Malaysian Malaysian driver Weiron Tan claimed a fourth-place finish in round three of the 2016 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, but a clash in race two ended his weekend early in the Mazda NAO Grand Prix of Alabama, held at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, on the weekend.
Team Pelfrey driver Tan had a strong start to the weekend, setting a top-three fastest lap of 1:21.308 in the second practice session. However, a rain shower before qualifying meant a wet and slippery track. As the circuit began to dry towards the end of the 20-minute qualifying session, Tan was bringing down his times around the 2.3-mile, 17-turn circuit and on his final lap set a time of 1:23.061 to put him third on the grid for the first race of the weekend. His second fastest lap time from earlier in the damp session was a 1:23.172, which secured him a seventh-place start in race two.
“This was such a mixed weekend,” said Tan. “Saturday’s race was really competitive, and despite not being able to quite get around Garret [Grist], it was a great to see Team Pelfrey dominating and for us all to score some fantastic points for the drivers’ and teams’ standings. Today though was a real disappointment to be out so early in the race.”
Having lined up his #81 Team Pelfrey car on the second row of the grid, Tan held his own in a highly competitive first race of the weekend. The 21-year-old and his fellow Team Pelfrey drivers Pato O’Ward and Aaron Telitz dominated the race, with all three running in the top four places. A caution brought together the pack in the closing laps of the race and despite persistent challenges following the restart, fourth-placed Tan unfortunately wasn’t able to find his way around the #5 of Juncos Racing driver Garrett Grist. Tan crossed the finish line fourth to collect 19 points for his drivers’ standings tally.
Tan lined up on the inside of the fourth row for the weekend’s second race alongside Jake Eidson. Quick off the start, Tan got into a battle with Juncos Racing’s Jake Parsons who started on the row ahead. The duo battled through turn one and the subsequent corners. However, a clash just as they were coming into Turn 5 brought a premature race end to both drivers’ races.
“Jake [Parsons] and I were really close but as I was alongside him on the straight heading down to T5, me on the inside, he squeezed me onto the grass and kept going. Obviously there was only one outcome from this. The team did a great job overall for the weekend: the car felt good and I’m hoping we can get it back to its former shape for the next event in a few weeks’ time, where I hope to be back at the front.”
Tan collected 11 points in race two to take his total to 30 points for the weekend. He’s now running fifth in the standings with 69 points. Tan next races in rounds five and six of the 2016 Pro Mazda Championship, which take place at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, Indiana, on 12-14 May 2016.