David Cheng is a driver with the Jackie Chan DC Racing team, but he is first and foremost its founder. Here he discusses the Chinese outfit's stunning 2017 season, the emergence of one its drivers - Thomas Laurent - and the upcoming 2018 season.
Are you pleased with your season despite being runner-up for the Endurance LMP2 Teams trophy, just a few points from the title (won by Vaillante Rebellion)?
"Four out of five goals (laughs, Ed.). Obviously, this past weekend was a bit more difficult but to be honest as a new team we set out with the goal...well, with quite a few goals...for both cars and I think as a team like I said, we achieved four out of five which is not bad at all. Especially for us I would say the cherry on top is not just two podiums at Le Mans but overall, which is quite amazing. So yeah, to be honest, no regrets in this season and I think as a team we did quite well. In the end some mechanical hiccups but that's racing sometimes. I guess speaking as a team owner, on the upside we got a lot of coverage. Our cars were on camera a lot. So at the end of the day I'm quite happy with everyone's performance this season which is what really matters for us. And everything else just makes us want to try harder again next year."
You just mentioned the 24 Hours of Le Mans. What are your thoughts on this year's edition, about six months after the race?
"Well, I think it's still...it never leaves your mind. I can say in some ways it doesn't completely sink in. Especially this year's Le Mans. I think it's something that we have to wait a couple years for all of us to start telling stories back on how amazing it was. Obviously next year looking at more P1 private tier entries and everything. Who knows if a P2 will ever be on the overall podium again. Obviously we're hunting for it next year again. But you can never predict these kinds of things. We set out with the goal you know of doing the best that we can and at the end of the day everything just kind of worked out."
That result is also the fruit of your collaboration with Jota Sport…
"Yeah, yeah, absolutely! I think even, I should say even at the beginning of the year we set out with this venture as a cooperation, so for all of us we worked very closely together. I spent all year in the U.K., in the shop, a couple days a week with all the boys and all the decisions we made together got us to this point. Obviously we're a little short of the championship. I can say for Le Mans with the preparation we did, I think it really showed in the Le Mans results especially."
You are now competing in the Asian Le Mans Series and just clinched two wins in as many races. You seem well on your way to the title. Is it an important championship for you?
"Yes of course. It's a building block of what we do here at the WEC. You know from my side, this Asia team started from the Asian Le Mans Series. And even before this team started, myself and Ho-Pin from the very first Asian Le Mans Series as drivers we developed through the series. When we decided to form a team, we developed the team through the series and it's a great place to learn your craft before getting into the WEC as this is very high intensity, high pressure, and the stakes are very high. For us, we always wanted to come into the WEC ready to fight with all the top teams in the world. And this year, it's exactly what we did, thanks to many years of the Asian Le Mans Series and you know for us really getting prepared. Of course, to be honest the championship for us in Asia, for us as a team, as drivers, it is very important. But even more important, to be honest, the championship may not be the primary goal. The primary goal for Asia like I said, for us, it's a learning championship for us. We have new drivers in the Asian Le Mans Series with us and young drivers as well. We want them to learn the craft of endurance racing. Like we did with Thomas (Laurent, Ed.) when he joined us from Karting, straight from Go-Karts into LMP3 and then LMP2 the following year. To be honest his goal was of course as a driver you always want to win. But ultimately even in a bigger picture, our two to three year goal with Thomas was always this. To have him come into the WEC and be ready to win races, win Le Mans, and hopefully this championship. Well everything we built in Asia was in that direction for Thomas, whether we won or lost the championship, it was all for training. We wanted young drivers, if they were to make mistakes, to make them in Asia first and we correct them, we give them the chance to learn, to rebound and to grow. And this year we're doing it as well with a new crew, with not just drivers but mechanics and engineers as well. And for us it's building to be honest a whole other team to be ready to come into Le Mans next year as well."
What does the team's 2018 program look like?
"To be honest, for me, P1 is very interesting. We've thought a lot about it over this winter. But for me, just like we did with the WEC and Asian Le Mans, when we do something, we want to absolutely make sure we're in the top fight. And as a private team, the goal isn't to finish in front of the other private teams, if we were to do P1, the goal would be to aim for the factories even as a private team, and that's a very, very tough task. So for us, we need the time to build and be ready for that. I don't think next year, for us, is the right time yet. There's still a lot we need to build, infrastructure, data and learning. But it is something that we target for beyond. And the plan for us next year is to stay in P2 where we've done a good job and to continue doing a good job. Obviously, from this year we have an unfinished goal to chase, and I think we've learned a lot from this year as well. So we'll use what we learned this year to hopefully not just repeat Le Mans again, but to win the championship."