First Singapore team to race at Le Mans

Mok Weng Sun opposite the F1 Pit Building at Marina Bay. He is team principal and one of three drivers for Clearwater Racing, which is set to become the first Singapore-based team to compete in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Mok Weng Sun opposite the F1 Pit Building at Marina Bay. He is team principal and one of three drivers for Clearwater Racing, which is set to become the first Singapore-based team to compete in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Clearwater Racing qualifies for gruelling event, to compete with 13 teams in GTE amateur class

It is one of the world's most prestigious - and dangerous - endurance car races. And for the first time, a Singapore-registered team will compete in this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Clearwater Racing, led by Singapore-born Malaysian Mok Weng Sun, clinched the coveted spot after winning the GT Category of the 2015/2016 Asian Le Mans Series in January.

Mok, 48, who is the team principal and one of the drivers, enthused that the Le Mans is the "holy grail" for any driver.

The private equity fund manager started racing competitively in 2007 and is licensed by the Singapore Motor Sports Association. He is a three-time Asia GT champion and has won the Sepang 12 Hours thrice. However, the June 15-19 race in Le Mans, France - which is the third round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship - will be his biggest test yet.

"Our first aim is to finish the race," Mok told The Straits Times yesterday. "If everything goes well, I believe we can make it into the top five. A podium finish would be a dream come true."

Held annually since 1923, it sees 60 teams across four categories - each comprising three drivers working in shifts -racing non-stop for 24 hours at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Drivers usually cover two stints - each is one full tank of petrol and lasts about an hour and at least 10 laps around the 13.629km circuit - before a team-mate takes over.

Mok, together with Clearwater members Japanese Keita Sawa and British professional racer Rob Bell, will compete in the GTE Amateur class against 13 teams.

Their Ferrari 458 GTE can reach top speeds of 300kmh and average about 200kmh at the 21-turn circuit, as drivers experience G-forces of up to 4g, said Clearwater managing director Arj Pillay Kulasegaram.

Besides the likes of ex-Formula One driver Mark Webber, this year's Le Mans has also attracted sports stars like former Manchester United and France goalkeeper Fabian Barthez and Britain's Olympic cycling champion Chris Hoy.

Danish driver Allan Simonsen was the last fatality in 2013. In total, more than 20 people have died during the Le Mans race week.

It is the ultimate physical and mental test, noted Mok, whose only other 24-hour race was in Dubai in 2008. He estimated he will burn 1,400 calories and lose 2.5 litres of fluids inside the cockpit that can reach 38 deg C on each stint.

Russian team SMP Racing was the top GTE Amateur outfit last year and completed 332 laps.

The race budget is several hundred thousand dollars but sponsors helped defray some of the cost.

The significance of a local team competing in such an iconic race was not lost on Mok.

While they will be assisted by Ferrari's AF Corse outfit, which will provide technical and logistics support, the bulk of the Clearwater crew comprises both Singaporeans and Malaysians.

Mok said: "Hopefully this will show the motor sports community here that it is possible for us to compete on the world stage."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 23, 2016, with the headline 'First S'pore team to race at Le Mans'. Print Edition | Subscribe