PICC Team StarChase driver Alexandre Imperatori completed a maximum points haul this weekend by taking victory in Round 8 of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia after Team Eagle – Jiejun & Junbaojie driver Martin Ragginger was handed a 30-second time penalty for overtaking under a yellow flag.
Ragginger crossed the line first after an 11-lap thriller at the 5.54km Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia. The Austrian had fought off an unrelenting attack from point leader Imperatori to lead Round 8 from 7th on the grid.
Third over the line, but second in the results, was Team Jebsen’s Rodolfo Avila of Macau, with just over half a second separating the top three at the finish.
Asia Racing Team’s Huang Chu Han of China took the Class B win, with Modena Motorsports’ Wayne Shen, who had started from pole having finished Round 7 in 8th, joining him on the podium along with OpenRoad Racing’s Francis Tjia.
Imperatori further strengthens his hold in the championship leaderboard, although the title is still wide open. The Shanghai-based Swiss talent leads from reigning champion Keita Sawa of the LKM Racing Team by 34 points, with Avila and Budweiser Team StarChase driver Tung Ho-Pin tied in third. In Class B, Shen has increased his lead over second-placed Egidio Perfetti to 32 points.
For Imperatori, who started from 8th on the grid having won Round 7, the epic battle was further evidence that the new reverse grid regulation is proving a masterstroke: “It’s offering a great show for spectators. Martin and I both had a great start, and it was quite amazing to be up in the top five after the first couple of corners. At one stage I had to go on the grass to avoid contact with Martin, but I kept the championship points in mind so was pushing hard but trying to avoid contact. Martin made no mistakes and stayed on the line as he should, and I couldn’t find a way past.”
Avila was thrilled to be back on the podium, having maximized his new tyres: “I started well, but released the clutch too quickly so lost some places with wheelspin. Then the tyres came in, and I made some places but was held up for a while. Once I made it past (Keita) Sawa, I decided to join the party. I knew if Martin or Alex made a mistake, I was right there.”
In Class B, winner Huang, who had finished 3rd in the earlier round, was already looking ahead to the next races: “This time I was more cautious with my tyres, but this is the start of many more wins to come!”
Starting alongside Shen on the front row was Team Yongda Dongfang driver Benjamin Rouget, who shot off the grid like lightning at the start, building up a gap of more than 1.5 seconds by the close of the opening lap. As the Frenchman set about pulling away at the front, behind him LKM Racing Team’s Sawa was on a charge, passing Ragginger to grab 2nd. Any thoughts the Austrian had of reclaiming the position had to be put hold as Imperatori pounced, piling on the pressure and briefly giving Sawa the smallest of breathing spaces.
Right on the limit, Imperatori dramatically ran wide and onto the grass, allowing Budweiser Team StarChase driver Tung Ho-Pin to get by briefly. Avila tried but failed to follow Tung, re-maining behind Imperatori, as Ragginger took the chase to Sawa ahead. Rouget, meanwhile, had increased his lead to more than two seconds by the end of Lap 3, but it was to be short lived.
In searing heat, Ragginger held off a sustained and fierce attack from Imperatori while keeping Sawa firmly in his sights, plunging past the Japanese driver on Lap 5, and hunting down Rouget. Imperatori was not far behind though, and was back on Ragginger’s bumper almost immediately. Avila, too, was on a charge, passing first Tung then Sawa, and suddenly looming large in Imperatori’s mirrors.
By the end of Lap 7, the pack had reeled in Rouget, with Ragginger and Imperatori getting by and Avila joining the epic four-car battle, the Macau racer getting by the Frenchman. Sawa, too, was still in the fight, also passing Rouget in the penultimate lap.
The last-lap thriller saw Imperatori giving it everything he had, headlights ablaze, Ragginger holding his line superbly, and Avila glued to the Swiss driver’s bumper awaiting an error. Following an inquiry by race Stewards, Ragginger was handed the penalty which demoted him 9th in the order.
Making a comeback in the local motorsport scene in Malaysia was Tan Sri Azman Yahya, guest VIP driver for this leg of the race, representing Team Sime Darby Auto Performance. After almost 8 years appearing in a competitive race, Tan Sri Azman Yahya finished off placing number 18.
As it thunders towards the brilliant climax to its 10th season, the series is back in action later this month with the Porsche SC Global Carrera Cup Asia – Singapore 2012 on the Marina Bay street circuit as part of the blue riband FORMULA 1 SINGTEL SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX from September 21-23.
Round 8 Results
1 99 Alexandre IMPERATORI (SUI) PICC Team StarChase (CHN) 24:32.6
2 20 Rodolfo AVILA (MAC) Team Jebsen (HKG) 0.548
3 1 Keita SAWA (JPN) LKM Racing Team (HKG) 1.627
4 8 Benjamin ROUGET (FRA) Team Yongda Dongfang (CHN) 4.25
5 98 TUNG Ho Pin (CHN) Budweiser Team StarChase (CHN) 7.567
6 81 HUANG Chu Han (CHN) B Asia Racing Team (CHN) 23.283
7 37 Davide RIZZO (CHN) BBT (CHN) 24.066
8 78 ZHANG Da Sheng (CHN) Team Basetex (CHN) 27.921
9 86 Martin RAGGINGER (AUT) Team Eagle – Jiejun & Junbaojie (CHN) 29.666
10 16 Wayne SHEN (HKG) B Modena Motorsports (HKG) 37.652
11 21 Francis TJIA (HKG) B OpenRoad Racing (HKG) 38.336
12 6 ZHENG Ting (CHN) B BBT (CHN) 45.739
13 55 *Marc CINI (AUS) B PS Racing (FIN) +1:01.233
14 96 LI Chao (CHN) B Asia Racing Team (CHN) +1:01.824
15 25 Christian CHIA (CAN) B OpenRoad By ART Motorsports (HKG) +1:06.095
16 83 Dr. MA Chi Min (HKG) B Dr. Ma Chi Min (HKG) +1:11.747
17 11 Ringo CHONG (SIN) Team Kangshun (CHN) +1:12.202
18 3 *Azman YAHYA (MAS) B Team Sime Darby Auto Performance (MAS) +1:19.048
19 28 John SHEN (HKG) B Modena Motorsports (HKG) +1:19.927
20 66 Rose TAN (CHN) Team C&D (CHN) +1:30.467
DNF 5 Yuey TAN (SIN) B Dorr McElrea Racing (SIN) –
DNF 27 Adrian Henry D’SILVA (MAS) B Nexus Racing (MAS) –
DNF 88 Egidio PERFETTI (SUI) B Seminole Racing Team (USA) –
DNF 9 WANG Jian Wei (CHN) Team BetterLife (CHN) –
DNF 68 MAK Hing Tak (HKG) B OMAK (HKG) –
DNF 23 Paul TRESIDDER (AUS) B Hewlett Motorsport (AUS) –
DNS 95 *Kevin CHEN (USA) Asia Racing Team (CHN) –
DNS 31 *Eric LO (HKG) PS Racing (FIN) –
words: Porsche pix: Jeo, Dice, Hazwan Najims and Geg