Porsche Carrera Cup Asia 2015: Champions
Pioneering the development of professional motorsport competition in Southeast Asia, the 2015 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia season was one of the most fascinating in the championship’s 13-year history, buoyed further by former champion Earl Bamber’s victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
In March, the 28-strong field gathered for the first time for a pre-season test at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit where they welcomed some new faces, among them Menzel and van der Drift, who had received a last-minute call-up from Clearwater Racing.
Round 1, at the Chinese F1 Grand Prix, saw a familiar face take the opening win of the season, with Baird beating fellow countryman van der Drift, and Team Porsche Holding’s Martin Ragginger taking the final podium place. The New Zealanders would not have it all their own way though. van der Drift retired in race two and Baird was beaten to the podium by Budweiser Team Absolute Racing’s Ho-Pin Tung from Team Jebsen’s Rodolfo Avila, with Ragginger taking his second podium of the weekend.
Korea’s International Circuit welcomed the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia for the first time in 2015, and it proved a happy hunting ground for van der Drift who, bouncing back from his DNF in Round 2, took pole position and wins in both races. Baird proved the fight would last all season with a brace of second places, while Myung Gil Choi more than repaid his call-up from Team Porsche Korea to join the series for the first time since 2013, by taking the final podium spot after both races.
June saw the Porsche Carrera Cups of Asia and Japan share the spectacular Fuji International Speedway. There, van der Drift continued his run of form with another double victory, but this time it was Ragginger who stood on the second step of the podium after both races. Baird took third in Race 1, but lost his grip on the championship after an uncharacteristic performance in Round 6.
Returning to the Land of Smiles after a ten-year absence, the championship made its debut at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand, and van der Drift continued to extend his winning streak, taking pole and yet another double victory. Menzel continued his impressive debut season, taking his debut podium with a second place finish in Round 7, and repeating his success in Race 2. Baird and Ragginger shared third place honours.
At Sepang in Malaysia, Menzel went one better and took his first Porsche victory with PICC Team StarChase in Race 1, and a third place in Round 10 adding to his podium tally. van der Drift’s run of wins suffered a blip in Malaysia with a fourth place in the opening race, but he was back to his winning ways in Round 10, taking his seventh victory of the season. Second place in both races was Ragginger, who took his second pole of the season.
As the field headed to Singapore and the Lion City’s Marina Bay street circuit, van der Drift had a healthy 19-point lead from title rival Baird, while Menzel’s increasing pace put him third on the overall leaderboard. The double header saw Baird strike back, taking pole, a win and a second place, while van der Drift could only manage a third place podium in Round 12. Tung was second in Round 11, ahead of Menzel who took his fifth consecutive podium.
The Singapore F1 Grand Prix had set the stage for what was to be a thrilling season finale as the Porsche motorsport family came together at the 6 Hours of Shanghai FIA World Endurance Championship round, where Porsche was gunning for the 2015 Manufacturers’ title.
van der Drift arrived in Shanghai with an eight-point lead from championship rival Baird, while four drivers remained in contention for the Class B title. van der Drift got the job done, giving his China Porsche dealership team Kamlung Racing its maiden Porsche Carrera Cup Asia title. Second at the end of the season was Clearwater Racing’s Craig Baird, like van der Drift and Bamber one of a number of hugely-successful New Zealand drivers. Seventeen-year-old Nico Menzel, the series youngest-ever competitor and son of two-time champion Christian, was third after an impressive debut season of Porsche competition with PICC Team StarChase.
Four Class B drivers remained in title contention as the lights went out for the last time in 2015, but it was Tan who eventually won the championship by a single point from Thailand’s Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak after a spin by OpenRoad Racing’s Francis Tjia put him back into contention. Modena Motorsport’s Wayne Shen, Class B champion in 2012, finished the season in third.
As the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia teams and drivers gathered to witness their Porsche counterparts in the FIA WEC win the Manufacturers’ title with one round in hand, the nine Porsche China Junior Programme finalists met their heroes ahead of the shootout to decide the 2016 Porsche China Junior, eventually won by Andrew Tang. Two worthy Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champions, a major FIA title, and a new chapter about to begin with Asia’s next exciting young talent represented more than just a good day in the office for Porsche motorsport in China.