F1 drivers get all the attention, but Singapore drivers like Yuey Tan are making waves on the track here, too
SINGAPORE — If you’re headed to the Marina Bay Circuit this weekend to catch the Formula One action, don’t forget to catch the local heros doing their best to make Singapore proud.
While F1 seems to have cornered the market on motorsports glamour, and is regarded by fans as the pinnacle of engine-powered competition, a single race does not usually make up a Grand Prix weekend.
Instead, there are “support races” running alongside the main F1 event that are typically part of other motorsports series. It’s in these other racing series that Singapore’s brightest driving talents are driving — and winning.
The Porsche Carrera Cup Asia series, for example, has two local racers in action at Marina Bay this weekend.
Neither of them is a stranger to success. Team Jebsen driver Yuey Tan clinched second place in the Pro-Am category of yesterday’s PCCA race.
In a torrid race, he was hit by another driver at the first corner and spent the rest of the 12-lap event chasing his way back to the front. Who says you can’t overtake on the Marina Bay Circuit?
For Sunday’s race, Mr Tan (pictured above in practice) aimed to do one better and finish on the top step of the podium, but ended up repeating his second place finishing. “I had a bit of a lonely race,” he shrugged, after spending most of the event driving a controlled pace.
Mr Tan won in Singapore once, in 2014, and is currently leading the PCCA series. He has also been Pro-Am champion once.
In the PCCA, drivers compete in Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars (which are closely-related to a version of the 911 that Porsche sells for the street) in a customer racing programme; in arrangements like these, the drivers buy or rent their racing cars and the supplier provides support with logistics, spare parts and sometimes pit mechanics.
The 911 GT3 Cup racing cars themselves (pictured above) cost around $200,000 to buy, but support and logistics can reportedly tip the cost to more than half a million dollars over a thirteen-race season.
Such “pay-to-play” packages are common in motorsports, with many Formula One drivers effectively paying for their drives, especially among smaller, cash-strapped teams who could use the infusion of money that a pay-driver brings.
Closer to home, another local driver making waves is Ringo Chong, who won the Singapore round of the Ferrari Challenge Asia Pacific yesterday, driving a Ferrari 488 Challenge car.
It was his second win in Singapore and his fifth time on the podium here.
“I was so, so happy in the car. I dreamt of this day for many years and after 2009’s win, I wanted to do it again,” says Mr Chong. “I’m so happy, so so pleased!”
He will presumably be overjoyed, then, that he managed to repeat the achievement at today’s Ferrari Challenge race, which started at 3.15pm. He now has three wins in Singapore, and six podium finishes. In motor racing terms, that makes him the most successful Singaporean in Singapore.
Yet, racing in Marina Bay can be about more than national pride. The PCCA, for one, is something of a “feeder” series that helps to uncover the best racing talent and funnel it into professional racing.
New Zealander Earl Bamber went from PCCA champion to Porsche’s 24 Hours of Le Mans factory team in a matter of years, and duly went on to win the gruelling race in France, in the process claiming one of motorsport’s most prestigious prizes.
Singaporean Andrew Tang might well be on a similar path. He won his current seat in the Porsche China Junior squad after a shoot-out event in 2015 between himself and other young drivers that Porsche had identified as potential long-term stars.
“I remember being extremely nervous,” he says of that selection battle. He underwent three days of scrutiny during which he was assessed for physical condition, media savvy and of course, driving skill. That last one gave him the most worry, since he’d never driven a similar car and felt rusty after two years of National Service.
Mr Tang’s first season in the Carrera Cup last year saw him finish fourth overall in the series’ professional division, with two wins to his name.
Victory has eluded him so far this year, but he has scored a podium position four times in the 10 races so far this year.
Mr Tang feels he has progressed as a driver under Porsche’s tutelage. “I get coaching from some world-class individuals and I think that has been extremely beneficial to my growth, not only on the racing side but also how I carry myself off track,” he says of being in the Porsche China Junior Programme. “It’s something special. I was taught to be the full package.”
At just 22 years of age, Mr Tang has a potentially long racing career ahead of him yet. Both Yuey Tan and Ringo Chong have spoken highly of him, as has Le Mans winner Earl Bamber.
Watch this name, say the experts
No doubt, talent-spotters are watching closely. If they like what they see today, it might well be that someday we’ll be able to watch a Singapore driver not just kick butt at F1, but within it.