Famed Japanese philosopher, writer and ronin Miyamoto Musashi once told followers “to aspire to be like Mt Fuji.” The epic landmark, which now looks down on the 4.5 kilometer Fuji Speedway in Oyama, is so broad, tall and imposing, Musashi intoned: “With your mind as high as Mt Fuji, you can see all things clearly.”
Backed by the engineering wizards of JOTA Sport in Kent, the Jackie Chan DC Racing team ably conquered this implacable peak – charging to a 1-2 victory in the LMP2 class at the 6 Hours of Fuji, the fourth round of the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship.
The team finished 1-2 at Silverstone only months ago.
“An amazing result,” admitted Ho-Pin Tung, driver of the Mighty38 Gibson-powered Oreca, which finished second to Fortunecat37 – the two cars entered by the Jackie Chan team.
“It was the other way around compared to Silverstone, which was not ideal for my car, as we struggled a little bit at the end of the race in the last two stints. Nevertheless, it was fantastic for the team again.
“In the entire race, we were very dominant again. So great, great job by everyone. It is very close in the championship standings at the moment. We are second now, with equal points to No 37, and just one point behind the leader (Alpine). I am sure the home race in Shanghai is going to be a very exciting one!”
In the overall LMP1 category, the powerful Toyota TS050 Hybrids dominated, as expected.
The No 7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López took the checkered flag a mere 11.440 seconds ahead of teammates Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso in the No 8 car.
They finished four laps ahead of Rebellion Racing, the nearest competitor. The Porsche GT team won the LM GTE PRO category, while Team Project 1 Porsche took LM GTE AM.
The Jackie Chan team headed into the race being the fastest squad qualifying on Dunlop tires. Fortunecat37 was piloted by Jazeman Jaafar, Nabil Jeffri and Weiron Tan and started from second place on the LMP2 grid, followed by sister car Mighty38 of Ho-Pin Tung, Stephane Richelmi and Gabriel Aubry in third.
As the race kicked off under a light autumn rain, most entries chose to run with intermediate tires. The first 30 minutes saw several incidents on the slippery track, including a rare tire explosion on the MR Racing Ferarri, inevitably bringing out the safety car – this was when the JOTA Sport-run team called both cars in and changed to slicks.
Jaafar and Tung, who took the start for Fortunecat37 and Mighty38 respectively, re-joined and drove carefully, waiting for opportunities as the track dried. By the time the race reached the second hour mark, the two China-flagged cars had gained a significant gap.
Despite it being their first time to race at the Fuji Speedway, the Malaysian trio displayed strong pace. After the efforts made by countrymen Tan and Jeffri in the middle of the race, Jaafar took the chequered flag first in LMP2 for Fortunecat37. Tung made his best effort to catch Jaafar, before crossing the finish line in second place.
David Cheng, co-founder of Jackie Chan DC Racing, said the team’s strategy was carried out perfectly.
“We decided to come in under the safety car, go on the slicks, which helped us get a very big early lead,” he said. “Toward the end of the race, the full course yellow came out right after we had pitted. Despite losing a lot of advantage, all the boys raced strongly. Today we put pace, performance and strategy together to achieve a dominant win.
“For the Asia leg of the tour, as a Chinese team, taking an all-Malaysian lineup to the top step shows the progress these boys have made with us from when they started with us here in Fuji last year in our Asian Le Mans program … and now to win on the world stage is something I’m really proud of and a real pleasure to see come to fruition.”
The Fortunecat37 crew became the first all-Malaysian crew to win an international FIA race event.
The team will now head back to JOTA Sport’s operation base in the UK to prepare for the fifth round of the WEC Super Season, which will be held in China for the 6 Hours of Shanghai on November16-18.