In all my years in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, there has always been drivers that were capable of stringing together a faster lap than I, on any given day. Sometimes they got the better of me, and sometimes I got the better of them! Though the 2019 season is something different.
This year, there have been four different drivers that have taken wins over the eight races spanning Shanghai, Suzuka, Fuji and Sepang while also seeing seven different drivers on the podium. So, during this season, I have not just one or two guys standing in the way of the championship title, but many more.
The highlight the new problem. If you take victory and your closet competitor takes 4th, you get a jump of 8 points in the championship. If it is the inverse result, you can easily lose 8 points. If that happens in three consecutive races, that’s a whopping 24 points which can realistically happen! To put it in perspective, when I won my title with Team Jebsen in 2015, the top 4 in the championship table were a mere 9 points apart. So, having massive depth is great for the spectators, but doesn’t exactly make it easy to win!
Sepang was a significant milestone in the 2019 season as it is the first time that I have taken the lead in the championship hunt in category. The target has always been to win the title this season, but it just hasn’t been going quite according to plan. Though the margins have been very slim and because of the mega depth of the category, a victory and a 4th place finish are eight points apart though maybe only a few seconds across the finish line. So this is where the new challenge lies; in the depth of the drivers that are gunning for the title!
The Malaysian GP saw some of the worst qualifying I’ve done this season, putting me in 3rd, 3rd and 7th respectively over the three races this season. It was definitely rather disheartening after qualifying with the performance I put out there as I felt as if I tried my best but recently in Fuji and Sepang, my best was simply not good enough to be a champion or a race winner of any sort. Though after a decade in Asia’s Premier Motorsport series, the motto has been now more than ever; if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!
Race 1 of the weekend saw me climb up into the lead during the race for a split second though this happened due to an awful exit of the cars in front of me, all of which were on the defensive line on the corner entry. However, as I inched ahead into the lead on the entry of turn 5, the two cars on the inside line were also battling and hit a little understeer leaving me out on the marbles and suffering for the rest of the race. It was frankly a stupid move on my part but sometimes in motor racing, greed gets in the way! I survived till the end in 4th place.
Race 2 was more of the same thing and I was just being a little greedy here and there early in the racing, as well as getting stuck behind a few cars and once again finishing 4th. Perhaps it was a bad strategic moment to put the new tyres on in the blistering sun of Race 1, as Race 2 was at night, so after clearing a few cars, the performance of the car just wasn’t quite there.
Though Race 3 was really where everything made a difference. I was 7th on the grid in category for the race when Malaysian racing legend Alif Hamdan get to my car on the grid telling me to drive on the grip and have faith that victory was within my reach. Of course, I thought he was being a mate but I listened anyway! My wife also sent me a message from Singapore asking me what the hell was wrong with me and whether I had lost my hunger prior to the race. I started to think that it was possible to achieve more!
My start was nothing short of mega and into turn 1, I was already up in 4th place. By turn 4 of the first lap, I had gained another place into 3rd. Then on lap 2, I made another move into turn 15 and took the 2nd place. Things were already looking good but after about another 5 laps, the leader had suffered from a punctured tyre and I inherited the lead! I was some 10 seconds in front by then and had nothing to worry about. It was cruise and collect from there!
It is an absolutely shocking place that we are in 25 points ahead in the championship and of course, everything can be lost in one moment. Though if you asked me to pick a place to be after passing the middle of the season 25 points ahead, it would be a dream position to be in with all the quality in the Carrera Cup championship this year.
We have Bangsaen next on the 30th of August to September 1st. Arguably one of the most challenging circuits to drive on in the region including Macau and Bathurst, though I’ve been there before and keeping it out of the wall at 98% will be the target. It would be a dream to leave Thailand in a great position for the Singapore GP so I can come to my home GP confident and feeling good!
As the great Formula 1 commentator Murray Walker was famous for saying; anything can happen in motor racing…and it usually does!