While Jackie Chan DCR JOTA might be a new name for American sports car fans, the team is experiencing a meteoric rise on the international scene.
Coming off an incredible finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – a 1-2 finish in LMP2 class and finishes of second and third overall, even leading in the late stages of the race – the two-car team is looking to carry that success to the opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“This is a new race for the boys and the team,” said team co-founder David Cheng. “I’ve raced here a few years myself, but now I’m managing everything. It’s a little different from what we’re used to in WEC, but the guys are getting up to speed quite good. We understand the car quite well, and now we’re coming up to grips with the Continental tire, as we’ve never tested it before. I think we’re on track compared to everybody else. Obviously, our trap speed is hard to compete here, but that’s the nature of the game.”
Canadian Formula 1 driver Lance Stroll leads the lineup on the No. 37 ORECA 07-Gibson, joined by Felix Rosenqvist, David Juncadella and Robin Frijns. Alex Brundle, Ho-Pin Tung, Antonio Felix de Costa and Formula 3 driver Ferdinand Habsburg share the No. 78 ORECA. Last June, Tung piloted the LMP2 class-winning car at Le Mans with Oliver Jarvis and Thomas Laurent. Brundle and Cheng placed second, joined by Tristan Gommendy.
“I believe in the team, and I think all the boys have the potential [to carry over the momentum from Le Mans],” Cheng said. “Daytona is more of a gamble. You can never count on what you can’t control, but we’re doing very well in the parts we can control. I’m very pleased with the way all eight drivers are getting along.”
Tung, who was introduced to American fans when he attempted to qualify for the 2011 Indianapolis 500, turned heads when he led overall in the late stages of the 2017 Le Mans race.
“Daytona is very different from Le Mans,” Tung said. “There are a lot of things for the team to learn on the operational side, very different tires and no tire blankets. But it’s a great atmosphere and we are slowly settling in. We’ve been the team to beat in LMP2 for most of the year in Europe – especially at Le Mans with a 1-2 finish. We’re definitely coming here with one goal: to try to run at the front and try to add another iconic 24-hour race win to our column. I think the platform here is great, a nice mixture between the LMP2 and DPi cars, and arguably this is the one of the most competitive driver fields and car fields that this championship has ever seen.”
Brundle is the team’s veteran in the WeatherTech Championship, having run in the Rolex 24 in 2014 and 2015 among five IMSA races.
“These guys are new to this race and this tire, but we know the car so well,” Brundle said. “The car’s been excellent. The guys know this car so well and how to get the most from the chassis, and it’s been excellent straight away. In WEC we’re all racing with ORECA-Gibsons, so it’s a bit of a surprise sometimes to see the variable performance and top speed of some of the other cars here. We just have to focus on making our own package as good as we can.”
Now, Cheng expects to see his team high on everyone’s radar when they return to Daytona in two weeks for the Rolex 24.
“Carrying the results we had last year at Le Mans, along with the reputation of some of our drivers, we’re bound to be on the radar – and we’re quite proud of that. We want to come in to this race and compete on merit, bringing the experience and knowledge we have from competing in the WEC, and to try to raise the game here as well.”
That experience could also mean more races. Cheng said the team is seriously considering competing in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March – depending on the outcome atDaytona.
“To be honest, we’re looking at Sebring,” Cheng said. “But it will be depend on what happens in the race here. If we have car damage or something like that, it could be a quick pull of the plug.”
The Florida endurance classics are only part of the team’s preparation for major competition on three continents.
“We also preparing for the super-season in WEC with two cars, and we have the Asian Le Mans going on – which is next weekend and the weekend after the Daytona race, along with keeping an eye on the ELMS,” he continued. “The team’s quite busy with a lot of programs. We’re trying to expand, trying to get into everything, so the scope of our global program is very wide.”