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Shanghai. Unseasonably cold weather conditions greeted Porsche Carrera Cup Asia drivers as they took to the 5.451-km Shanghai International Circuit to get the season underway with 5 Official Test sessions over the weekend.

It was three days of intense trials as drivers sought to set the tone for the season to come by clocking the fastest lap time, with the top slot traded throughout each test session – solidifying predictions that 2017 will be among the most competitive seasons yet. With a last minute entry by series veteran Ringo Chong of RC Racing, who announced he would be participating in select stops throughout the season, 2017 will see 25 cars with drivers from 12 different countries and regions compete.

Making a strong first impression in the first test sesion on Friday was Team Starchase’s Philip Hamprecht, who began his transition as a single-seat champion in the Formula Masters China Series to debut with the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia with a promising 2:09.038 lap time. Porsche China Junior Team’s Andrew Tang also arrived fully prepared to fight, registering a hasty 2:09.070 lap in the first session.

Proving the competitive nature of this season’s drivers, the second and shorter test session on Saturday offered an almost entirely different set of names at the top. Achieving the top time was 2015 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Champion Chris Van Der Drift, racing for Team Formax, who one-upped fellow drivers with a 2:08.709 fastest lap time. Philip Hamprecht once again showed his natural affinity for the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Car with a solid 2:09.155, while experienced Porsche Carrera Cup Asia driver Martin Ragginger of Team Porsche Holding registered third quickest with 2:09.161.

Benefiting from the guidance of two-time Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Champion and 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Earl Bamber, who was onsite as a star coach for the Porsche China Junior Programme, Andrew Tang dominated the third testing session on Saturday afternoon to achieve the weekend’s best result at 2:08.350 after hitting a blistering 186.92 km/hr. He was joined in the top 3 by fellow young driver Akash Neil Nandy, racing for Team Force Asia Racing in his first GT championship after a successful single-seat career, who had the second fastest time in the afternoon session with 2:08.611. In third with 2:08.682 was the 2016 Pro-Am Champion Yuan Bo, who is racing with Team C&D for his 2017 premier season in the Overall class. Also registering his quickest time during the third session was newcomer Absolute Racing’s Tanart Santhienthirakul, who managed an impressive 2:08.961 in his first test weekend after coming from single-seat.

Session four saw yet another new name at the head of the tables as FAW T2 Motorsport’s Will Bamber, following in his older brother Earl’s footsteps as he debuts into the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia this year, blazed through with a 2:08.610 time on his 21st lap, shortly before light-rain wet the track. Securing another steady result, Martin Ragginger clocked in second with 2:08.823, and Akash Neil Nandy in third with 2:08.920.

With light-but-steady rain throughout most of the final session of the weekend on Sunday afternoon, drivers were given the chance to strap on their wet tyres and refamiliarize themselves with the tricky task of navigating a moist track. Experience shined through in the end as Andrew Tang, familiar with the Shanghai International Circuit on wet conditions having raced his first Porsche Carrera Cup Asia race in the rain during Round 1 in 2016, took the fastest time in the fifth session with 2:19.686, followed by Chris Van der Drift with 2:19.954 and an impressive performance by Kamlung Racing‘s Evan Chen with a 2:20.508 lap.

Notable among the Pro-Am drivers were series‘ regulars such Team Jebsen’s Yuey Tan and Modena Motorsports‘ Wayne Shen, who ranked in the top three timings for a majority of the test sessions and newcomer Evan Chen, who managed the fastest lap times among Pro-Am in session 4. Li Chao also showed steadfast determination throughout the weekend, making him one to watch as the season progresses.

“We saw a lot of great performances during the test sessions this weekend, with a strong showing by several of our new drivers. From what we witnessed on the track over the past couple days, 2017 is going to be an unforgettable season with some of the toughest competitors we’ve seen since the serie’s began, ” Alexandre Gibot, Porsche China Motorsport Manager, said.

With the cobwebs shaken off after a long winter, there are just four weeks to go until the season starts in full with Round 1 and 2 taking place back at the Shanghai International Circuit alongside the F1 on April 7-9.

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