Weiron Tan and his team-mates Jazeman Jaafar and Nabil Jeffri will start this weekend’s 86th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours from inside the top ten on the fiercely-disputed LMP2 class grid, after making ‘huge progress’ throughout free practice and qualifying behind the wheel of Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport’s 600bhp, Gibson-powered ORECA 07 prototype.
Competing in his maiden season in the FIA World Endurance Championship – sportscar racing’s premier global series – Tan is tackling the legendary round-the-clock classic for the first time. In partnership with countrymen Jaafar and Jeffri – constituting the first all-Malaysian driver line-up in FIA WEC history – the 23-year-old placed an impressive seventh on the LMP2 timesheets in Wednesday afternoon’s four-hour practice session amongst the 20 high-calibre contenders.
The #Fortunecat37 crew replicated that performance in the first of the three qualifying sessions at La Sarthe. Underscoring his abilities as a fast learner, Tan posted the car’s quickest lap in the second session before Jaafar set the time that would ultimately secure the trio tenth position in LMP2 – barely a tenth-of-a-second adrift of their more experienced team-mates in the sister Jackie Chan DC Racing car around the 13.626km lap – and 20th overall out of the 60 protagonists.
That means Tan, Jaafar and Jeffri will line up ahead of the likes of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and seven-time grand prix-winner Juan-Pablo Montoya and Jan Lammers, who won Le Mans outright 30 years ago and is preparing to make his 24th appearance in the French endurance marathon this weekend.
“What a build-up it has been so far!” enthused former Caterham F1 Academy member Tan, who only steered his burgeoning career from single-seaters to sportscars last year. “Over the past week, we have had media interviews, scrutineering in the town centre, the famous drivers’ parade and other activities almost every day – not to mention free practice and qualifying! The fans are just amazing – it’s not even race day yet, but they have been here all week showing their enthusiasm and support.
“Practice and qualifying went very well. Our focus was to build a strong car for the 24 Hours, and I feel we have made huge progress from where we started. Lining up 20th overall in a field of 60 entries on our first attempt at Le Mans is great, and now we can look forward to a long and interesting race! Anything can happen over the space of 24 hours, as has been seen in previous years.
“Huge thanks to Sepang, Jackie Chan DC Racing and my other sponsors Corum, Gere, Lifestyle Chiropractic and Momentum Autosport for their tremendous support. I hope to make them and our nation proud!”
Fans in Malaysia can follow Tan’s Le Mans debut LIVE on Astro Channel 814 Eurosport, beginning at 20:45 today (Saturday, 16 June).