

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Series Porsche
Drivers Shinichi Yamaji , Kazuyuki Nishizawa , Keita Sawa , Dilantha Malagamuwa , Geoff Morgan , Darryl O'Young , Matthew Marsh , Rusty French , Philip Ma Chingh Yeung , Nattavude Charoensukhawatana