Fresh off Free Practise 2 here at the 2016/2017 Asian Le Mans Series Buriram, Singapore-based race-team, Clearwater Racing’s Team Principle, Mr. Mok Weng Sun has announced his team’s decision to race in the full 2017 season of the FIA World Endurance Championship with their current team and line-up of drivers. We caught up with man himself to find out more about what it takes to be the first race team in the South East Asian region to participate in a full-season of the world’s most popular endurance championship.
9tro: Please do tell us more about Clearwater Racing’s decision.
Mr. Mok: Clearwater Racing has made the decision to apply for entry to do the full season of the World Endurance Championship (WEC). So we will be the first-ever South East Asian team to do a full season, its something that we have been working on for quite awhile and been bouncing back and forth. Its obviously a higher stage of motor racing we can ever dream of being involved in.
A big consideration was time and budget, is this something that we are really prepared to go after because it is a huge commitment financially as well as personal time. I have been on and off for the past four to five months now thinking about it. This weekend, at a moment of clarity, I decided we should. In October 2016, before we started the Asian Le Mans Series season, I announced to my friends on Facebook that this is my last championship.
I have been doing it for 11 years, and been fortunate enough to have success in different series. So after doing the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year, that was the highlight of my racing career. To have the opportunity to go there and compete, to have a decent finish. Based on that, I wanted to come back to do Le Mans, but not necessarily a full championship.
After we started doing the Asian Le Mans Series, I found myself still being competitive, so I said ‘hey maybe we do have a shot at the World Championship’. The level is high in the WEC, but its seven cars, so its a smaller field and half of the circuits I am familiar with and have raced there. With the support of Ferrari and the crew here at Clearwater Racing, we though we can put up a good show, so we will go and try to fly the Singapore flag high and go after the world championship.
The ACO is quite excited as they see us as a home-grown Asian team, racing in Asian series and came to an ACO-organised series and were fortunate enough to win it last year, went onto to Le Mans 24 and they see it as a progression/graduation to a stage that we can’t go higher. We are not a manufacturer, so we will never be racing in the Pro-class. All my friends have warned me never to say last series, but I guess this is indeed the Holy Grail, this is the big one for us and we are going to put everything into it.
We will be looking to field another two cars for the Asian series, which ones we don’t know yet, but I won’t be involved in that, it would probably be my team mate from last year, Richard Lee, coming out of retirement to do the season. For me it will be 100% focus on the WEC, we will be using the 488 but with a GTE car, its a significantly more developed version of what we are driving with no ABS and all that, so I would have to adjust my driving style and do a little bit of testing.
Its going to be kind of like the Le Mans adventure all over again. Last year when we decided to go Le Mans, we asked okay how do we get access to a car? Luckily we partnered with AF Corsa, who gave us access to a car, then we managed to merge our Malaysian-based Clearwater team with the Italian team and it was fantastic, they really gelled very well.
But we had to work really hard, we had to go Italy and France to test, we had to do mandatory simulator tests which is required for Le Mans, it was like a one month adventure just to stay physically in France. This year it won’t be that different because I will be scheduled to drive the 488 GTE for the first time in late March in Italy, after that it would be the WEC Prologue at Monza, then we are trying to arrange a one day test for me to learn Silverstone, before the Good Friday weekend, which is the first round of the WEC. After that I would have to go learn SpA and do SpA, then after that it would be Le Mans, followed by Nurburgring. Its quite a commitment.
I won’t be based in Europe as I would be flying back and forth, If you have back-to-back weekends, I would probably stay in Europe for a period of two to three weeks before flying back. Last year we were very proud to be the first Singapore-based team at Le Mans, and now we are the first South East Asian team to do the WEC. I am extremely excited about it and look forward to competing on a global level!