Clearwater coming full circle at Le Mans

Clearwater Racing team in action at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, where they finished second last month. Le Mans will be the third stop in the nine-leg World Endurance Championship series.
Clearwater Racing team in action at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, where they finished second last month. Le Mans will be the third stop in the nine-leg World Endurance Championship series.PHOTO COURTESTY OF MOK WENG SUN

Clearwater Racing team are back on familiar ground for this weekend's 24 Hours of Le Mans, but the Singapore-registered team find themselves in an unfamiliar position.

The three-driver team, led by Singapore-born Malaysian Mok Weng Sun, enter the annual endurance motor race on the back of two podium finishes in as many races so far in the nine-leg World Endurance Championship series.

Since making history by becoming the first South-east Asia team to compete at the prestigious series this year, they have surprised the paddock by winning their first race at Silverstone in England in April, and finishing in second at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium last month.

The results surpassed Mok's own expectations, as he had to find his feet quickly in the first two circuits, having never previously raced there before.

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The 49-year-old private equity fund manager, who races alongside Japanese Keita Sawa, 30, and Irishman Matt Griffin, 34, said: "What was unknown was whether we can come up to speed in some of the circuits. It was quite daunting for me and I was apprehensive about it.

"Spa is one of the most difficult and narrowest circuits, with high-speed 240kmh corners, so some self-preservation for the sake of your family goes into your mind," said Mok, who has a teenage daughter studying at St Joseph's Institution International.

"I left Spa with renewed confidence. I've crossed a big hurdle and mental barrier to gain confidence in hitting high speeds and trusting in the aerodynamics of the car.

"I found myself going faster and faster. I've never driven a car of that level with that level of aggression."

Having passed their first two races with flying colours, they are back on a circuit which Mok has greater knowledge of.

Last year, Clearwater became the first Singapore-registered outfit to compete at Le Mans, after winning the Asian Le Mans Series. They qualified on pole before eventually finishing fourth.

This year, there is more at stake as Le Mans, a gruelling race in which drivers work in shifts to race non-stop for 24 hours, offers double of the points in the GTE-Amateur category.

Clearwater, currently ranked second out of five teams, enter the race with plenty of confidence, but also with a target behind their backs as serious challengers.

Mok said: "We've earned a lot of new fans in Europe. Suddenly the talk of the paddock is: who is this team from Asia?

"If we stay consistent, I wouldn't rule out the possibility that we can become the champions."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2017, with the headline 'Clearwater coming full circle at Le Mans'. Print Edition | Subscribe