Weiron Tan made his GT World Challenge Asia powered by AWS debut last year following a spell in Jackie Chan DC Racing’s FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 lineup.
The Malaysian racer’s GTWC Asia bow came with Absolute Racing, which gave him his start in GT3 competition three years ago, and coincided with a new role as one of Audi Sport Asia’s official drivers.
Teaming up with Estonian Martin Rump, Tan achieved wins at Fuji and Shanghai and finished seventh in the final drivers’ standings.
He’s now waiting for the delayed 2020 season to start in September and is preparing to launch a championship bid with Rump following a positive maiden campaign.
What were your impressions of your debut season in GTWC Asia?
“The grid is always around 30 cars and very competitive. I think it’s got more competitive throughout the years as well.
“The time that I joined with Audi Sport Asia last year was perfect because a lot of international drivers were on board and the competition level was high.
“I’ve known Absolute Racing since 2017, and it was great to be back with the team.
“I’ve known Martin as a racing driver, but I had never raced with him before, so we bonded quite well and throughout the season we really became good friends and got to know each other much better.
“The working relationship was really good, although the start of the season was quite tricky because we had a new engineer whose first time it was working with a GT car, and then I was also considered new to the Audi.
“Having to learn from Martin and the engineer, who was also learning the car, was quite tricky. They were both finding the setup and I wanted to absorb as much as I could, but at the same time learn from my point of view.
“It was quite challenging, but we found a very good balance towards the end.”
What were some of the 2019 season’s memorable moments?
“Fuji was our perfect weekend, finishing second and first. When we went into Fuji, we had a BoP that was really nice. It wasn’t advantageous, but the car was just competitive. We were able to get our heads in and make the car perform at its best.
“That was the best weekend we had, and one of the best Absolute has ever had. I don’t think Audi had won at Fuji before as well.
“It showed that when everything comes together perfectly, we had a really good package to go for the championship, but we had a few unfortunate weekends.
“In Sepang we had a wrong call of strategy: we were running second, it started raining, we wanted to do an undercut to get on wets and get back out before the safety car came out.
“When it starts raining there, it pours. But on that day, it did not. It was really unfortunate. In Buriram, we picked up a podium but in the second race, Martin got sandwiched by two Porsches, so that was another thrown away.
“At Suzuka we qualified on pole but had a puncture, and in Korea we ran really well but got a drive-through penalty.
“Then in Shanghai we picked up a win, and then in the second race had a puncture! It could have been better and should have been, but that’s what we’re hoping for this year.”
In your opinion, what are the strengths of GTWC Asia?
“I think the series has done really well in terms of getting international attention.
“Asia is still a growing market compared to Europe and America, in terms of motorsport. China now has more than 10 circuits alone, but international series only really race at Shanghai.
“I’ve heard there are plans for other places, like in Thailand they’re building a new circuit, so there are a lot of emerging markets at the moment and it’s just slowly picking up.
“It’s very sad that COVID-19 broke that momentum, but I’m sure it will come up again.
“It’s a really good championship and the most competitive outside of Japan in Asia. There’s a lot of potential for growth.”
How could the series further boost its appeal?
“I would be a big fan of most of the races being night races; most of the circuits now have night lights.
“That would not only help the European audience, but also for the Asian market: since it’s especially hot in the tropical countries, night races will work extremely well.
“Nobody wants to go out and watch motorsport when it’s so hot during the day, not even myself!”
Do you envisage returning to the FIA World Endurance Championship or the 24 Hours of Le Mans?
“I’m definitely not crossing it out. If an opportunity arises, I’m definitely up for it.
“The WEC was a big experience and so much fun. If any time at all there is an opportunity to come back to prototype racing, provided the contract allows me to race in another championship where there isn’t a conflict, then of course.
“I hope that one day I will be able to race in a GTE car. I think it would be a big step up from GT3, but somewhere in between GT3 and LMP2. That’s also one of my goals.”
What does your role as an Audi Sport Asia official driver entail?
“I am a representative of the Audi Sport brand itself. Our driver role is more focused on GTWC Asia. The main focus of our role is to perform well in that championship.
“As the market grows, I think there will be more opportunities to do some marketing stuff with the Audi Sport Asia brand from Beijing, all the way to southeast Asia.
“It was definitely a big milestone for me, and I was very happy to be a part of a big manufacturer like Audi Sport.
“It’s doubly special for me because I and my family have always been fans of Audi. Even when I lived in London, I drove an A1 and we had a second-hand A4 hatchback, so it made it even more special that I became an official driver with them.”
Finally, back to GTWC Asia, do you think you and the Absolute Racing team have laid the groundwork for a title run this year?
“Definitely. I think this year if we do go racing – and I hope we do – I believe we’ve got a really good chance to push for the championship.
“Learning from all of the small mistakes that we did last year, I think that we can perfect it, going into the season with all the knowledge we gained.
“That would be a big advantage to us. We’ve got the same lineup, we have the knowledge, we’ve been to the circuits, we know the car and we know the tires.
“I think we’re a lot more prepared this year compared to last year. We’re definitely ready.”