Team StarChase ace Alexandre Imperatori returned to the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia in style today, storming to pole position for the penultimate round of the 2011 season. Briton Tim Sugden, champion in 2007 and replacing Darryl O’Young on the LKM Racing team this weekend, was second quickest round the 5.5km Shanghai International Circuit, just under four tenths of a second off pole.
Crucially however, current championship leader, Keita Sawa, qualified ahead of title rival Rodolfo Avila of Team Jebsen, and the pair will line up alongside each other on the grid for what promises to be one of the most spectacular races of the season.
Quickest in Class B was Davide Rizzo of Woyo Racing Team, ahead of Pauian Archiland Absolute Racing’s Jeffrey Lee and OpenRoad Racing’s Francis Tjia.
Imperatori set his pole-setting lap time early on, and had to endure a nail-biting session as he waited to see if his time could be bettered. The chasing pack certainly closed the gap to the Shanghai-based Swiss, but nobody had beaten his time by the time the flag came out on the 30 minute session.
Said Imperatori, who missed the two rounds due to other racing commitments: “I’m back in style, and that was important! After my good lap the team kept me in, and it’s always a bit strange for a driver not to defend his pole position, but it means we have a new set of tires for the race. We’re starting from pole, but nothing has been achieved so far.”
Sugden, who has not raced since Le Mans in the summer, was typically forthright: “I’m not fast enough, that’s my problem! I’m still figuring out how to drive, and hopefully I’ll have worked it out by the race.” Few will be fooled.
Sawa began the session determined to qualify ahead of Avila: “I’m under pressure, but before this weekend I’ve been doing a lot of image training, imagining different situations. I’ve completed my minimum target so far, but now I have to make sure the set up for the race and everything is ready. I will need to do my absolute best every lap and collect as many points as possible.”
For title rival Avila, who topped both of Friday’s practice sessions, it was a crushing result: “It’s going to be tough for us. We’re not in a good position. There’s definitely something wrong. In practice we’re always good but in qualifying I can’t use the car to the full potential. We need to fight. Although things are not the way we would want, we’ve got to fight to the end.”
In Class B, Rizzo topped the times throughout the session, with Tjia second fastest until Lee overcame throttle issues to put in a quick time. Singapore’s Yuey Tan of Wimobilize McElrea Racing was up to third on the time sheet until dropping back down the order. Class B championship leader Wang Jian Wei of Team BetterLife was fourth fastest.
Despite grabbing Class B pole, Rizzo has his sights set on catching the professionals, particularly on his home circuit: “I thought I could stay a bit closer to the Class A drivers, but let’s see what we can do in the two races.”
Said Lee: “I was gentle with the throttle when I down shifted as there’s still a little problem, but I’m looking forward to a good ending to the season. It’s a good circuit – always changeable and with a good combination of turns.”
Round 11 of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia will be run over 13 laps of the Shanghai International Circuit this afternoon.
Prepared by Porsche Carrera Cup Asia