Weiron Tan is in contention to become Porsche China’s 2018 ‘Junior’ driver, after being selected as one of just seven finalists for a shootout designed to discover the legendary sportscar manufacturer’s next superstar.
Having steered his burgeoning career from single-seaters to sportscars this year, Tan has impressed with his turn-of-speed behind the wheel of Absolute Racing’s Bentley Continental GT3 in both the China GT Championship and fiercely-disputed Blancpain GT Series Asia.
His eye-catching pace and prowess saw him secure pole position for half of the races he contested in the China GT Championship and set fastest lap at Zhuhai International Circuit, which brought him to the attention of Porsche China as it weighs up its options for next year’s Porsche Carrera Cup Asia campaign.
Porsche’s young driver programme is a well-proven talent development model in the high-octane world of motorsport, and over the course of its 20-year existence, ‘Juniors’ from the various different Porsche Carrera Cups have gone on to achieve tremendous success for the brand. Previous alumni Timo Bernhard, Marc Lieb and Earl Bamber, for example, can all now count Le Mans 24 Hours victories on their career CVs as Porsche factory drivers.
Out of more than 300 applicants from across Southeast Asia, 22-year-old Tan was shortlisted amongst just seven candidates for the comprehensive evaluation process, which was held at Shanghai International Circuit earlier this month. It comprised a rigorous appraisal of on-track ability in a range of road-going Porsches and the race-bred Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (Type 991), as well as physical fitness and media skills.
The road car assessment took place at the newly-built, on-site Porsche Experience Centre (PEC). Asia’s first PEC will only open to the public in January, which meant the seven finalists enjoyed an exclusive early preview of its test-driving course, skidpan, drifting circle and slalom facilities in the manufacturer’s 911 Turbo, 911 Carrera 2S, Macan GTS and 718 Cayman.
The objective of the Porsche Junior Programme is to provide aspiring young stars with the guidance and tutelage they need to make the grade as professional racing drivers. As Tan bids to carve a career path to the very pinnacle of international sportscar competition, he is hopeful he has done enough to convince Porsche of his potential.
“Firstly, I’d like to thank Porsche China for giving me such an amazing opportunity to compete for the chance to become their Junior driver in 2018,” enthused the highly-rated Chinese ace, who is already the official test and reserve driver for FIA World Endurance Championship outfit CEFC Manor TRS Racing and a former member of the Caterham F1 Academy.
“The calibre was extremely high and we had a great panel of judges from Porsche to conduct a full and fair assessment over what were three very intensive days. I thought I did a pretty good job, and it was fantastic to finally be in a 911! Until the shootout, I’d never driven a Porsche before, but I’ve always been a fan and the 911 Turbo is undoubtedly one of the best road cars I’ve sampled to-date. We were also very lucky to be the first to try out the awesome new PEC.
“The 911 GT3 Cup was a beast in its own right too, quite different from the GT3s I’ve piloted before. The car doesn’t have a lot of downforce, no ABS and no traction control, which means the driver has a major influence over its performance.
“The fitness element was intense, and I’m glad my regular training prepared me for that. We were tested to our maximum capabilities in a manner not dissimilar to a standard military exercise, including running, push-ups, chin-ups and core strength. It goes to show how important fitness is in motorsport, because racing drivers need to have a high degree of strength and muscle endurance to withstand the extreme heat and long durations spent in the car.
“Such a detailed evaluation underscores Porsche’s outstanding level of professionalism, and just how seriously it regards its Junior Programme. It is no coincidence that the brand has enjoyed more than 60 years of motorsport success all around the globe, and it would be a dream come true to be a part of that incredible story going forward. All I can do now is wait until December when Porsche announces the winner…”