Based on past performance, it was inevitable that the trio of Jazeman Jaafar, Weiron Tan, and Nabil Jeffri find themselves at the top podium spot for the LMP2 category, sooner or later. It was their first year in the gruelling World Endurance Championship (WEC) but the potential was there, more so with the technical and tactical support from the Jota Sport-run Jackie Chan DC Racing team.
It was good that the six-hour event was broadcasted live over satellite TV, but as these things go, the large grid and emphasis on the LMP1 category meant that we didn’t get to see what transpired in the #Fortunecat37 car for most of the race. But thanks to Weiron Tan, we get to know what happened during the weekend.
The young Malaysian wasted no time in getting up-to-speed with the car and track conditions, and lapped the Fuji circuit on the same pace as teammates Jazeman and Nabil. Qualifying was done by Jazeman and Nabil – and they both did well to put them second on the start grid behind the other Jackie Chan DC Racing race car – but Weiron pulled off a great effort in FP1 and FP2 after going third fastest in FP1 and FP2.
Race day was greeted with some rain, and the damp track meant that race start was going to be extra challenging. Still, Jazeman who drove in the first stint kept it together and took charge, leading the LMP2 class by the fourth lap.
Debris on the main straight subsequently brought out the safety car later in the opening hour, and with the action temporarily neutralised, a pit-stop to switch from intermediate tyres to slicks would prove to be a tactical masterstroke.
As the circuit increasingly dried, Jaafar, Jeffri and Tan went on a charge. Consistently extending their advantage, even an ill-timed Full Course Yellow in the closing stages was unable to dent their dominance, and they ultimately took the chequered flag just under half-a-minute clear of the sister #Mighty38 car in front of the 52,800 appreciative and enthusiastic spectators thronging the Fuji grandstands
The win takes them within a single point of the LMP2 class lead in WEC. Their next opportunity to get the lead takes them to the fifth round of the championship – the 6 Hours of Shanghai race, happening from 16 to 18 November.
“I’m a bit speechless,” confessed former Caterham F1 Academy member Tan, who is only four races into his maiden campaign at the pinnacle of international sportscar competition. “We made history simply by taking part this season – and now we’ve made history again by winning. I genuinely couldn’t be any prouder right now.
“The last hour was nigh-on unbearable in the pit garage. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so nervous – I almost couldn’t bring myself to watch. We were all so hungry to get the win – particularly after coming so close at Silverstone. I think I speak on behalf of the whole team when I say it was a hugely emotional moment when Jazeman took the chequered flag. It was an awesome achievement, and I was over-the-moon that my family was able to be there, too, to witness it all and celebrate with me.
“As ever, I owe a huge thanks to both Jackie Chan DC Racing and Sepang International Circuit for their incredible support – this has been a tireless team effort from day one, with everybody working their absolute socks off to develop the package and our potential.
“The race itself was virtually flawless for us, and a lot of fun. Jazeman and Nabil both did a great job, and I was really pleased with my own stint as well. None of us made any mistakes, and that was complemented by excellent pit-stops and a good strategy by the team.
“We could see the track was drying, but it was tricky to know exactly when the right time would be to change over to slicks. We had to adapt our initial ‘run plan’ somewhat, but Jazeman and the engineers made the perfect call and that put us firmly in control.
“To come away with another one-two finish for Jackie Chan DC Racing is phenomenal and leaves us in a really strong position now championship-wise – with the momentum on our side. Standing on the top step of the podium was just the most amazing feeling – and going forward, that’s all the motivation we need.”