Weiron Tan made history at Thailand’s Buriram International Circuit yesterday (13 January), as he teamed up with Jazeman Jaafar and Afiq Ikhwan Yazid to speed to the first-ever all-Malaysian victory in the Asian Le Mans Series on his LMP2 class bow.
After steering his burgeoning career from single-seaters to sportscars and spending last year contesting the China GT Championship and Blancpain GT Series Asia, Tan has returned to the fiercely-disputed Asian Le Mans Series for the final two rounds of its 2017/18 campaign, having previously participated one rung down the ladder at LMP3 level.
The highly-rated Malaysian Chinese racer – managed by Williams Harfield Sports Group – was recruited by Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport last month to pilot its #7 Nissan-powered ORECA 05 prototype, in an effort officially backed by Sepang International Circuit (SIC).
Jaafar was firmly in the mix for pole position throughout qualifying, ultimately winding up third, a scant tenth-of-a-second adrift of the top spot at the end of an intense and hard-fought 15-minute session – and comfortably clear of the ‘best-of-the-rest’.
The next day’s 6 Hours of Buriram was two hours longer than standard Asian Le Mans Series races, and it witnessed a superb duel between the two Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport entries. Tan and his team-mates initially gave chase to the sister #8 car, with little to choose between them – although drama lay in wait.
When Jaafar exited the pit-lane following his first refuelling stop 45 minutes in, he unfortunately clipped a traffic cone that got caught in the ORECA’s bodywork, sending the engine and brake temperatures soaring and obliging an unscheduled extra pit visit to allow the team to remove it.
The tables turned in the fourth hour, however, when the #8 was issued with a drive-through penalty for a pit entry violation, handing the initiative to the #7 crew. It was an advantage they would not relinquish, going on to stretch their lead to almost a minute-and-a-half at the chequered flag, with Jaafar posting the race’s fastest lap for good measure. As debuts go, it was remarkable – and 23-year-old Tan is already eager to climb back into the cockpit on home turf at Sepang in early February.
“What an incredible feeling!” enthused the CEFC Manor TRS Racing test and reserve driver and former Caterham F1 Academy member. “To win on our debut in LMP2 with the first-ever full Malaysian line-up is just surreal, and the perfect way to kick off 2018. Hopefully we did our nation proud.
“I want to thank Sepang Circuit and DC Racing for giving me this opportunity, my team-mates Jazeman and Afiq for doing an amazing job and the whole team for their hard work and full commitment all weekend.
“Our target for Buriram was to bond and discover how best to work together, and that’s exactly what we did. We learned both from each other and from the sister car, which has very experienced drivers including Le Mans 24 Hours winner Thomas Laurent. Afiq and I got up-to-speed quickly even with limited track time, and I was happy with our performance. That said, there is still plenty of room for improvement – so I’m very much looking forward to the next race on home soil!”