On the comeback trail!
So for all of the readers that have been reading my column this season, you would’ve read that I’ve been moaning and talking about what could’ve been as in my last column, we were lying 6th in the class B championship though since then, things have changed! The next round after Thailand brought us down under to Australia for the first time in Porsche Carrera Cup Asia history, bringing us to the Sydney Motorsport Park. The historic racing circuit which was developed in 1989 consists of 11 corners and much of the circuit flows with high speed corners, sudden changes in speed and nice changes in gradient making it one roller coaster ride!
Qualifying saw me go across the line 3rd in class, and for the first time this season, a double podium finish in rounds 7 & 8 of the 2016 season. With a 2nd and 3rd position in those rounds respectively after some bumper to bumper racing in Australia, once again battling hard with Francis Tjia throughout the weekend. Story of my life! Managed to hang on with Vutthikorn though as the tyres got older, it wasn’t easy to stay with Carrera Cup’s drift king while still on full throttle! What a maniac! – in a good way. With 34 points scoop up of a possible 40, things weren’t bad as I climbed up to 4th in our class championship hunt and 6 points off 3rd place Wayne Shen. Things were getting better and a long way away from 10th after the first few rounds of the season.
After 8 rounds in the championship, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia turned its attention to round 9 of the 2016 season in Singapore, on the famous 23 turn Marina Bay Circuit. With one of the world’s most epic and major motor racing events of the season, every single person involved in the mega exciting street circuit was looking forward to the Singapore Formula 1 race weekend.
Friday practice started in the late afternoon and the grip levels out on circuit were minimal. I was on the radio speaking to my engineer Minal reporting back the way the car felt, as the rear end of the car was moving around a lot around the corners. There were even a few occasions where I was centimeters away from the barriers and managed not to put a scratch on the car all weekend. We finished with the quickest time in class with an overall strong performance.
Qualiying took place on Saturday and with the same competitive flavor, the drivers of the Carrera Cup got out there and straight into it settling some blistering quick lap times. Unfortunately, we were over a second away from our theoretical best lap though double yellow flags and a red flag broke the qualifying session up and I never quite got the rhythm. Still, managed a 2nd in with Vutthikorn in pole, and Yuan Bo and Francis Tjia just behind me. It was all pretty familiar!
Race day came over us quickly as we were scheduled at 5pm on Sunday, just before the Formula 1 GP. Prior to the race on the grid, I accidentally ripped my radio wire so my communication was no longer available. I had to drive blind.
It was GO GO GO and I took the inside line going into turn 1 where Francis Tjia made a pass around me. That is one of his classic Tjia moves going around the outside! Will always remember him for those moves. As soon as I saw him go past, I knew I needed to get back the position in the first lap and turn 14 was the place to do it so when we got that, I lined him up to make a move. I gave it a go flying past under brakes and managed to get the position back 11 corners after I had lost it. Francis Tjia, the good hard battler just came me enough room to sneak up along on the inside.
I spent the next six laps pushing to the maximum, keeping Vutthikorn and my teammate Cui Yue in sight continuing to push hoping they would not get away. Though by the time we were two thirds through the race, I had lost pace in the car after pushing hard and pushing the came became a lot more challenging. It was worth it though as the first half of our race saw us pull a stable gap to Francis Tjia and Yuan Bo overtaking me in lap 8.
As we were completing the final lap of the race, Yuan Bo hit a wall, bouncing off it and rejoinng the circuit to finish the race, with Vutthikorn also involved in the incident. With water everywhere, I was unsure of the grip levels with the water so I drove myself slowly! We finished a tenth apart! It was a very close finish.
Post stewards session bumped me up a spot in the final standings, finishing 2nd in class with Yuan Bo being penalized. He brought the car to the line completely falling apart on three wheels though I can see why he tried! He’s fighting for the championship title with Vuitthikorn though it could have been very dangerous for the other drivers. I’m glad we all came back all good from a safety angle. It’s never good to take points from a competitor when they get a penalty but playing catch up with these guys is not easy.
The weekend was absolutely awesome and I was well happy with how things went. I always enjoyed seeing everyone in my home country and to have my Porsche Carrera Cup mates over was special. I now lie equal 3rd in the championship table in class B, nearing a more respectable position in the championship points. With Sepang and Shanghai to go, anything is possible! See you all in Sepang!
Thanks to everyone for a special Singapore GP, my 8th time on the Marina Bay Circuit. I hope I will have the opportunity to come back again next year. What an amazing circuit!