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SUPPORTING CAST IN THE SPOTLIGHT - Singapore drivers play prominent part as ninth year of Marina Bay action begins

16 September 2016, Singapore - Singapore kicked off its ninth weekend as an FIA Formula 1 World Championship host city with action in three support race categories at the Marina Bay Street Circuit on Friday.

First on track were the superb-looking 4.5-litre 458 Challenge EVO machines in the Ferrari Challenge Asia Pacific, followed by the 2-litre makes in the TCR International Series, and last but not least the 3.8 litre Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Cars of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia series.

Here are nine highlights to help you focus on the three support categories over the Marina Bay weekend:

  1. This is Ferrari Challenge's first time back in Singapore since 2012. Back then the pole-winning time was a 2m 26.381, an average speed of 124.672 km/h. The intervening years have quickened things up: this year it's 2:21.654, set early in the 30-minute session by Florian Merckx of Belgium. Merckx earns a point for his efforts. Singapore's Ringo Chong was seventh-fastest, one place ahead of compatriot Greg Teo, who was second in the Trofeo Pirelli AM class behind American Jeff Weiland.
  2. The major incident saw Japan's Ken Seto lose control through Turn 23, rebound off the wall on the right and end up parked facing the wrong way on the other side of the track with six minutes remaining. Driver unhurt but... red flag, red flames, red face, end of session.
  3. Reigning champion Steve Wyatt from Australia qualified 2nd, four-tenths of a second slower. Steve should carry the champion's number 1 on his car but a touch of superstition kicked in: #77 was the one that carried him to last year's title so he decided to stick with it, which is why Merckx – runner-up last year – graduated to #1 instead.
  4. The biggest engines' on this weekend's grids are a blast from the past: 4.5-litre V8 monsters, normally aspirated, kicking out 570 horsepower. The TCR cars are turbo-charged while F1, of course, uses turbos and energy recovery systems in its 1.6-litre V6 power units. The Ferrari Challenge's rolling start will be one of the more thrilling sights of a spectacular weekend.
  5. In the TCR series it's still all to play for. In the single free practice session Jean-Karl Vernay topped the times with a 2:25.570, a full second faster than Leopard Racing teammate and defending champion Stefano Comini.
  6. Check out qualifying on Saturday: there have been seven different pole-sitters this season but only twice has the pole man gone on to win the race. Dusan Borkovic, by the way, is the man with the two poles so far in 2016 for B3 Racing Team Hungary.
  7. Watch out, too, for Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil: they finished second in the drivers’ and teams’ standings last year and say they are seeking ‘a modest one-place improvement ’! But their current series leader James Nash could manage only 11th in practice. 
  8. Last but not least came the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia – the only support race category enjoying its own ninth weekend in Singapore. Top of the tree in their only practice session: the man with two nines in his pocket, #99 Nico Menzel in the PICC Team StarChase entry. He and series leader Maxime Jousse of Kamlung Racing were separated by... nine-tenths of a second.
  9. A fine effort by Singapore's 'generation next' driver Andrew Tang put the Porsche China Junior Team entry third overall, while the Lion City's Yuey Tan also shone by heading up the Class B times in sixth place for Team Jebsen.