Nexus Racing’s Earl Bamber continued his assault on the 2013 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia title, taking his fourth successive series victory, and strengthening his position at the top of the leaderboard. Resisting another formidable challenge from Team Eagle’s Martin Ragginger, Bamber led from pole to chequered flag on Inner Mongolia’s unforgiving 3.751km Ordos International Circuit to take victory in Round 7. Despite a spirited challenge, Ragginger had to settle for the runner-up spot for the second time this weekend.
Reigning champion Alexandre Imperatori of PICC Team StarChase made a return to the podium in third, ahead of Team C&D’s Zhang Zhiqiang who drove a storming race from the fifth row of the grid and spectacularly overtook Darryl O’Young, racing in the VIP car for Porsche Centre Ordos this weekend, on the final lap.
In Class B, another superb run to the flag from Mentos Racing’s Egidio Perfetti took his winning streak to six victories in seven races. Asia Racing Team’s Li Chao also completed a perfect weekend with another podium finish and winning the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia medal for the second time in Ordos, while Dorr McElrea Racing’s Yuey Tan recovered brilliantly from a setback off the start to take third.
Bamber has a nine point advantage over Ragginger after seven races, with Team Jebsen’s Rodolfo Avila in third ahead of LKM Racing Team’s Keita Sawa. In Class B, Perfetti’s has a 42 point lead from Li Chao who is seven points ahead of Tan.
Having found a good setup in Zhuhai in May, Nexus Racing didn’t change Bamber’s Porsche 911 GT3 Cup ahead of the weekend, a decision which proved to be a winner. Despite leading the championship, Bamber is well aware the title is far from won: “It’s going to be like this all season, a tenth of a second, a few thousandths between us. We’re still learning and need some more experience, but it’s crucial we make no mistakes. The plan was to be in the top three, so frankly we’re surprising ourselves a little.”
A disappointed Ragginger, meanwhile, believed his woes began earlier in the weekend and, unlike Earl, he started the race on used tyres: “The car was good. The problem for us was qualifying. In the beginning I knew Earl would be quicker on new tyres, but knew that if I kept my pace I’d be able to push him. There was a bit of contact and I pushed hard, but in the end he got the win.”
While Imperatori was pleased to have found some more pace, he admitted the team had a way to go to catch the leaders: “I was hoping to use the new tyres to make some headway. Earl was on new tyres, but Martin was really quick on old ones. I tried at the start to go around the outside, but missed it. Being on the podium] is a positive step from yesterday, but it’s still not enough.”
For Tan, who made contact with Li Chao in Round 6, damaging his car, a podium finish this time out was a good end to the weekend. He had his work cut out though, and had to get right on the power to gain the places he lost at the start: “There was a lot going on off the start, and I almost came to a stop. I had to wait to see how to get back in the race as cars were flying past me. You don’t want to hit your mates. We didn’t get hit, and that’s great!”
As the lights went out for the start of the 14-lap race, the drama began from the off with a hard-charging Budweiser Kamlung Racing Tung Ho-Pin making contact with Team Jebsen’s Avila, the Macau driver spinning amongst the tightly-packed field and dropping down the order. Avila fought back, picking his way back up through the field to finish eighth.
Behind them, Team Yongda Dongfang’s Benjamin Rouget tangled with Basetex Racing’s Zhang Da Sheng, the Chinese driver sustaining damage and having to pit. Zhang rejoined the race, but limped over the line with a damaged car.
Lap two saw Zhang Zhiqiang challenging Rouget for fifth, while behind the pair, Tung had closed right up to LKM Racing Team’s Keita Sawa. Two laps later, the battling Zhang Zhiqiang and Rouget came together, the former continuing following the incident to eventually finish fourth, while the Frenchman dropped back, crossing the line in 13th. Tung briefly managed to find a way past Sawa on lap 5, but the Japanese ace quickly reclaimed the position and try as he might, Tung had to settle for seventh at the flag.
Back at the front, Ragginger managed to close right up to Bamber, reducing the margin to less than four tenths of a second at the end of lap 10, the Austrian piling on the pressure, lights flashing. The New Zealander was not rattled though, and held firm to cross the line 1.668 seconds ahead.
The region’s premier sportscar championship now heads to South Korea and Asia’s newest racetrack for Rounds 8 and 9 at the Autopia International Circuit at Inje in August. The 4.207km track opened earlier this year and will provide the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia field with a whole new set of challenges. Championship leader Bamber is relishing the prospect of a level playing field: “It’ll be new for everyone, so as newcomers to the series, we won’t be at any disadvantage. I can’t wait to get there!”