Hubert Burda Media

Yuey Tan: Racing for Life

A fan of the great Ayrton Senna since young, motor racing champ Yuey Tan has always had a need for speed.

As a young tyke, his mother bought him Porsche model cars. At eight, he attended his first Formula 1 Grand Prix. And since 2008, he has made over 130 race starts in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia (PCCA), taking home the Class B title last year — the first Singaporean to do so. 

Behind the wheel, he likes to dominate his field, but off-track, there is clearly one person Yuey Tan, 34, is happy to defer to. “Take off your ring,” Claire Jedrek, his wife of just two months, instructs him before our photographer leans in for pictures. “The wedding band just looks at odds with the image of a race-car driver,” she explains. Like Tan, Jedrek races — she made her first podium finish at the Malaysia Championship Series in 2015 — and besides helping to manage his image, the media personality and certified trainer ensures he hits the gym.

With his first race of the year at the Shanghai International Circuit in mid-April, Tan, who races in the PCCA for Hong Kong-based Team Jebsen, is currently in pre-season conditioning. On top of strengthening his upper body, legs and neck, he’s also been putting himself through heat therapy, by sitting in a steam room in his full gear and helmet. “Inside the car, it can get as hot as 65-70 degrees C. There is no cooling mechanism. So it’s important that you can keep your mind on the job while it is hot as hell,” says Tan.

When in his Porsche 911 GTS 3, his entire focus has to be on driving, he adds: “Thinking about anything else just wastes brain power. Don’t worry about the fight you had with your wife or that your dog is sick at the vet. Forget it. If you start thinking about such things, the race will go badly.”

Having placed second in Class B (for semi-professionals) the previous two seasons, before taking the 2015 title by a single point, Tan is looking to top the championship again this year. “But I also understand that there are three to four other guys capable of winning, so at the start of the season, I just need to keep my head down and concentrate on finishing the races with some good placings and maybe halfway through, start to make a more aggressive plan,” says Tan, who first caused a stir in the 2009 Changi Airport Race, where he narrowly beat a Boeing 747 to the finish line in his Carrera Cup car.

Even when he isn’t racing, Tan is usually track side. He and his wife run The Karting Arena, a $1.4-million electric karting circuit at Turf City designed for amateurs in mind. He is also founder of The Film Dispensary, a modest production company, but one that has worked with the likes of Porsche, Lamborghini and Lotus. “All my businesses were started because we like to race and I think they do better because we race,” says Tan.

In my line of work…everybody is competitive by nature. We were those annoying kids who’d race each other up the stairs and give each other a knocking along the way. We are all naturally competitive, but some more than others.

The best advice is…from my race engineer Minal, who always tells me to “panic slowly”. It’s a good piece of advice not just for motor racing but for all things. If you are about to get angry or emotional in whatever situation, pause and think what the next efficient course of action is. Do not act straight away, but consider your options. Obviously, this happens quickly in the car!

My toughest critics are…my race engineer and my wife, Claire! They are the two closest people to me in motor racing and they know that as a team, we always want to do better. To do that, we need to focus on the things that we are not good at and get better at those.

As a child…motor racing was my dream. I wanted to be just like Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian Formula 1 talent that tragically died in 1994 in a Williams Renault. He was different from Michael Schumacher, but he was equally great with his own style.

I like…doing nothing! My wife and I enjoy watching movies and playing computer games. We also like to go trekking outdoors and take long drives into Malaysia where we just chill out. So a lot of doing things slowly when we’re not racing.