Weiron Tan showcased his impressive raw pace with a pole position and fastest lap in the latest outing of the fiercely-disputed China GT Championship at Zhuhai International Circuit last weekend (8/9 July), only for misfortune to deny him the kind of result his performance palpably deserved.
Following a productive free practice session, Tan and Absolute Racing team-mate Andrew Kim headed into qualifying in optimistic mood, but the weather then threw an unexpected curve ball. A tyre gamble in the changeable conditions initially looked set to pay off, but ultimately, a timing misjudgment cost the #05 crew and they wound up fourth on the grid amongst the 14 high-calibre GT3 class contenders for race one.
Kim took to the wheel of the Bentley Continental GT3 for the start, but on a damp track surface, contact and a spin dropped the car down the order. Tan took over just as the rain intensified, but distracted by loose seatbelts and running on slick tyres in the treacherous conditions, the 22-year-old lost the rear a handful of laps from the end, precipitating an early bath. A quicker overall lap time than the winner hinted at what might have been.
With lessons learned from the previous day, a superb effort secured Tan and Kim pole position for race two in a Bentley Team Absolute front row lockout, as the duo snared the top spot by a commanding seven tenths-of-a-second. This time, it was the erstwhile Caterham F1 Academy member and Lotus SuperCup Asia GT4 Champion who completed the opening stint, leading all the way to the driver change and setting fastest lap along the way.
Unfortunately, fate again intervened, as a short circuit in the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) with two laps remaining restricted Tan and Kim to fourth place at the chequered flag – just over five seconds shy of the podium – and third in the supporting GT Asia Championship for international teams.
Whilst understandably disappointed, the highly-rated Chinese ace – who only steered his burgeoning career from single-seaters to sportscars this year – nonetheless took considerable encouragement from the pair’s form in Zhuhai ahead of the series’ return to the circuit for the fifth and sixth rounds of its 2017 campaign at the end of the month.
“Overall, it wasn’t the luckiest weekend for us as a team,” he reflected. “I think the Balance of Performance favoured the Audis more than us. Practice represented a solid start and I felt confident going into qualifying, but then the weather started to change. It was pretty damp at the beginning of the first part of the session and we weren’t sure if the drizzle was going to get worse or go away, so I took a gamble and asked to switch to slicks just after my ‘out’ lap on wets.
“We were the first to change tyres, and we were P1 for a while until the surface dried up all of a sudden and everyone else went onto slicks – by which point, the sweet spot on our tyres was long gone. The second part of the session was almost the opposite situation, as we started off on wets and went to slicks too late as the track dried towards the end. That meant I only managed to squeeze in one flying lap – had we had another, I was sure I could have put the car on the front row.
“Race one was frustrating. Just before Andrew handed over to me, the rain started to get heavier but as it wasn’t forecast to last long, we decided to stay on slicks whilst everyone else went onto wets. It was pretty tricky in those conditions, but what ultimately cost us was that my belts weren’t properly clicked in during the pit-stop. That meant I was moving around in the car, and I consequently lost the rear coming out of Turn 12.
“Thankfully, we got the timing right for the next day’s qualifying and we both put together good laps, which earned us pole position. I started the race and we had great pace – as was proved by posting the fastest lap – and I led up to the driver change. I was struggling slightly with the rear going away a bit too quickly towards the end of my stint, but I still thought we had a good chance of grabbing a podium at least. Andrew drove well too, so it was very unfortunate that our ECU had a short circuit with two laps to go.
“Absolute Racing did a fantastic job again all weekend, Andrew is consistently improving and we will all work hard to make sure incidents like the seatbelt issue do not reoccur. I am already looking forward to the next round. Hopefully Lady Luck will be a bit kinder to us when we come back here in a few weeks’ time.”