Published on September 22nd, 2018 | by Amirul Mukminin0
Shaun Thong to Boost Bentley’s Chinese Return
Phoenix Racing Asia will make it’s Bentley debut this weekend in rounds nine and ten of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series Asia at Shanghai International Circuit, the team buoyed by the speed and experience of Hong Kong’s Shaun Thong, the race winning GT3 campaigner forming part of a four-driver lineup for the team’s debut with the British marque’s second generation Continental GT3.
Returning to Asia intent upon standing on the winner’s rostrum in the region’s hottest GT competition, Bentley’s involvement with Phoenix Racing Asia relies heavily upon the ongoing success and abilities of the team’s drivers, with Thong an important part of that program.
A race winner in both GT Asia and the maiden season of Blancpain GT Series Asia in 2017 (Silver Cup champion alongside Marchy Lee), Thong has emerged as the pace-setter in the Phoenix Racing Asia team over the last 12 months, and was comfortably quickest during the team’s return to the Blancpain program at Fuji recently – at times the Hong Kong-based driver was quickest of the six Audi teams in attendance, a roster that includes some of the best drivers in Asia.
For the coming Shanghai weekend (21-23 September), Thong will make his Bentley debut, but typically the experienced GT3 campaigner is unfazed by the transition across to the British-built supercar, which utilises a front-engined twin-turbo V8, as opposed to the mid-mounted naturally-aspirated V10 with which he has spent much of his time over recent years.
Thong, along with team-mates Marchy Lee and Alex Yoong, travelled to Wales in the UK a couple of weeks prior to their Blancpain Bentley debut to test the M-Sport built British icon, Thong impressing the factory immediately with his speed and ability to adapt to a completely different driving style.
“A racecar is a racecar,” Thong admitted matter-of-factly.
“Every one of them requires it’s own particular driving style, and whilst the Bentley is markedly different to an Audi R8, they ultimately perform a similar role – they both have a similar level of performance – even if driven by different engines – and they both rely on their aero the same way. Weights are similar and they use the same control Pirelli tyre I’m used to, so whilst they are very different physically and behave differently on track, it’s not a giant leap from what I’m accustomed too.”
After collecting a string of trophies across the 2017 season in GT cars, TCR touring cars and protoypes across Asia, Thong has had a mixed year in 2018, with a challenging run in the Japanese Super Taikyu Series, whilst he has also enjoyed a couple of cameo runs in Blancpain Asia after a late call up to replace team-boss Marchy Lee.
“We’ve had fantastic pace in the Super Taikyu series, and been a regular on the podium, but just haven’t had the luck this year with small issues on track often setting us back, and in longer endurance races, that can have a big affect on your season points,” Thong explained.
“Unfortunately there is a clash this weekend with the Shanghai round of the Blancpain series and the Twin Ring Motegi round of Super Taikyu, so that will have an impact on the points, but I’m sure the team will still be right there fighting again for victory.”
Whilst Thong will make his Bentley debut at Shanghai alongside young South African Jordan Pepper – a factory Bentley driver who also enjoys experience at the Shanghai circuit – he is under no illusions about what to expect this weekend amongst a grid of 30 other teams all looking for valuable championship points.
“Honestly, I can’t wait to get behind the wheel and see what it’s like in the pack,” Thong admitted. “Since it’s debut the pace has been promising, the Spa 24 hour event showed that, but I believe there’s much more to deliver so I’m excited about getting it on track at Shanghai to see what it can do!”