Weiron Tan and his Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport team-mates Jazeman Jaafar and Nabil Jeffri fought through challenging conditions in last weekend’s 6 Hours of Shanghai (16-18 November) to tally a fifth consecutive top four finish that keeps them firmly in title contention in the fiercely-disputed FIA World Endurance Championship.
The first all-Malaysian driver line-up in FIA WEC history entered the event on a high, buoyed by their breakthrough success five weeks earlier at Japan’s Fuji Speedway in their maiden campaign in sportscar racing’s premier global series.
On the team’s home turf, the trio confidently topped the timesheets throughout Friday’s wet free practice sessions, with Jaafar and Jeffri proceeding to put the 600bhp ORECA 07 – Gibson prototype second on the high-calibre LMP2 class grid in the dry qualifying shoot-out, a mere quarter-of-a-second behind the pole-sitting sister car.
The rain returned with a vengeance on race day, prompting a safety car start. The action was subsequently punctuated by a brace of red flag stoppages on safety grounds – resulting in only 16 laps being completed over the course of the opening two hours – and multiple further safety car interventions.
Standing water proved to be the major issue, and 23-year-old Tan – in just his second outing around the technically demanding 5.451km, 16-turn Shanghai International Circuit – found himself caught out while running competitively inside the top three, with a spin leaving him temporarily stranded in the gravel trap and costing the #Fortunecat37 crew a lap to their rivals.
Thereafter circulating at the same pace as the race-winning Jackie Chan DC Racing #Mighty38 entry, Tan, Jaafar and Jeffri battled back to take the chequered flag fourth in front of sold-out grandstands in the fifth round of the 2018/19 FIA WEC ‘Super Season’.
To say it marked their lowest finish of the campaign to-date underscores just what a superb season they are enjoying, as they head into the winter break placed a solid third in the title table, only 14 points adrift of the lead with 98 remaining up for grabs over the last three races.
“Being the team’s home event, it was a big – and very special – weekend for the whole Jackie Chan DC Racing family,” acknowledged highly-rated Malaysian Chinese racer Tan, formerly a member of the prestigious Caterham F1 Academy. “It’s a privilege to drive for this team and I was feeling good. I love Shanghai; I lived there for six months last year and it’s a unique city.
“We established some good momentum on Friday and a strong set-up in the wet, and our qualifying pace proved that we were just as quick in the dry. It was fantastic to secure another front row lock-out for the team – it was incredibly close again between the two cars – but we were well aware that everybody else would bring their ‘A game’ the next day, too, so there was no time to relax.
“The conditions on Sunday were really tricky, with extremely poor visibility that made it difficult to see very much at all from inside the cockpit, but the team did a great job and remained calm throughout the various stoppages and safety car interruptions. Keeping the tyres and brakes hot enough behind the safety car was one of the biggest challenges, but our strategy was spot-on throughout.
“The result may not ultimately have gone our way, but huge congratulations to the #Mighty38 crew for registering Jackie Chan DC Racing’s thoroughly well-deserved first win on home soil in the series. Our pace was good as well, but I made a small error that punished us quite heavily, which was obviously disappointing.
“I pushed just a touch too hard going into Turn One and ran a little bit wide, clipping the white line on the outside of the corner, which sent me into a spin. I was beached in the gravel, and coming shortly after the end of a safety car period, the field was quite bunched up so the delay put us a lap down. It was entirely my mistake, but I will learn from it.
“I have to say, I really felt for all the fans at the track; they stayed out there in the rain and supported us right to the end, which was phenomenal to see and truly uplifting, and we owe them all a massive ‘thank you’ for that. Fourth place clearly wasn’t what we wanted, but it keeps us well in the mix in the championship hunt and we will come back even stronger. With extra points available in two of the remaining three races, everything is still very much to play for…”