Bamber, Loeb and Ragginger in all-star Macau podium
Macau. Three drivers, each making their debuts on Macau’s demanding Guia street circuit this weekend, filled an all-star podium for the Porsche 911 50th Anniversary Carrera Cup Asia at the 60th Macau Grand Prix today. Earl Bamber took victory for LKM Racing in the wet, nine-lap end-of-season invitational, followed across the line by nine-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb, who proved just as potent in the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup as he was on the toughest rally stages. Third was Team Eagle’s Martin Ragginger of Austria in a brilliant comeback from fifth on the grid after a difficult qualifying session.
Taking the Class B victory was Alif Hamdan of Nexus Racing, who managed to dramatically snatch victory from category pole-sitter Francis Tjia of OpenRoad Racing on the final lap. Taking the final podium spot was Kevin Tse, making his debut with the series and flying the flag for Macau.
For newly-crowned Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Champion Bamber, his first taste of Macau was a memorable one: “It was a really tough race in the beginning. It was the first time for everybody in the wet here this weekend. It was a little bit like going into the unknown for everyone on how it was going to be in the mountains. In the first corner it was really slippery and we were aquaplaning, but I managed to get past my team mate Sawa. Then there was a Safety Car [period] and I tend to get a good restart, which I did. After that it was matter of conserving tyres. I have to say a huge thank you to the sponsor LKM this weekend, the team’s been fantastic, and also to Porsche for bringing us to such an amazing circuit. It’s really the best one I’ve ever been on in my life.”
There was more good news for 23-year-old Bamber, with the announcement that he has won the 2013 Porsche Motorsport International Cup Scholarship challenge, and with it funding of 200,000 Euro for his Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup campaign.
Loeb had no expectations when he arrived in Macau, so was thrilled to be on the podium: “I didn’t have an idea, but I was hoping to be competitive and to be on the podium. The feeling in the car was really good. Yesterday in the practice I was happy with the balance of the car because I was a bit afraid because I didn’t test before. Today it was very tough and exciting to start in these conditions. There was a lot of acquaplaning in the first section and [Bamber] was really fast after the Safety Car. He made a gap and I couldn’t come back, but the race was really nice. It’s a nice track, tricky, we had every condition during the weekend.”
Ragginger was impressive once he nailed the notoriously difficult circuit: “Actually yesterday was a bad day for us. I struggled the whole day in free practice and in qualifying, I just didn’t find the pace, find the rhythm here. In qualifying I ended up in the wall, and P5 was not the best way to go into the race. But today actually the conditions helped me to pass the other guys more easily and the start was okay. It was really on the limit, I would say, especially on the straight but later the race was okay and I could pass Avila on the first lap. At the restart I could immediately pass Sawa, but [Bamber and Loeb] already had a big gap. I was trying to catch them – I saw them fighting and I was hoping they fight a little bit harder so I could get closer!”
With a wet track and persistent rain, the field took their places on the grid and the race began behind the Safety Car. As it pulled in at the start of Lap 3, racing got underway with Bamber immediately on the attack to pole-sitter and team mate Keita Sawa of Japan, getting by him at Mandarin Bend and seizing the lead. Almost immediately, Loeb loomed large in Sawa’s mirrors, neatly getting by before the start of Lap 4.
As Loeb set about closing the gap to Bamber, an incident between Team C&D’s Jason Zhang Zhiqiang and Team Yongda Dongfang’s Benjamin Rouget brought out the Safety Car once again after both cars ended up in the barrier at R Bend. That closed up the field and at the restart on Lap 6, Bamber got away well and set about building a gap from Loeb, eventually taking the flag 4.227 seconds ahead of the Frenchman.
Ragginger meanwhile had got by Team Jebsen’s Rodolfo Avila and was on the tail of Sawa, getting by to go third.
Behind Avila, Team Basetex driver Zhang Da Sheng rounded out an impressive debut at Macau as did Ryo Ogawa of Bright Motorsport, who was the top finisher from the Porsche Carrera Cup Japan drivers, ahead of Tsubasa Kondo of Improve Racing in eighth place.
The Porsche 911 50th Anniversary Carrera Cup Asia was one of the most exciting and memorable in the 11-season history of the championship, and one which showed the extraordinary talent of the three drivers who came, saw and conquered the Guia Circuit at their first attempt: Earl Bamber, Sébastien Loeb and Martin Ragginger.