When the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup added a championship title for the impressive new Audi R8 LMS GT4 in 2018, it was a match made in heaven for a new Chinese team with big dreams and plenty of passion. Enter: Faster Ever After Racing.
Once upon a time in Henan Province
Quickly making a name for itself on the regional GT racing scene, the origins of FEA Racing are modest to say the least. Explains driver and co-owner Sheng Yanwen: “We set up the team 2016. There were only four of us and we were all doing this for fun, not as professional drivers. The four of us - Yin Jinge, Zhang Dongqi, Yang Zhiyi and I all love racing so we bought ourselves four high-performance cars. We modified them ourselves; we bought some parts, we hired our own engineers to modify the cars, and we went racing. We had a local garage, so our engineers followed us from there when we went racing.”
Due to their progress and performance in races, the team’s talent was soon spotted by race promoters in China and they were invited to join a GT championship, and quickly the team’s tenacity was rewarded by way of a happy coincidence.
Continues Sheng: “In our home town of Zhengzhou in Henan they are building a new circuit. They wanted to advertise and promote their circuit and their business, so we cooperated with them and they bought two GT4 cars and we ran them for a season in 2017.”
Working with a manufacturer for the first time, that season was a steep learning curve and the workload increased sharply, but the team was not afraid of the challenges and kept moving forward. “Led by team manager Yang Zhiyi, the team improved a lot in the process,” says Sheng. “Our mechanics were used to mending road cars, and now they could learn to fix racing cars. Our drivers, mechanics and engineers all treasured the opportunity to work with a manufacturer.”
The following season FEA Racing were introduced to Audi Sport Asia team Absolute Racing. Explains Sheng: “We connected with Absolute Racing and they told us about the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup. We had to consider budget, our level of improvement due to collaboration and other details, so we discussed GT3 and GT4 options. We chose the Audi R8 LMS GT4 to start with because we’re rookies right now, not professional racing drivers, so it’s more suitable for us to practice and improve our skills.”
The combination of a GT4 car designed specifically for privateers - particularly relative newcomers to GT racing, an all-privateer line-up, an open-data policy and mentoring from professional drivers who can communicate in their native language provided the ideal environment in which FEA Racing could flourish.
“Working with the Cup, we all have the same cars. Working with the coaches such as Cheng Congfu, setting us a benchmark lap time, it’s easy to see your gap and the differences”, says Sheng. “That makes it easy for us to improve our skills to achieve a better lap. We can compare our times with other drivers, either with the other amateur drivers or with the professionals. This is very good for us to improve.
“On the data side, it is very easy to see the differences and it’s very straight forward to see the peaks – high or low, strong or weaker – but for me, I prefer to watch the videos. There’s a big gap between Cheng and I, so I prefer to watch the videos to see his racing line and his braking points, and when he starts to accelerate the throttle and how he moves the steering wheel. Combining the video and the data is very helpful.”
As well as Sheng and his fellow drivers Qu Pengfei, Wang Dengjia, Zhang Dongqi and Yang Zhiyi, the team’s engineers and mechanics are also on the Cup’s fast-track development path, learning from one of the region’s most successful teams. Says Sheng: “Our engineers and mechanics are working with Absolute Racing. Zhuhai is the first time we have brought them to the Cup, so we have a lot to do in the future.”
As the team continues to flourish within the Cup’s developmental environment, Sheng and his colleagues are looking forward to the completion of the new Zhengzhou International Circuit, scheduled for the second half 2019. The benefit of having a ‘home’ circuit on the doorstep, and pioneering motorsport in a hitherto untapped area of China, are exciting prospects.
“Once [the circuit] is open, we can practice our skills even after work and every weekend,” says Sheng. “We can even use the go karts to practice. That will be much easier for us. We’ll be the first local GT racing team and I think it will be a very proud moment.”
In the meantime, though, FEA Racing continues on the fast-track to success with the Cup, the emphasis now on honing their racing skills. Concludes Sheng: “We need to focus on racing more and more from this year. We have a goal, we have purpose, and we want to reach our goals.”