Team Porsche Holding’s Martin Ragginger snatched victory from 2012 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion Alexandre Imperatori of PICC Team StarChase in the closing stages of a dramatic final lap to win Round 4 of the 2014 season.
Taking the final podium place after the 12-lap race was pole-sitter Rodolfo Avila of Team Jebsen who survived spirited challenges from both Ragginger and Imperatori, both of whom made contact, in atrocious weather conditions, to take home double digit championship points. Budweiser Team Absolute Racing’s Tung Ho-Pin was the top-finishing Chinese driver in fourth, ahead of talented Zhang Zhen Dong of Team Basetex who turns 22 next week.
Nexus Racing’s Alif Hamdan took his third Class B victory in four races, followed home by OpenRoad Racing’s Francis Tjia and Silicon Tech Racing LLC’s Henri Richard taking his maiden podium.
Ragginger leads the provisional overall points table, an earlier Steward’s decision involving defending champion Earl Bamber in Shanghai still pending an appeal, with a four point advantage from Imperatori in second and Tung in third. Bamber is absent this weekend as he begins his first full season in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup. Hamdan leads the charge for the Class B championship, 15 points head of Tjia with Dorr Havelock Racing’s Yuey Tan in third.
After a truly memorable race, which showcased the professionalism of the entire Porsche Carrera Cup Asia field, Ragginger was quick to praise both Imperatori and Avila: “The start was not so difficult behind the Safety Car, and it was a good first lap from Alex. I tried to take him for first but he was blocking. I was watching him and Rodolfo and it was nice to see them fighting from the behind, and I knew I had to be patient. After the Safety Car period I was pushing hard to get past Rodolfo and it was a close but fair fight, then on the final lap the fight started with Alex. It was a nice race for us.”
Imperatori was gracious in defeat, saying: “The start was really good and I attacked right away. The first two laps were great racing, really close, and I think I touched Rodolfo a little bit. I was pulling away so I wasn’t happy to see the Safety Car! I managed the restart pretty well but then I started to struggle with my tyres. Maybe I had taken too much from them at the beginning. Martin was closing and I was just trying to stay on the limit and close the door where I could. He got me with four corners to go, but it was a fair fight.”
Avila was pleased to have taken the final podium but frustrated by his performance: “I’m quite disappointed in myself as the team gave me a very good car. Maybe I was a bit more conservative, racing the car in the wet, in order to take the points but I hope tomorrow we can have some dry racing. Still, I’m very happy to be on the podium after three races.”
Hamdan, meanwhile, was as relieved as much as delighted with his Class B victory from pole, given the track conditions and visibility issues: “I was more or less blind going into Turn 1, and there were one or two moments where I almost ended up on the grass but I pulled it back, so I’m really lucky to keep my place.” Any thoughts Tjia may have had of challenging for the win were quickly put into perspective with a stark reminder of how just unforgiving the conditions were: “It was a good idea to start behind the Safety Car. At the start you just couldn’t see anything and I just tried to stay on track. I saw Alif run a little wide at Turn 1 and stepped on the gas, but the car immediately got sideways so I thought to myself, ‘OK, second is really not too bad!’”
Richard played it smart to secure his first podium, and was full of praise for his EKS Motorsport service team: “They did a great job and gave me a good car. After the restart, I played a little bit of chess as I had [Class B driver] Yuey Tan in front of me and overall driver Li Chao behind. So I let Li through and started pushing Yuey and he made a couple of mistakes and I was able to overtake.”
On a wet track and with severely limited visibility, the race began behind the Safety Car and Avila got away well when it pulled off at the start of Lap 3. Behind him, Ragginger, Imperatori, Zhang, Tung and Hamdan were in hot pursuit, thundering into Turn 1 in a spectacular cloud of spray. While it looked as though Ragginger was closing in fast on Avila, it was Imperatori who grabbed second from the Austrian with a brilliant overtaking maneuver.
Ragginger dived furiously inside and out, desperate to reclaim his position but Imperatori defended superbly and at the same time managed to close up to the race leader, pulling off a second skilful move, this time on Avila, to seize the lead.
Imperatori set about pulling away from the chasing pack as Avila defended from Ragginger behind, but his hard work was in vain when the Safety Car collected the field at the start of Lap 6 as cars which had fallen foul of the weather conditions were cleared.
At the restart on Lap 8, Imperatori got away well, with Ragginger all over the back of Avila from get go. Lights ablaze, the Austrian dived past to go second and set off to hunt down Imperatori, who had pulled out a 1.7 second advantage by the end of that lap. Reeling in his prey, Ragginger put in a gargantuan effort and had closed the gap to the leader to just 0.344 of a second as the field hurtled into the final lap. In an epic battle and superb example of sportscar racing at its finest, Ragginger tried and tried again to get by Imperatori while the Shanghai-based Swiss driver defended for all his worth. Just four corners from the flag, Ragginger made it stick at his third attempt, sweeping across the start/finish line to take victory.
After a sensational day of racing, Round 5 of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia promises to be equally thrilling as the ferociousness of the competition increases. Avila will have a second opportunity to convert his pole position into a win, with Ragginger lining up alongside and Zhang Zhen Dong and Imperatori making up the second row. However, with the rain clouds clearing, a dry track could be a game-changer for the outcome of the 12-lap spectacular.
Porsche Carrera Cup Asia – Round 4 Results
|1||86||Martin RAGGINGER (AUT)||Team Porsche Holding (CHN)||25:18.066|
|2||99||Alexandre IMPERATORI (HKG)||PICC Team StarChase (CHN)||+0.202|
|3||20||Rodolfo AVILA (MAC)||Team Jebsen (HKG)||+3.759|
|4||58||TUNG Ho-Pin (CHN)||Budweiser Team Absolute Racing (CHN)||+5.999|
|5||18||ZHANG Zhen Dong (CHN)||Team Basetex (CHN)||+7.106|
|6||88||Egidio PERFETTI (SIN)||Mentos Racing Team (SIN)||+8.609|
|7||72||Alif HAMDAN (MAS)||B||Nexus Racing (MAS)||+11.986|
|8||21||Francis TJIA (HKG)||B||OpenRoad Racing Team (HKG)||+17.395|
|9||66||Jason ZHANG Zhi Qiang (CHN)||Team C&D (CHN)||+18.360|
|10||55||ZHANG Da Sheng (CHN)||Zheng Tong Auto (CHN)||+18.513|
|11||9||LI Chao (CHN)||Team Betterlife (CHN)||+19.861|
|12||98||Henri RICHARD (USA)||B||Silicon Tech Racing LLC (USA)||+20.999|
|13||5||Yuey TAN (SIN)||B||Dorr Havelock Racing (SIN)||+22.312|
|14||8||Ro.C. Skyangel (SIN)||Team Yongda Dongfang (CHN)||+23.108|
|15||11||Ringo CHONG (SIN)||Team Kangshun (CHN)||+27.712|
|16||28||John SHEN (HKG)||B||Modena Motorsports (HKG)||+29.589|
|17||6||Nigel FARMER (HKG)||B||Nigel Farmer (HKG)||+29.977|
|18||7||BAO Jin Long (CHN)||Team Synsanly (CHN)||+30.572|
|19||33||Samson CHAN (HKG)||B||Samson CHAN (HKG)||+31.857|
|20||3||Michael S. (INA)||B||OpenRoad Racing Team||+33.709|
|21||22||SIU Yuk Lung (HKG)||B||LKM Racing (HKG)||+44.839|
|22||12||*TAN Ian Mao (SIN)||B||Clearwater Racing (SIN)||+45.162|
|23||51||Johnson HUANG (TPE)**||B||BC Racing Team (TPE)||+49.607|
|24||2||*Benny LIM (HKG)||B||Benny Lim (HKG)||+1:05.024|
|DNF||23||*SIU Tit Lung (HKG)||B||LKM Racing (HKG)||–|
|DNF||16||Wayne SHEN (HKG)||B||Modena Motorsports (HKG)||–|
|DNF||68||*Peter LI (HKG)||B||Kamlung Racing (HKG)||–|
|DNS||78||Bentley YEUNG (HKG)||B||Tiger Racing Team (HKG)||–|