Multiple karting Champion Joe Turney is joining the official Tony Kart team for next weekends race at the WSK Winter Cup at the South Garda circuit in Lonato.
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.
Plano, Texas (October 29, 2018) – AIM VASSER SULLIVAN (AVS), the newly formed motorsports entity that includes AIM Autosport, a championship-winning organization and IndyCar winning team owners Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan is thrilled to announce Jack Hawksworth as the team’s first driver. Hawksworth will be racing full-time in 2019 in one of the two Lexus RC F GT3 race cars that AVS will campaign in the GT Daytona (GTD) class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Gustavo Menezes has promised to ‘come back stronger’ in the next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, after his bid for a fourth consecutive top three finish in sportscar racing’s premier global series came unstuck in challenging conditions at Fuji Speedway last weekend (12-14 October).
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.”
Gustavo Menezes made history at Silverstone last weekend (17-19 August), becoming the first American driver ever to win a race outright in the fiercely-disputed FIA World Endurance Championship courtesy of a scene-stealing back-to-front charge through the field.
Competing for Rebellion Racing, Menezes – the 2016 FIA WEC Champion and Le Mans winner at LMP2 level – is swiftly establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with this season in the headlining LMP1 class of sportscar racing’s premier global series. Following consecutive third-place finishes at Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans, the talented young Californian travelled to the celebrated ‘Home of British Motor Racing’ – a circuit at which he has always excelled – fired-up to maintain his rostrum run. Menezes duly set the fastest lap time of the six Rebellion drivers in free practice – his team-mates notably including overall Le Mans winners and World Champions Neel Jani and André Lotterer – and in FP1, he even outpaced three of the factory Toyota drivers for good measure, Formula 1 hero Fernando Alonso amongst them.
The highly-rated Santa Monica native subsequently partnered Mathias Beche in qualifying to put the No.3 Rebellion-Gibson R-13 prototype fifth on the starting grid for the six-hour showdown, as he once more circulated quicker than any of his stablemates – this time, to the tune of nearly eight tenths-of-a-second.
Mere moments into the race, however, Beche found himself turned around by Stéphane Sarrazin in one of the SMP Racing cars – for which the Frenchman received a drive-through penalty – sending the Rebellion plummeting down the order to the very foot of the field. In front of an enthusiastic crowd of more than 60,000 spectators, the Swiss ace immediately initiated what would turn into a spectacular recovery drive, and when he handed over to Menezes at the end of an action-packed opening hour, the crew were up to fifth. His 23-year-old team-mate continued to chase down the sister Rebellion in third and the SMP in fourth, consistently closing the gap as he produced a series of scintillating lap times rapid enough to rival those of the race-leading Toyotas. All of that good work looked to be for nought, though, when an ill-timed safety car intervention shortly before mid-distance dropped the No.3 entry almost a full lap behind its two adversaries, and it required a herculean effort from Beche, Thomas Laurent and Menezes to haul the car back into podium contention.
After Laurent shook off the SMP threat, 2016 FIA WEC ‘Revelation of the Year’ Menezes returned to the cockpit for the final hour, and he had more than halved a 1m12s deficit to Jani when the latter was forced into the pits with 15 minutes remaining to fix a defective rear light, prompting a switch in positions.
The Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé went on to take the chequered flag third, but when both Toyotas were later disqualified following technical checks, Rebellion became the first privateer team to win an FIA WEC race outright since 2012 – vaulting its No.3 driving trio to within two points of the World Championship lead.
In evidence of the key role he played in the result, Menezes completed four of the nine stints himself and posted a best lap time almost half-a-second out-of-reach of anybody else – making him the fastest Rebellion driver weekend-long in another supremely impressive performance.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic,” enthused the former Jim Russell Driver Scholarship Award winner. “I haven’t felt this happy for so long. It’s my first win since COTA last year, and it feels very special. Having spent a while living in the UK during the earlier stages of my career, Silverstone is something of a ‘home’ track for me and it’s a great feeling to take my first LMP1 victory there.
Obviously it wasn’t the ideal way to do it, but ultimately, winning a race is winning a race, no matter how it comes and we will grab this result with both hands. All the boys at Rebellion have worked so hard to get the whole LMP1 project off the ground and to develop the car to the stage where it is now, and they really deserve this one-two finish. I’m immensely proud of everybody involved in the programme.
The race certainly wasn’t without its dramas and setbacks for us, from the contact at the start to the safety car appearance midway through that threatened to derail our podium challenge altogether. That was hugely frustrating. I was in the car at the time and making inroads into the battle for third, when the leading Toyota went by to lap us literally seconds before a Full Course Yellow was thrown, which left us virtually an entire lap behind the two cars ahead. After that, I had no choice but to get my head down and push like hell, and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment.
The pace was really good in my first two stints, and the team asked if I would be fit to get back into the car for the race’s final hour. It’s always an honour to be offered the opportunity to bring it home, so I said, ‘let’s give it a shot’. In the meantime, Thomas had cleared the SMP and slashed the gap to third place from more than 1m40s to 1m12s, which remained a tremendously tall order but I knew I just had to dig as deep as I could and see what was possible. The R-13 felt incredible, which allowed me to quickly settle into a really strong rhythm and I’d got the difference down to only 26 seconds when Neel hit trouble.
The Equivalence of Technology regulations still evidently aren’t where they need to be, but all we can do is keep performing to the best of our ability and hope the FIA and ACO address the situation. As a team, there’s no question that we’re more competitive than we’ve ever been, with all three drivers working together extremely well. Ultimately, we know we gave it absolutely everything at Silverstone, and to have fought through the field from the back of the pack to win the race is nothing short of mind-blowing…”
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.”
Gustavo Menezes has described his third-place finish in last weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours as ‘like a victory’, after the talented young American led the Rebellion Racing charge in a captivating race full of unexpected twists-and-turns.
Although the 86th edition of France’s legendary round-the-clock classic marked only Menezes’ third start at La Sarthe, the highly-rated Santa Monica, California native already boasted an impressive record in the event, having sensationally triumphed on his debut there in the LMP2 category in 2016. Now competing in the headlining LMP1 class, Menezes and team-mates Thomas Laurent and Mathias Beche initially qualified the No.3 Rebellion-Gibson R-13 prototype third in the fiercely-contested, 60-strong field – best of the non-hybrid entrants – but they were relegated to fifth due to a pit-lane infringement.
Immediately rising to fourth when the race got underway, Laurent engaged in an entertaining early battle with SMP Racing’s Stéphane Sarrazin, exchanging places on several occasions and finding a way past for good while navigating a backmarker at the Tertre Rouge Esses an hour-and-a-half in. Swiftly stretching his legs, the Frenchman pulled out almost half-a-minute over his countryman before relinquishing the reins to Beche. When the Swiss driver returned to the pits for a routine tyre and fuel stop an hour later, however, an ill-timed safety car intervention to deal with debris meant he was held at pit-lane exit, costing the No.3 crew two minutes and dropping them to fifth.
Menezes first took to the cockpit as the sun began to set, and the 23-year-old was regularly the fastest non-hybrid driver on the track as he chased down the SMP entry ahead. That relentless pressure ultimately told as the Russian car went off shortly before 11pm local time, reinstating the Rebellion in third. The 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 class title-winner and ‘Revelation of the Year’ returned to the fray during the night, but just past half-distance, a small mistake damaged the rear floor of the R-13 and obliged an unscheduled pit visit for urgent repairs. Eight-and-a-half minutes later, Menezes rejoined the race, albeit down in fourth again, behind the sister car.
What ensued was a see-saw internecine scrap for supremacy between the two Rebellions for the honour of finishing as best non-hybrid after the all-conquering Toyotas, with an issue for one invariably being offset by a problem for the other, from sensor failure to pit-stop delays and disobedient doors that refused to stay shut. The last four hours saw Menezes complete a marathon six stints behind the wheel of the 655bhp sportscar, overcoming a malfunctioning gearbox to impressively outpace former World Championship and Le Mans-winning team-mate Neel Jani in the No.1 Rebellion and safely bring the No.3 car home as leading privateer. Not only that, but the Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé ended up on average the quickest non-hybrid driver by more than six tenths-of-a-second per lap. He also lapped barely a second-and-a-half adrift of two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso’s best effort in the significantly faster Toyota around the demanding 13.626km circuit – firmly underscoring his burgeoning sportscar racing credentials in what is widely renowned as the toughest race in the world.
“We really couldn’t have done very much more than that,” Menezes reflected. “We effectively finished first-in-class. There’s just no way we can compete with Toyota given the way the regulations are, but we fought with everything we had to reach the podium and as a comparatively small independent team up against a major factory effort, third place was honestly like a victory for us – particularly after all the drama and stress we went through along the way.”
“When I climbed in for my first stint as evening was falling, we were a minute behind the SMP following our earlier delay during the safety car period – and by the time I returned to the pits again to hand over to Thomas, we were literally running nose-to-tail, so I was really pleased with that.
The next time I took to the track was around 3am, with the No.1 Rebellion right on our case. I made a little error at the first chicane and clipped the kerb, which caused the rear plank to collapse and the loss of all rear downforce. There were sparks dragging on the ground and the back end of the car was just dancing all the way along the Mulsanne Straight at around 200mph, which was pretty terrifying. I had to hang on for dear life and drag it back to the pits, where the team did an amazing job to change the floor in only seven minutes.
That put us two laps behind our team-mates, but we never stopped believing. There was a stage when we seemed to alternate issues with the sister car, or one or other of us would get caught out by the timing of the safety car – the momentum kept swinging this way and that – but we doggedly persevered and it goes to prove you should never give up.
When I began my final stint with just under four hours left on the clock, we were around a minute behind the No.1 Rebellion. On the one hand, I had the team telling me not to take any risks as the main priority was to preserve the three-four finish, but as a driver, I wanted to get on the podium and I felt as a crew, we deserved that so I carried on pushing. Then, two laps later, Neel [Jani] had to pit due to his door coming open, which allowed us back into third and I could ease off a little.
Towards the end, we encountered some upshifting difficulties and I had to stop using second gear, which you need a lot at Le Mans! Despite that, my lap times held up and the R-13 still felt very good. I could literally have driven it all day and I said to my engineer, ‘I’d really like it if I could bring this home – I’m in the zone and I know I can do it’. The team agreed, and it was a real privilege to be allowed to take the chequered flag in such a prestigious race.
“Then on the cooling-down lap afterwards, the gearbox broke completely. I don’t think it had more than another lap or two in it – we really did make it home by the skin of our teeth. What a story!”
Indeed it was, and whilst Menezes had ascended the podium at Le Mans before – for his LMP2 success two years ago – this was metaphorically-speaking a much bigger stage, and with two rostrum appearances now from three starts in such a famously gruelling race, he is fast developing an enviable reputation. The result also saw him become the first American to stand on the overall podium at La Sarthe since 2001 – quite the achievement.
“Sharing that with my two team-mates was beyond doubt one of the most special moments of my career to-date,” acknowledged the erstwhile Jim Russell Driver Scholarship Award winner. “Thomas and Mathias both did an incredible job, and I couldn’t have felt prouder being up there with them looking out at our mechanics who had worked their absolute backsides off all week and the sea of fans down below. It was also the perfect way to kick-start the partnership with my new sponsor, crypto-currency Modex. The whole experience gave me goosebumps – just magical.”
Weiron Tan admits he is excited and nervous in equal measure as he prepares to tackle the ‘biggest challenge’ of his fledgling motorsport career later this month, following a positive and productive test day ahead of the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours.
One of the fastest-rising stars on the international sportscar scene, Tan is competing this year for Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport as part of the first all-Malaysian driver line-up in FIA World Endurance Championship history, alongside team-mates and countrymen Jazemen Jaafar and Nabil Jeffri. Behind the wheel of the team’s 600bhp #Fortunecat37 entry, the trio made an encouraging debut in sportscar racing’s premier global series last month, tallying a solid fourth-place finish in the fiercely-contested LMP2 class at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps – the 2018/19 FIA WEC ‘Super Season’ curtain-raiser.
Rapidly getting to grips with their new Gibson-powered ORECA 07 prototype, Tan, Jaafar and Jeffri then headed for France’s revered, 13.626km La Sarthe circuit, which will stage the 86th edition of the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours on 16/17 June. Making the most of the eight hours of official testing available, the crew completed 68 tours to place 11th on the timesheets amongst the 20 high-calibre LMP2 protagonists. After lapping less than a second adrift of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and seven-time grand prix-winner Juan-Pablo Montoya, 23-year-old Malaysian Chinese racer Tan professed himself pleased with initial preparations.
“The test went well,” affirmed the former Caterham F1 Academy member. “Having done a lot of prior simulation work, I felt like I got to grips with the track quite quickly – but of course, the simulator can never fully replicate reality. The real circuit is way more fun, way scarier and much more exciting! With some 60 cars in the field, it was very difficult to get a clear lap which meant it was almost impossible to accurately judge where everyone was pace-wise, but our objective was to learn and develop a race car for the 24 Hours and in that respect our programme was very productive. With so much information to take in, the test was a positive learning curve for us and we made good progress.”
“I must admit, it was incredible to be driving through the streets of Le Mans at over 330km/h. This track has so much history and it really is a privilege to be here, and I’m feeling excited and quite nervous, if I’m honest. It will be the longest race I’ve ever done. I mean, 24 hours – that’s crazy! I’m just looking forward to experiencing it for the first time and the primary target will be to reach the finish, because anything can happen in 24 hours – so that in itself is the biggest challenge already.”