Weiron Tan spent much of the 2017/18 Asian Le Mans Series finale vying for victory at Sepang International Circuit last weekend, but a late electrical issue contrived to deny the highly-rated Malaysian Chinese racer a popular podium finish on home turf.
Having sensationally triumphed on his Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 class debut with Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport three weeks earlier in Thailand, Tan returned to the cockpit of the team’s Nissan-powered ORECA 05 prototype with high hopes of concluding the campaign in style.
Team-mate Jazeman Jaafar qualified the #7 entry fourth in the fiercely-disputed field, before vaulting up to second when the lights went out to signal the start of the 4 Hours of Sepang and subsequently going on to snatch the top spot.
A ten-second stop-go-penalty when Afiq Ikhwan Yazid inadvertently spun the wheels upon leaving the pit box cost the trio ground, but Tan wasted little time in fighting back. Taking advantage of a final hour safety car intervention to close right in on the leaders, he immediately leapfrogged from fourth up to second when the action resumed, latching determinedly onto the tail of the sister #8 car at the head of the pack.
As he was lining up to attack, however, the 23-year-old was informed about another stop-go-penalty for a further pit-lane indiscretion, after he had erroneously been given the green light to depart with the fuel rig still attached to the car.
Continuing to push on, Tan proved his pace and potential – not to mention his first-class fitness in the stifling conditions – by lapping fastest on the track for a while, but the old adage that bad luck comes in threes would unfortunately transpire to be true. As he went to pull away from a routine splash ’n’ dash for a late fuel top-up, the former Caterham F1 Academy member found the car refusing to re-start due to electrical dramas.
The Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport mechanics and engineers worked feverishly to resolve the problem, and their efforts were rewarded when the #7 machine fired belatedly back into life and Tan was able to rejoin the fray in the closing moments – albeit eight laps down.
“It was kind of a bittersweet feeling,” he reflected. “I enjoyed the race, our pace was phenomenal and we were firmly in the mix throughout. After catching our team-mates in the lead, I felt the speed to overtake was there, but these things happen sometimes in motorsport.
“I can’t criticise the team at all, because they put in a mega effort all weekend and it was at least some consolation to be able to return to the track at the last minute and take the chequered flag in front of all the home fans to thank them for their support.
“I believe Jazeman, Afiq and I have all demonstrated our qualities and our ability to perform at a high level, and we hope to progress further from this. Thank you once again to Sepang International Circuit for granting us such a fantastic opportunity, and congratulations to the #8 crew on their victory.”