Audi’s driving ambassador has big racing credentials. He raced in Formula 1 in 2002-3, competed in the LMP1 Class at the 2007 24 Hours of Le Mans, represented Malaysia in A1 GP and currently races in the Audi R8 LMS Cup since it’s inauguration in 2012.
Is “gentlemen racing” any less exciting as real racing?
A: It’s part of the appeal of being in the sport. There is the glamour and the racing, and the danger being part of the excitement. It’s a sport with some physical risk involved. You can become a better driver being part of this series.
What do you fear in racing the most?
Safety is an issue sometimes. It’s not as dangerous as boxing, neither is it as dangerous as it was in the 70’s. Yes, it’s still dangerous. I’ve seen friends getting hurt and being killed. But, that happens very rarely. Look at the Audi racing cars of today, it’s very strong. There has been more attention and advances in safety in race series such as Formula 1.
Are you the Fiery Aryton Senna type or the Calculating Alain Prost type?
I don’t think there is room for the Senna-type in motorsports. In those days, it wasn’t that competitive and he had a big advantage with natural ability, compared to other drives of that time. I think he shone the way, and the myth got really big.
But these days, you have to work closely with the teams. You can’t be too loose with your emotions as it will affect those around you. You can’t really have an overly analytical approach as well, so I’m a bit of both types.
With you competing in both sprint and endurance races, how prepared are you?
I’m already comfortable with my own car for the sprint race ahead. But, for the endurance race, I will have to share a car with two other drivers. I have to consider everyone and work together. But once the racing starts, I’ll have to keep reminding myself to be easier on the gearbox to make sure that the car lasts.
Only the gearbox? Why?
The gearbox is the most fragile thing in a race car that a driver can influence. Maybe not for Formula 1, but in the Audi R8 LMS, its the most fragile element. The engine has all forms of monitors and electronic controls, such as rev limiters, it will be hard to wreck an engine.
What about the tyres and brakes?
We change tyres every stint to keep tyre wear problems to a minimum. We also try not to go too hard on the brakes. It’s worth a compromise a few tenths of a second per lap to make sure that the car is still good, but other than those factors, I’ll still push.
After the cup race, we’ll be changing the brakes and putting on the endurance discs on – something that will last through the entire race. We’ll also be installing spotlights on to get better illumination and we’ll be running on different tyres. Also, just a slight setup change and we would be good to go.
Race pleasantries, do you have any?
Having my friends and family around here makes my race more pleasant. I hardly ever race in Malaysia. I think if conditions do change, I would gain an advantage since it’s my home track. Condition changes like rain would be nice, or snow.
Tips to get started in racing?
Don’t send your kids to school. Spend that money on racing instead. Or, don’t have kids. On a serious note, everyone should start from karting. Karting is the by far the most affordable level of motorsports. The karting scene today is a lot better than before. Use it as a great mental and physical test in a race against yourself. It’s also a good gauge of yourself liking the technical aspects of racing, and also, get sponsors to move onto the next level!
In this case, touring car racing will lead up a series like the Audi R8 LMS Cup, the pinnacle in Asia other than Formula 1. For Formula 1 dreamers, unless you’re 10, and started karting at 10, forget about it.
Where do you want to be after a race?
In front of everyone, celebrating the win!