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.
Jaden Conwright is remaining level-headed as he prepares to make his debut in the inaugural F3 Asian Championship certified by FIA at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia this weekend (13-15 July), after lapping an encouraging second-quickest in the official pre-season test.
The first driver to commit to the all-new series back in May, the American teenager will compete for Absolute Racing behind the wheel of a high-performance, 270bhp single-seater, with a grid of 17 drivers representing ten different teams confirmed for the fast-approaching curtain-raiser. Conwright – a former World Speed Motorsports Rising Star Award recipient, rookie class podium-finisher in the fiercely-disputed Italian F4 Championship and Carlin Academy member – tested for Absolute Racing in Shanghai last winter, impressing the multiple race-winning outfit with both his strong work ethic and pace.
The 19-year-old carried that eye-catching form over to this week’s group test at Sepang, lapping inside the top four more often than not and placing an excellent second in the final session – arguably the most representative given that all competitors were on new tyres at the same time. The only driver to go quicker was Jake Hughes – a man with race-winning credentials in both the GP3 Series and FIA Formula 3 European Championship – leaving Conwright feeling quietly confident ahead of the opening round.
“It was good to finally be back at a race circuit as a driver, and now I can’t wait to return to the cockpit for the weekend,” the Californian enthused. “I’ve always followed Asian motorsport closely, and I’m really happy about what the FIA has managed to pull together in just a few months. The car looks amazing and the championship itself is going to be very competitive. The overall level of the teams is very high and most of the drivers have a lot of experience, with some of them arriving from really prestigious series.”
“That is a great source of motivation for me and for Absolute Racing. We share a common goal – since my first test with them, I had no doubt this was the best team for me at this stage in my career. They are ultra-professional and extremely structured and efficient, and we felt a great chemistry and synergy straightaway.
It’s still too early to fully assess where we are at the moment, but the team have been working like crazy to put the cars together so I’m pleased we didn’t encounter any issues during the test and now the guys can rest a little before the weekend. I literally cannot thank them all enough for the support they have given us. We spent the two days learning the car and seeing how it behaves in different weather conditions. There were some ups-and-downs, but at the end we managed to produce some good performances, which is obviously positive. It was cool to see my name in second position between drivers like Jake Hughes and Raoul Hyman, but this is only testing and we need to keep our feet on the ground.
I will enter the first race weekend aiming for a strong result, but not expecting it. The championship will be very strong and very close, so remaining focussed and continually looking for ways to improve will be the best approach. There are a lot of uncertainties with a brand new series and a new car, but the objective has to be to hit the ground running from day one.”
The 2018 F3 Asian Championship will take in 15 races spread across five rounds – to be held at Sepang as well as China’s Ningbo International Speedway and Shanghai International Circuit between now and the end of November.
The region’s first F3 series to be officially sanctioned by world motorsport’s governing body will form part of the FIA’s new open-wheel ladder of progression, with the top eight drivers in the final standings all earning points towards qualification for a Formula 1 superlicence. In evidence of its stature, competitors will accrue the same number of superlicence points as their counterparts in the likes of the DTM, Super GT and World Touring Car Cup.
Having nurtured Conwright through the formative stages of his career in America and Europe, Williams-Harfield Sports Group Director Chris Harfield is convinced that his highly-rated young protégé has what it takes to make a real name for himself in the burgeoning new series.
“We were already considering a programme in Asia for Jaden in 2018, and when we heard about the inaugural F3 Asian Championship, we had no doubts this was the path to take,” he explained. “The new engine and chassis package is a big step forward for the series, and championship organiser Top Speed has demonstrated a solid understanding of the motorsport industry.
The FIA has pushed a lot with this project and we believe we will see more and more drivers and teams racing in this part of the world. The Asian market is currently booming and we haven’t yet seen its full potential.
Since we started working with Jaden, he has grown and developed both on and off the track and we cannot wait for this exciting new adventure to begin. During the last two years, Jaden focussed on the consistency of his performances, while always aiming higher. Collaborating with top-flight teams and organisations has given him the opportunity to compare himself against some of the best junior drivers in the world and he is ready for this next chapter.”
“A new championship always brings with it new challenges, but we are confident that both Jaden and Absolute Racing have the hunger and determination to make this season a success.”
The inaugural F3 regional Asian championship calendar includes 15 races – three at each of the five rounds – at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit, and China’s Ningbo International Speedway and the Shanghai International Circuit.
The season will kick start with an official test on July 9 and 10 in Sepang. Commenting on joining the team Jaden Conwright said:
“I can’t thank Ingo, Fabien, and the entire Absolute Racing team enough for the wonderful opportunity to compete in the inaugural F3 Asian Championship certified by FIA! From the first time we worked together there was great synergy and atmosphere. We all strived for the same goal. Absolute Racing’s professionalism allowed me to improve my driving in a very structured and efficient manner. There are a lot of uncertainties with a brand-new championship and a new car, but there’s no doubt that Absolute Racing and I will be ready to hit the ground running from day one at Sepang.”
Ingo Matter, Team Director, added,
“We are delighted to announce Jaden Conwright as our first Formula 3 Asian Championship driver. When he tested with our Formula Masters Series car in Shanghai, Jaden’s display and professional approached impressed everyone. With his speed never in doubt, our goal is to provide him with the necessary tools to be able to battle for the top positions in every race.”
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!”
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…”
Highly-rated young Chinese ace Weiron Tan will compete in the fiercely-disputed Blancpain GT Series Asia for the remainder of 2017, after Absolute Racing took the decision to divert its Bentley Continental GT3 programme from the China GT Championship.
Having steered his burgeoning career from single-seaters to sportscars this year, 22-year-old Tan has impressed during the course of his maiden full season in his new discipline, securing pole position for three races out of six, setting fastest lap at Zhuhai International Circuit and claiming a hat-trick of GT3 class podium finishes in the supporting GT Asia Championship for international teams alongside Korean team-mate Andrew Kim.
Following the switch, Tan and Kim will now complete the campaign in the Blancpain GT Series Asia, beginning at Shanghai International Circuit this coming weekend (23/24 September) and concluding at Zhejiang Circuit just under a month later (21/22 October).
“It was a unanimous decision made by the team for both Bentleys to participate in Blancpain for the rest of the season, and I am very excited for our debut!” enthused the CEFC Manor TRS Racing official test and reserve driver and former Caterham F1 Academy member, who is managed by Williams Harfield Sports Group.
Blancpain is an extremely competitive series, but as we proved in China GT, I believe we have a strong enough package to compete at the front and I am looking forward to the challenges ahead.”
Weiron Tan proved that the podium is within reach in the latest outing of the fiercely-disputed China GT Championship at Zhuhai International Circuit last weekend, with an impressive performance around a track that was far from ideally suited to his Bentley Continental GT3.
After finding himself out-of-luck at the same circuit three weeks earlier, Tan returned to Zhuhai eager to continue his eye-catching rate of progress with Absolute Racing in what is his maiden full sportscar campaign.
Picking up from where he had left off, the 22-year-old Chinese ace – working in tandem with Korean team-mate Andrew Kim – snared pole position for both contests amongst the 12 high-calibre GT3 class contenders, meaning the #05 crew have claimed the top spot on the starting grid for half of the rounds in 2017 to-date. With the nature of Zhuhai International Circuit playing more to the strengths of some of Bentley’s rivals, however, Tan and Kim struggled to maintain that same level of pace in the races, battling hard before ultimately finding themselves forced to give best.
A gritty effort nonetheless earned the pair fifth place at the chequered flag in the first encounter and fourth in the next, just a handful of seconds adrift of victory after an hour’s flat-out competition. Notwithstanding the obvious disappointment of having come so close only to miss out by the narrowest of margins, the Williams Harfield Sports Group protégé and erstwhile Caterham F1 Academy member is bullish about his prospects for the remainder of the campaign, beginning in Shanghai on 8-10 September.
“I was actually pretty pleased with the weekend, even though we didn’t get the results we deserved,” reflected Tan. “We secured a double pole position to make it three in a row, and with this being my rookie season in GT3, that’s a pretty big achievement for me.
“We knew we had the speed, but we also knew that winning in Zhuhai wouldn’t be easy for the Bentley as the circuit just doesn’t suit our car over longer runs – it’s too small, our brakes overheat and the tyres degrade too quickly. We’re good for the first few laps, but after that it’s all about trying to hang on. It was especially tricky towards the end of stints.
Saying all that, I thought I executed the weekend very well.”
Weiron Tan showcased his impressive raw pace with a pole position and fastest lap in the latest outing of the fiercely-disputed China GT Championship at Zhuhai International Circuit last weekend (8/9 July), only for misfortune to deny him the kind of result his performance palpably deserved.
Following a productive free practice session, Tan and Absolute Racing team-mate Andrew Kim headed into qualifying in optimistic mood, but the weather then threw an unexpected curve ball. A tyre gamble in the changeable conditions initially looked set to pay off, but ultimately, a timing misjudgment cost the #05 crew and they wound up fourth on the grid amongst the 14 high-calibre GT3 class contenders for race one.
Kim took to the wheel of the Bentley Continental GT3 for the start, but on a damp track surface, contact and a spin dropped the car down the order. Tan took over just as the rain intensified, but distracted by loose seatbelts and running on slick tyres in the treacherous conditions, the 22-year-old lost the rear a handful of laps from the end, precipitating an early bath. A quicker overall lap time than the winner hinted at what might have been.
With lessons learned from the previous day, a superb effort secured Tan and Kim pole position for race two in a Bentley Team Absolute front row lockout, as the duo snared the top spot by a commanding seven tenths-of-a-second. This time, it was the erstwhile Caterham F1 Academy member and Lotus SuperCup Asia GT4 Champion who completed the opening stint, leading all the way to the driver change and setting fastest lap along the way. Unfortunately, fate again intervened, as a short circuit in the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) with two laps remaining restricted Tan and Kim to fourth place at the chequered flag – just over five seconds shy of the podium – and third in the supporting GT Asia Championship for international teams.
Whilst understandably disappointed, the highly-rated Chinese ace – who only steered his burgeoning career from single-seaters to sportscars this year – nonetheless took considerable encouragement from the pair’s form in Zhuhai ahead of the series’ return to the circuit for the fifth and sixth rounds of its 2017 campaign at the end of the month.
“Overall, it wasn’t the luckiest weekend for us as a team,” he reflected. “I think the Balance of Performance favoured the Audis more than us. Practice represented a solid start and I felt confident going into qualifying, but then the weather started to change. It was pretty damp at the beginning of the first part of the session and we weren’t sure if the drizzle was going to get worse or go away, so I took a gamble and asked to switch to slicks just after my ‘out’ lap on wets.
We were the first to change tyres, and we were P1 for a while until the surface dried up all of a sudden and everyone else went onto slicks – by which point, the sweet spot on our tyres was long gone. The second part of the session was almost the opposite situation, as we started off on wets and went to slicks too late as the track dried towards the end. That meant I only managed to squeeze in one flying lap – had we had another, I was sure I could have put the car on the front row.
Race one was frustrating. Just before Andrew handed over to me, the rain started to get heavier but as it wasn’t forecast to last long, we decided to stay on slicks whilst everyone else went onto wets. It was pretty tricky in those conditions, but what ultimately cost us was that my belts weren’t properly clicked in during the pit-stop. That meant I was moving around in the car, and I consequently lost the rear coming out of Turn 12.
Thankfully, we got the timing right for the next day’s qualifying and we both put together good laps, which earned us pole position. I started the race and we had great pace – as was proved by posting the fastest lap – and I led up to the driver change. I was struggling slightly with the rear going away a bit too quickly towards the end of my stint, but I still thought we had a good chance of grabbing a podium at least. Andrew drove well too, so it was very unfortunate that our ECU had a short circuit with two laps to go.
Absolute Racing did a fantastic job again all weekend, Andrew is consistently improving and we will all work hard to make sure incidents like the seatbelt issue do not reoccur. I am already looking forward to the next round. Hopefully Lady Luck will be a bit kinder to us when we come back here in a few weeks’ time.”