Chinese ace Tung in frame to join SAR's Le Man bid

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 August, 2005, 12:00am

Chinese ace Tung Ho-pin has emerged as a serious candidate to join Hong Kong's pioneering Le Mans team after agreeing to co-drive a Maserati with project leader Matthew Marsh at a race meeting in Germany next month.

It will be the first time Dutch-born Tung (pictured) has raced with Marsh, the SAR's most high-profile driver, and both are hopeful it will lead to bigger things.

The Hong Kong Le Mans team, Noble Group-GruppeM Racing, already have Marsh and teammate Darryl O'Young signed up for a series of six-hour races in Europe but need a third driver for 12 and 24-hour events.

Tung, who is racing in Formula Three in Germany, and Marsh will join forces for the Maserati Trofeo race at Nurburgring on September 4 and the Chinese star is relishing the challenge.

'It will be a great experience to work with Matthew and it will also be an opportunity for us to find out about each other's driving,' said Tung, 22.

'I have a busy schedule but I'm very keen to be part of the Le Mans project. If I can fit it into my plans and, crucially, give it the undivided attention it deserves, then I'd love to join up with Matthew and Darryl,' he added.

Noble Group-GruppeM Racing are bidding to become the first Hong Kong team to take part in the Le Mans 24 Hours, the world's greatest sports car race. Their Porsche GT3 RSR is owned and sponsored by SAR companies and both British-born Marsh and Chinese-Canadian O'Young are Hong Kong residents.

The team are competing in a series of endurance races in Europe with a view to being invited to Le Mans next June.

Marsh, the reigning Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia champion and the man who has spearheaded the Le Mans project, said that Tung would be the perfect foil for himself and O'Young.

'Ho-pin is fantastically talented. The fact that Formula One teams are closely monitoring his progress says it all,' said Marsh. 'Just as importantly, he is a team player, something that is crucial in endurance racing. Darryl and I have worked very well together so far and we think Ho-pin would fit in very well.'

The Maserati race is a support event to the 1,000km of Nurburgring, which Noble Group-GruppeM Racing are competing in, meaning it will be a hectic weekend for Marsh. Hours after sharing driving duties with Tung, he will team up with O'Young to race the Porsche in the main event. 'The Maserati Trofeo is a short event and there's a break of several hours before the 1,000km race, so tiredness won't be a factor,' said Marsh. 'Darryl and I agreed it would be good to meet up with Ho-pin and for one of us to share a car with him to see his driving at first hand. Darryl is contracted exclusively to Porsche, so it has to be me.'

Marsh will be hoping history repeats itself - in his only previous Trofeo outing, at Silverstone last year, he partnered British TV presenter Vicki Butler-Henderson to victory.

'I'm excited to be racing a Maserati again, because it's one of the great sports car marques.'

As for Noble Group-GruppeM Racing, Nurburgring will be their third race since the team was announced last April. Marsh and O'Young took part in the 1,000km of Monza three weeks ago, but were forced to retire while running fifth in their category.

They are next in action at Silverstone next Saturday.