Weiron Tan got his maiden campaign of top-flight sportscar competition in the China GT Championship off to a very solid start last weekend, producing podium-challenging pace at Beijing Goldenport Park behind the wheel of his Absolute Racing Bentley Continental GT3.
The 22-year-old Chinese ace has steered his burgeoning career from single-seaters to sportscars this year, with Beijing marking his debut in the China GT Championship’s fiercely-disputed, headlining GT3 class alongside team-mate Andrew Kim.
Piloting the No.5 entry, Tan and Kim proceeded to qualify fifth for race one amongst the 15 high-calibre contenders, in a field that included big names of the ilk of Macau Grand Prix winner André Couto, FIA World Endurance Championship front-runner Alexandre Imperatori and former Porsche Carrera Cup France Champion Maxime Jousse.
In front of an estimated TV and online audience of more than 75 million, Kim took the start in the curtain-raiser and maintained position until a pit-stop error cost the Absolute Racing duo 15 seconds and several places. Tan subsequently fought hard to regain fifth spot by the chequered flag – simultaneously lifting the runner-up laurels in the supporting GT Asia Championship for international teams.
From an encouraging third on the grid in race two – less than two tenths-of-a-second shy of the outright benchmark – Kim initially lost ground and was running sixth when the safety car emerged to clear up an incident. At the re-start, the Korean driver attempted to snatch fifth from one of the Ferraris, but found himself squeezed onto the gravel and sent into a spin.
When Tan took over, the car was down in 12th place, but the erstwhile Caterham F1 Academy member dug deep to scythe his way back through to finish seventh – and fourth in GT Asia – with an eye-catching effort that has left him with his tail up ahead of the next outing on the 2017 calendar at Ordos in early July.
“I thought it was a pretty solid weekend overall for my debut in GT racing,” he reflected. “With its small, tight-and-twisty layout, Beijing International Circuit was never expected to suit the Bentley particularly well, but we showed very good pace throughout and I really enjoyed the whole experience.
“I got up-to-speed pretty quickly and learned a lot about the car, and we qualified well on both days. Unfortunately, circumstances conspired against us in the races with the pit-stop delay and the contact with the Ferrari that cost us a lot of time and positions, but we pushed hard and my pace was super solid and consistent. Absolute Racing gave us an awesome car, Andrew did a great job and we still scored some valuable points, which will be important in the long run.
“I think Andrew and I make a good pairing, and I am already looking forward to Ordos. Hopefully the next few races will play more to our advantage, and with a bit of refining through the season to eliminate the small mistakes that cost us a shot at the podium in Beijing, I have no doubt that we will be right up there very soon.”