Weiron Tan is tearing up the history books almost as quickly as he is tearing around the racetrack in the FIA World Endurance Championship this year, and he continued that trend last weekend (12-14 October), playing a key role in the first-ever victory for an all-Malaysian crew in an international FIA-sanctioned event with a peerless performance at Fuji Speedway.
Tan arrived at Fuji – an iconic circuit nestled in the foothills of Japan’s majestic Mount Fuji and steeped in motorsport heritage – in determined mood, having come within a whisker of triumphing in the previous FIA WEC outing at Silverstone two months earlier.
The highly-rated Malaysian Chinese racer wasted no time at all in getting up-to-speed behind the wheel of Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport’s Gibson-powered ORECA 07 prototype in free practice, immediately lapping on the same pace as more experienced team-mates Jazeman Jaafar and Nabil Jeffri.
Showcasing no shortage of commitment, 23-year-old Tan shaved a full second off the trio’s best FP1 time in FP2 to go third-fastest as he gained in confidence, before Jaafar and Jeffri teamed up in qualifying to put the 600bhp #Fortunecat37 entry a strong second on the grid in the fiercely-disputed, high-calibre LMP2 category ahead of the following day’s 6 Hours of Fuji.
Characteristically challenging – and changeable – conditions greeted competitors for the start of the race, but the rain and damp track surface could not deter Jaafar, who was into the LMP2 class lead by lap four. Debris on the main straight subsequently brought out the safety car later in the opening hour, and with the action temporarily neutralised, a pit-stop to switch from intermediate tyres to slicks would prove to be a tactical masterstroke.
As the circuit increasingly dried, Jaafar, Jeffri and Tan went on a charge. Consistently extending their advantage, even an ill-timed Full Course Yellow in the closing stages was unable to dent their dominance, and they ultimately took the chequered flag just under half-a-minute clear of the sister #Mighty38 car in front of the 52,800 appreciative and enthusiastic spectators thronging the Fuji grandstands.
The success has vaulted them to within a single point of the LMP2 championship lead in endurance racing’s premier global series, heading next to the fifth round of the 2018/19 FIA WEC ‘Super Season’, China’s 6 Hours of Shanghai on 16-18 November – Jackie Chan DC Racing’s home event.
“I’m a bit speechless,” confessed former Caterham F1 Academy member Tan, who is only four races into his maiden campaign at the pinnacle of international sportscar competition. “We made history simply by taking part this season – and now we’ve made history again by winning. I genuinely couldn’t be any prouder right now.
“The last hour was nigh-on unbearable in the pit garage. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so nervous – I almost couldn’t bring myself to watch. We were all so hungry to get the win – particularly after coming so close at Silverstone. I think I speak on behalf of the whole team when I say it was a hugely emotional moment when Jazeman took the chequered flag. It was an awesome achievement, and I was over-the-moon that my family was able to be there, too, to witness it all and celebrate with me.
“As ever, I owe a huge thanks to both Jackie Chan DC Racing and Sepang International Circuit for their incredible support – this has been a tireless team effort from day one, with everybody working their absolute socks off to develop the package and our potential.
“The race itself was virtually flawless for us, and a lot of fun. Jazeman and Nabil both did a great job, and I was really pleased with my own stint as well. None of us made any mistakes, and that was complemented by excellent pit-stops and a good strategy by the team.
“We could see the track was drying, but it was tricky to know exactly when the right time would be to change over to slicks. We had to adapt our initial ‘run plan’ somewhat, but Jazeman and the engineers made the perfect call and that put us firmly in control.
“To come away with another one-two finish for Jackie Chan DC Racing is phenomenal and leaves us in a really strong position now championship-wise – with the momentum on our side. Standing on the top step of the podium was just the most amazing feeling – and going forward, that’s all the motivation we need.”