Adderly Fong says the pressure has been lifted after being able to “break the barrier” and score his first career Pirelli World Challenge victory in Saturday’s opening round of the weekend at Road America.
The Bentley Team Absolute driver dominated the 50-minute Sprint race, starting on pole and holding off an opening lap challenge by four-time series champion Johnny O’Connell, as well as a late charge from Porsche factory driver Patrick Long for Bentley’s first PWC win in two years.
It came after narrowly missing out on a breakthrough win on multiple occasions last year, which included three runner-up finishes.
“It’s a big hurdle,” Fong told Sportscar365. “Last year we were so close and there was always just one car in front.
“I was glad we got the pole, which was the best position to start [Saturday’s] race.
“It was a bit tough with Johnny but I was actually surprised how late he was braking into [Turn] 5. Luckily I had the better line coming out of [Turn] 3 and that’s ultimately what gave me the position to take the lead on the first lap.”
The win for the 27-year-old Vancouver-born Hong Kong driver came after a challenging start to his second season in PWC competition, having not delivered a podium finish up until now, due to accidents and Balance of Performance deficits with the Bentley Continental GT3.
Fong said the struggles, even in the early part of his racing career of racing in Asia, has helped him develop a never-give-up mentality.
“When I first started, I didn’t do any go-karts, I went straight into formula [cars],” he said. “I was always off the pace, and struggled for [years].
“I had been a second off the pole guy but have never, ever been able to break the barrier.
“I think in 2013, I started to mature as a driver and started to understand what the actions and reactions were in driving a race car.”
His championship-winning season in Audi R8 LMS Cup that year, joining forces with the Chinese-based Absolute team, proved to be one of the major turning points in Fong’s career.
Fong has mostly raced for the Ingo Matter and Fabien Fior-led squad since, where he feels there’s a strong chemistry, no matter the championship or continent.
“They know me so well, they’re like a second family,” he said. “I know them just as well as I know my family because I spend almost the same amount of time away a year than I do at home.
“We’ve become so close and so strong. Everyone knows exactly what to do. There’s no other explanation needed.
“I’m glad I’m able to repay the guys for all their hard work, all the nights I make them stay [at the track working] when I do have an incident!”
While still on the back foot in the title chase, and set to miss the next Sprint round at Mid-Ohio due to a clash with the China GT Championship, Fong is hopeful for more victories to come this year and to also make further inroads on the highly competitive PWC championship.
“It puts us back in the fight but I think we would have to have a lot of wins in order for us to get the championship,” he said.
“I think just clean races from now on. The rest of the tracks in the season will really suit the Bentley and I’m looking forward to it.”
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report