Weiron Tan was on-track for a famous victory in last weekend’s 6 Hours of Silverstone (17-19 August) until a mid-race puncture scuppered his and his team-mates’ challenge, but the highly-rated Malaysian Chinese ace nevertheless went on to secure his maiden podium finish in the FIA World Endurance Championship – outperforming a host of seriously big names along the way.
Contesting his rookie season at the pinnacle of international sportscar racing in the fiercely-disputed LMP2 class, Tan arrived at Silverstone – the celebrated ‘Home of British Motor Sport’ – off the back of consecutive fourth-place finishes in the Spa-Francorchamps curtain-raiser and on his debut in the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours, belying his lack of experience in the series.
Sharing Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport’s 600bhp #FortuneCat37 entry with compatriots Jazeman Jaafar and Nabil Jeffri – the talented trio constituting the first all-Malaysian driver line-up in FIA WEC history – the 23-year-old worked hard throughout free practice on his first visit to Silverstone since 2013, with Jaafar dropping a hint of the Gibson-powered ORECA 07 prototype’s potential by lapping second-quickest in the final session and the sister #Mighty38 car setting the pace in FP2.
Jaafar and Jeffri duly combined to clinch pole position in qualifying in an impressive Jackie Chan DC Racing front row lock-out, and – watched by an enthusiastic crowd of more than 60,000 trackside spectators – the former led away at the start of the race the following day.
Tan was next to climb into the cockpit for an hour-long double-stint, maintaining and indeed extending the Anglo-Chinese outfit’s advantage courtesy of a series of consistently quick lap times – faster than the likes of former grand prix-winner Pastor Maldonado, 2014 FIA WEC World Champion Anthony Davidson and current FIA Formula 2 Championship front-runner Nyck De Vries, and barely four-hundredths-of-a-second adrift of Nicolas Lapierre, widely regarded as one of the benchmarks in the discipline.
Drama was to follow, however, as just before mid-distance and while holding a commanding lead over the #Mighty38, Jaafar unexpectedly slowed with a front-left puncture, more than halving the #FortuneCat37’s margin in one fell swoop. After a pit-stop to fit a replacement tyre, Jeffri took over, but their misfortune was compounded when an ill-timed full course caution to deal with a stranded car subsequently dropped the all-Malaysian crew to second.
Suddenly, the chase was on, and over the final hour-and-a-half, Jeffri and Jaafar pushed hard to overturn the deficit, reducing it to next-to-nothing as the two Jackie Chan DC Racing entries ran literally nose-to-tail for the last 20 minutes. Ultimately, there was no way through – with less than two seconds separating the pair at the chequered flag – but the runner-up spot nonetheless marked another stellar accomplishment for Tan and his two countrymen as they continue to make history in endurance racing’s premier global series.
Fifth overall in the 34-strong, multi-class field, the trio’s best result of the 2018/19 FIA WEC ‘Super Season’ to-date has enabled them to narrow the gap to the top of the title standings from 15 points to just 11 ahead of the next outing at Fuji in Japan in mid-October. Former Caterham F1 Academy member Tan – who only steered his burgeoning career from single-seaters to sportscars last year – was quick to reflect on a job well done.
“What an incredible weekend!” he enthused after lapping seventh-fastest amongst the 21 LMP2 competitors in the race, proving to be evenly-matched with Jaafar and Jeffri throughout. “I’m super happy for the team to have secured such a dominant one-two finish on ‘home’ soil – without the hard work and dedication that they always put in, this would not have been possible.
“There’s a slightly bittersweet feeling from our crew, knowing we had the win in the bag if it wasn’t for the puncture. Our race was pretty much trouble-free aside from that, but our first pole position and first podium finish are nonetheless great achievements and represent good points towards the championship.
“All-in-all, it was a great effort by everybody involved, and I’m very proud of my team-mates who all performed extremely well. I’m feeling more motivated than ever now moving forward to the next round. Thank you to Sepang International Circuit, my other sponsors, the home crowd and Jackie Chan DC Racing for the support. We will continue to build on this momentum and come back even stronger!”