Fierce Fights in Overall as Drivers Gun for Early Season Lead
It was Team Porsche Holding’s Martin Ragginger who got the season’s first points on the board after the Austrian driver clocked a startlingly fast 2:06.932 lap time to gain a point and pole position during the qualifying session on Saturday, followed by Giltrap Group’s Will Bamber who secured a time of 2:06.937 – just 0.005 seconds behind Ragginger.
Round 1 on Sunday started off under typically overcast Shanghai weather, with Ragginger managing to survive the turn 1 melee out front, but losing his position after a skillful overtake by Bamber in turn 2. Showing his champion’s spirit, Kamlung Racing’s Chris van der Drift charged from his P5 start to take up second place behind Bamber, with Ragginger hot on his heels. Lap 2 saw Bamber doggedly maintain his lead, with Ragginger and van der Drift jostling behind him until a lap 3 overtake by Ragginger saw him supplant van der Drift in second place. As the race settled into a rhythm, four talented drivers were left battling fiercely at the front of the pack, with Bamber maintaining first, followed by Ragginger, van der Drift and Team StarChase’s Philip Hamprecht. Just as the race leaders began pulling away from the pack, an incident in lap 5 saw the safety car deployed, eliminating the hard earned lead and grouping the drivers once again. It was then straight back into action after the safety car was removed in lap 8, with Ragginger immediately pouncing on Bamber from the outside only to be turned away by a flawless defense. Waiting patiently for the right moment, van der Drift made a push into second only to have Ragginger slickly shut the door on his attempt. As the race neared its final stages, Ragginger and van der Drift continued to fight, giving Bamber clean air to pull ahead. The action continued right into the final lap, with Hamprecht stealing third place from van der Drift in a thrilling last-minute overtake on turn 15, finalizing the podium with Bamber in first, Ragginger in second and Hamprecht in third.
“Right out of the grid, from turns two and three, that was really the key to the race. Ragginger went wide and I took position. From that point there was still a bit of work to do, but it was all about that start.” Said Will Bamber in an interview after the race.
Start of the Pro-Am Season Sees Old Rivalries Reignited
Novu Racing Team’s Yuey Tan secured the Pro-Am pole with his time of 2:09.025, with Zheng Tong Auto’s Bao Jinlong and Open Road Racing’s Francis Tjia respectively in P2 and P3 behind him.
Tjia and Bao wasted no time in reigniting their rivalry from last year, with both drivers immediately brawling behind Tan as soon as the lights turned green. By the time the safety car was on the track, the three ProAm pack leaders were forced into a tightly bunched formation with Presido Jakarta Ban Racing’s Ahmad Fadillah Alam waiting in the wings. Once the safety car was clear, Tjia took the opportunity to overtake Tan, after Tan went wide on turn 15 in Lap 8. Bao continued to apply pressure from his Pro-Am third position, until Alam took advantage of the safety car reset to immediately pull ahead of Bao. Meanwhile, Tan fought fiercely to retake his Pro-Am first position, but wasn’t able to make it through Tjia’s defences. Tjia, Tan and Alam seemed destined to each secure a podium position until the last turn on the last lap where Bao found his moment to strike, overtaking Alam to seal his own place on the podium. The final Pro-Am standings saw Tjia in first, Tan in second and Bao in third with Alam narrowly missing out on a coveted podium spot by an extremely tight 0.008 seconds. “Very happy with the result, didn’t expect this at all. Friday started out a little bit difficult, Saturday some improvement, but still very clearly Bao and Yuey were very quick. But I had a good race, the race pace was great, Bao and Yuey made some small mistakes and I was able to overtake, so I’m thrilled.” Said Francis Tjia in a post-race interview.
2019 Dealer Trophy Already Heating Up
It was a strong start for the Dealer Trophy in Round 1, with the top five overall winners all earning points for their respective dealer teams. First place overall winner Will Bamber secured the initial victory for Team Giltrap Group, while Ragginger earned Team Porsche Holding second and last year’s Dealer Trophy winner Team StarChase clinched third after a bold performance by Philip Hamprecht.