Ho-Pin Tung makes History, FAZZT to run 2 cars in 2011 UPDATE
Ho-Pin Tung had the chance to ride around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a passenger car. He hopes his next visit is in an IZOD IndyCar Series car.
The 27-year-old Tung, who this season has been the reserve driver for Renault F1 and competed in GP2 with the Renault-affiliated DAMS team, made an overture to compete in the IZOD IndyCar Series with a two-day outing in the No. 88 FAZZT Race Team car at Sebring International Raceway On Nov. 20-21.
As a compatibility test, there was synergy between car and driver before the lunch break on the first day as times on the 1.67-mile circuit decreased with almost every five-lap stint (he posted 211 laps over the two days). Regular driver Alex Tagliani, team COO and general manager Rob Edwards and chief engineer Allen McDonald - each providing nuggets of input without being overbearing - were duly impressed with the technical adaptation and feedback.
As the initial step of the team's plans to expand into a multi-car program for its second IZOD IndyCar Series season, it also was positive. Luxembourg-based Gravity Sport Management has been secured to pursue commercial partnerships.
Tagliani, who recorded five top-10 finishes in the 17 races in the No. 77 car with primary sponsorship from Bowers & Wilkins, would welcome a complementary driver to expand the technical database and potentially improve on-track results.
"When you look at it from an organizational standpoint, we want to have a combination," said Tagliani, who noted that a third entry could materialize. "If commercially it makes sense and on the operation side it makes sense, then you're in a win-win situation. You have a guy to work with you and improve the speed of the car, but at the same time commercially it helps strengthen the future of the team.
"Ho-Pin is a likeable guy and fast. I think he would add a lot to the IndyCar Series and our team."
Starting in karting in the mid-90s, Tung has represented China in A1GP, competed in Formula Ford, Formula BMW Asia (2003 champion), German Formula 3 (2006 champion), GP2 Asia and the Superleague Formula in addition to GP2 (he finished 14th in the season finale Nov. 14 at Abu Dhabi with the Racing Engineering team).
"It's a very new thing for me and so many different things compared to Europe," said Tung, who was born in The Netherlands and carries a Chinese professional driver's license. "The tracks in the (IZOD IndyCar Series) are all very different and it requires quite a bit of adaptation. The car is just a racing car. It has four wheels and a steering wheel and you have to try to be as quick as you can. But I was impressed with how it handled and it was pleasant to drive.
"Being here in Sebring to get a small taste of an IndyCar is important. I have to take it step by step, and the first step is good. It would be interesting to see what it would be like to be running with other cars, but just as a foundation it's good."
Tung could be the first Chinese competitor in the IZOD IndyCar Series and in the Indianapolis 500 (in its centennial race). Bowers & Wilkins chairman Joe Atkins, whose audio equipment company has global sales breadth, said Tung could be "the Yao Ming of motorsports" to billions of Chinese.
"I can't overstate how much I think this can be a game-changing association for the league and everybody involved because China is the future in terms of consumer market," Atkins said. "It is where all western brands are very much focused for their future growth opportunity, and from an exposure perspective whether it's for the league itself, the league's sponsors, all of the people involved -- although they may not fully realize it yet -- if Ho-Pin can be successful in Indy racing the opportunity to build his profile in China is enormous.
"The ability to be associated with the first Chinese driver ever to compete in IndyCar and race in the Indy 500 is truly a unique and powerful opportunity."
Tung already has an extensive fan base and media following in China, and INDYCAR has been exploring racing in China in the near future.
"Motorsports is still relatively new in China, but it's developing rapidly," Tung said. "IndyCar is the highest single-seater series in the U.S., and with the Indy 500 being the biggest motorsports event in the world it's all things that attract Chinese people. It would be important for me to do well. We Chinese are very focused on performance, and I'm confident I could do a good job in IndyCar."11/23/10 Renault’s reserve and test driver, Ho-Pin Tung, made sporting history this weekend as he officially became the first Chinese licensed driver to take the wheel of an IndyCar by testing with the FAZZT Race Team at Sebring International Raceway.
The two-day session gave Tung the chance to put in a total of 211 laps and 350 miles and set a fast time of 53.5 seconds on the 1.65 mile Sebring road course.
“It was a good chance to get to know Ho-Pin’s (Tung) talent first hand in our IndyCar and he exceeded any expectations we had,” said FAZZT COO and General Manager Rob Edwards. “He gave our engineering group an excellent opportunity to go through the list of test items and helped improve our program.”
“This is a great challenge and opportunity given to me by FAZZT and Bowers & Wilkins.” said Tung “The main goal for this test was to get familiar with the car and team and it has been a very positive experience. I am eager to get more now. This week has been terrific for getting to know the team and IndyCar. I even got a ride around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and can only imagine how amazing it would be to run there especially in this centennial year.”
The FAZZT Race Team made its debut in 2010 as a full-time IZOD IndyCar Series team with Canadian driver Alex Tagliani behind the wheel of the no.77 Bowers & Wilkins sponsored Honda/ Dallara/ Firestone entry.
Highlights from the teams first season include a front row start at their debut in Brazil, a fifth place qualifying position for the 2010 Indianapolis 500 with a top-10 finish in the race. As well as a season high fourth place finish at Mid-Ohio. Based in Indianapolis, FAZZT is now preparing for its second season of competition in the IZOD IndyCar Series in which it expects to field multiple entries.
Having Tung at the wheel of an IndyCar would generate worldwide attention for the series, as he works towards earning a spot among the 33 drivers on starting grid for the centennial celebration of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500.
FAZZT COO and General Manager Rob Edwards said “Our goal is to run a minimum of two cars for the 2011 IZOD IndyCar season and this test was a first step in that direction. With the support of our primary sponsor Bowers & Wilkins, our team is actively seeking sponsorship for the second full-time entry for the 2011 season and beyond. Ho-Pin Tung’s talent and presence in an IndyCar can reach a whole new nation of fans in China and presents significant opportunities for our sport and our partners.”
Team sponsor Bowers & Wilkins owner and chairman, Joe Atkins added “We are extremely excited with the team’s plan to expand and the chance to create a China link with Ho-Pin (Tung) creates an enormous opportunity for the team and everyone involved with the IndyCar Series to create broad awareness in the largest consumer market in the world.”
FAZZT driver of the no.77 Bowers & Wilkins entry, Alex Tagliani was also on hand at Sebring to help Tung with his introduction to IndyCars.
“I’m very excited about the results of our test here and it’s great for our young team to be able to give an opportunity to driver of Ho-Pin’s (Tung) caliber and work towards adding another car to our program,” said Tagliani
Ho-Pin Tung got his start in karting before graduating to single-seaters. He won the 2003 Formula BMW Asia series for which he was rewarded with a Williams F1 team test drive. Tung ran three seasons in the German Formula 3 series with a championship title in 2006, and was then signed as a test driver with BMW Sauber for the 2007 season.
Following stints in the GP2 series in both Asia and Europe, as well the Superleague Formula series, Tung tested and ran as a reserve driver for the Renault F1 team in 2010 while also making a return to the GP2 Series.