Carrera Cup Asia Talent Pool Coach Sascha Maassen
Sascha Maassen is an expert sportscar driver from Germany who is serving as one of the primary coaches for the 2017 Carrera Cup Asia Talent Pool, lending his experience and insights to the six young competitors under the age of 26. He recently shared his perspective on what these fresh challengers face as they enter the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia and how the programme for young drivers in Asia has developed in recent years.
“Last year we only had one driver in the Porsche China Junior Programme and the advantage of that was being able to focus on just one competitor,” Maassen said. “But now, as the programme has grown and expanded to include all young drivers in the series who are 26 and under, we can create more competition between them. This not only makes it more exciting for challengers and fans, it also helps everybody in the group improve. From a coaching perspective, it is certainly different and more challenging than in the past, but it is also really an exciting opportunity.”
One of the roles that Coach Maassen plays during race weekend is helping the young talent deal with the immense pressures and stresses of the high-intensity one-make racing series. “My role is to set the right focus, more than anything else it is often not so clear for young drivers what they should focus on. They see many areas for improvement and also aren’t always sure if there is a problem,” he explained. “So helping them to focus on fewer things on race day takes away some stress and gives them clearer objectives. This alone usually already helps a lot.”
Three of the new young drivers in the Carrera Cup Asia Talent Pool this year came from Formula racing series, including Tanart Sathienthirakul of Absolute Racing, Akash Neil Nandy of Team Force Racing Asia and Philip Hamprecht of Team StarChase. According to Coach Maassen, this is a challenging transition. “In single-seater series, the drivers usually have a lighter and less powerful car,” he said. “In a GT model like the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, other than perhaps less downforce, they need to now adapt to everything being a little ‘more’ – more power, more weight. They’re also not able to see their tyres anymore. This might be usual for other drivers, but for a racer coming from karts or Formula cars, this switch it is often the first time that they experience this new sensation rather than using the tyres as their reference. They need to adapt to many things and this is a very competitive environment with many skilled veteran drivers around them, so it is certainly a big task laid out ahead of them.”
On the other hand, Maassen tells us that these young competitors also are getting the opportunity to learn from their more experienced counterparts, which can help them adapt quickly.
Porsche China Junior Team drivers Andrew Tang and Zhang Dasheng are two drivers who have had some of this on-track development, having driven with Porsche Carrera Cup Asia in 2016. According to Coach Maassen, these ambitious youngsters have continued to show vast growth and improvement thus far in 2017.
“I’ve known these two young men for a while now, and I can say they certainly have talent and all of the necessary elements to become professional drivers,” he reflected. “They just need to continue working hard as there are many more fresh faces out there that want to compete with them now. The title of Porsche China Junior is a coveted one, and many young talents are eager for their chance to potentially represent Porsche in the future – so it will be a tight competition and exciting series to follow as we move forward.”
The diverse young group of drivers includes talent hailing from across Asia and Europe. “Of course nationality isn’t a determining factor in skills or ability, but background and past experience are. In Europe, drivers grew up with professional racing and are coming into their own career with Porsche with 10 years of experience already, even if they are only 18 years old,” Maassen said. “In Asia their upbringing and background is often not as filled with racing, so they are learning more and more during the action as the season continues.”
All of the young challengers are learning from track time and new experiences as the series gets underway, but they are also developing their skills and garnering unparalleled insights from their talented coaching staff. Maassen has been on-site with the young drivers assisting teams in honing their racecraft and strategy since pre-season. He will continue to lend his thoughts as the year progresses – and what a sensational year it will be.