Fast and furious

A LIFELONG passion for racing fuelled talented 23-year-old Weiron Tan’s dream of becoming a hot prospect on the race track.

Tan recalls his father bringing him and his brothers to the Shah Alam International Go-Kart Circuit 10 years ago. “I got hooked as I enjoyed it more and became really competitive,” he says.

Unlike most professional racing drivers who often start as young as six years old, Tan was a late bloomer at 13, but has since racked up an excellent track record in his decade of racing.

After becoming the first Malaysian to win an American race – the Pro Mazda Winterfest Championship in 2015 – Tan is set to achieve yet another international milestone with the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in France this June.

What do you find most exciting when you’re on the track?

It is the adrenalin rush that I get. I’ve always enjoyed racing, whether it’s Formula One, rally or any form of motorsports or endurance racing. It has always been a huge passion of mine and I’m excited about every single aspect of it.

What sort of training do you undergo to maximise your potential?

I go through a lot of physical and mental training in preparation for whatever championship I am racing in. When I am on the race track, the practice sessions that we get with the car are very limited due to the high [cost]. That being said, the only practice [I get] is on race weekends, usually the day before the actual race.

However, I still do a lot of preparation with my team using a virtual simulator. Even though it is not the real thing, at least it gets us prepped up for the actual race. Unfortunately, it’s not a sport like tennis or badminton where you pick up a racket and practise wherever you like. Racing is very different, there are not many opportunities to practise.

Auto racing is a dangerous sport. How have your parents come to terms with it?

They do show signs of concern, but my dad is cool about the whole thing because we share the same passion. My mum on the other hand [is] like all mums, she is very protective and worried about me all the time, constantly telling me to be extra cautious out there.

Could you tell us about your upcoming race?

In the World Endurance Championship that I am racing this year, Sepang International Circuit (SIC) is [hosting] a team of Malaysia’s top drivers, and it will be the first ever all-Malaysian line-up.

Endurance racing involves three drivers sharing one car, and the race goes on for six to 24 hours. The drivers have to be compatible and we have to be able to work alongside each other as a team.

This was proven when we blazed to victory earlier this year at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand.

What do you think is the most stressful part of the sport?

Motorsports is probably one of the most expensive sports out there, and finding sponsors and financial backing have always been a tough part.

I am now forever grateful that SIC has come up with a programme that grooms young motorsports talent in Malaysia to be world class drivers. Ultimately we are striving and working towards the same goal.

Do you think there is a lack of ethnic representation in the industry?

There are many international drivers out there, but not many of them are from Asia [and] competing in world-class championships. I think we are very lucky to be given the opportunity.

Formula One is a bit different, slightly political and exclusive. Getting into it requires a great sum of money, so it is not an ideal platform for aspiring drivers who would like to shape racing into a profession.

It is not a realistic goal in that sense.

What is one advice someone has given you that you think should be passed on?

I’ve always looked up to my dad for advice when it comes to making life decisions. There is this Chinese saying “xian ku hou tian”, which means “work hard and enjoy the sweetness later on no matter how tough it gets”.