Rounds 7 and 8 of the Audi R8 LMS Cup will be taking place at the Zhuhai International Circuit this weekend and current championship leader Marchy Lee will be looking to repeat his perfect weekend at the last round in Ordos, where he took pole position before winning both races.
The 36-year-old Hong Kong citizen started the brand-new Audi R8 LMS Cup with pole position in Shanghai, but came in 2nd in Round 1 and 3rd in Round 2. At Zhuhai next, he won Round 3 and was leading the standings but an on-track incident with Alex Yoong in the final lap of Round 4 ruined his race and cost him valuable championship points. Coming back strong in Ordos at Rounds 5 and 6, he achieved the perfect weekend of pole position and race wins for both rounds to regain his spot at the top of the leaderboard.
I was at the last race meeting at Ordos and I had the chance to sit Marchy down and talk to him. He had some really interesting things to say about racing and life… and I am glad to share it with you now!
I also spoke to his wife, who was there to support him at Ordos. The petite sweet-faced Mrs Lee was really shy and was happy to chat with me but requested for me not to record it or write anything down. She tries to go to every race of his if she can, even bringing their young daughter along if it isnt’t too far away from home.
However, she gets very nervous when she watches him race and she doesn’t relax until the entire 18 laps of the race is over, as she worries about him getting into accidents on the track. She doesn’t display these nerves outwardly though, sitting quietly with her eyes glued to the screen. When Marchy had a bad race at Zhuhai in Round 4, she revealed that he was quieter than usual and she let him be, understanding his need to have his space. A great wife you have there Marchy.
Now for the Q&A with Marchy…
Q: What are the advantages of starting early in racing?
A: The advantage of starting early is that you have faster reaction when you are younger. However, not everyone has the opportunity to go racing at such a young age.
Q: You got into motorsports at a rather young age. Tell us more.
A: I first tried go-karting at the age of nine. My father is a racing driver himself – a Hong Kong karting champion and amateur driver in Porsche Super Cup – so I had the chance to go racing.
Q: What was your first race?
A: I raced in the Junior karting cup in Hong Kong at the age of 11 and got pole position immediately. However, during the race I flipped on my second lap and crashed big time, even breaking my arm in the process. That was where I learnt that qualifying is just one fast lap needed, whereas a race is a full-on battle.
Q: What was next?
A: I continued karting and did one year in Italy and then another year in Japan to do professional karting. Then I joined the inaugural China Formula Campus Championship at Zhuhai. I was the 1997 China Formula Campus champion, achieving eight pole positions and seven out of eight race wins. From there I was spotted for a scholarship for the La Filière racing school in Le Mans, France. I went over to France in 1998 and spent three years there – from the French Formula Campus Championship (overall 4th) to the French Formula 3 Championship Class B in 1999 at the age of 19 and then French Formula 3 Championship Class A in 2000.
Q: How was it like in France?
A: The racing programme I went through in France was very professional. My time there was one of the best racing memories I ever had. There were 30 over drivers from all over the world and it was very competitive. Besides driving, I also had to learn PR skills, speak French and learn about the car.
Q: When did you return to Asia?
A: After 2000, the funding ran out due to the economic crisis so I came back to Asia and did some races from 2002 to 2003 like the Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix, Formula BMW Asia in Beijing where I won, and Formula Renault in Macau. In 2004 I did the whole Formula BMW Pacific series and won 12 out of 14 races. I was supposed to get a testing with the Formula 1 Minardi team but due to management problems that never happened and it’s a shame really. 2005 and 2006 were quiet years and I only did the Formula Asia V6 by Renault race at Zhuhai where I finished 2nd. 2007 got busy as I did some races in the Asian Super Car Challenge, Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, Formula Asia V6 by Renault and A1GP.
Q: Then you got more involved with the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia right?
A: Yeah, in my first year of PCCA I didn’t compete the full season but got two wins, then I did a full season in 2008 with a Beijing dealer and finished 4th overall. I was still using formula car style to drive the GT cars so I had a lot of adjusting to make as I was wearing out the tyres very fast for example! I also did the inaugural Speedcar Series (similar to NASCAR) in 2008 in Dubai and was the first Chinese driver to do so.
In 2010, I was back in the PCCA with Red Bull (team run by Dynaten Motorsports) and it was a good year where I finished 2nd overall. That year I also did the 1000KM of Zhuhai race, part of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, where we won the GTC class with the Audi R8 LMS. Using the same car, I also raced in the Macau GT Cup where I came in second.
I did three rounds of the 2011 World Touring Car Championship and didn’t complete the full season due to lack of sponsorship. This year I’m driving for Audi in the inaugural Audi R8 LMS Cup and also in the GT3 Asia Series with Jeffrey Lee.
Q: What is the most challenging about racing?
A: The most challenging bit is the search for sponsors to always keep yourself racing. But to do that, you also have to always beat the competition. Most importantly, the main point is to beat yourself. You really have to keep that in mind and it can be quite big a pressure. You have to be fit, you have to be mentally strong. In the end, it’s all in the mind. If you have the right techniques, the gift and the talent, then it’s all in the mind.
Q: How has racing developed you as a person?
A: I admit I didn’t study much but that’s something I’m proud of actually. My mindset is thus different. For example, when people say it’s difficult to get, I don’t think so and will think it’s easy to achieve as long as you are willing to work hard for it. Racing is of great importance in my life – it has brought me to meet lots of people and also given me a lot of memories. I’ve learnt how to be a person through racing. I learnt a lot, learnt from my mistakes. When I was young, I was very selfish and barely thought much, but now I see more than other people.
Q: You’re very willing to share your data with others.
A: Yes, please go ahead and look at my data if you want to. My style is – I can do it, but you may not do it. If you want, you can copy and if you can do better, good for you! Formula 1 is different though, it involves different technologies so they don’t share data outside of their teams. In this case of the Audi R8 LMS Cup though, Audi hired me as a racing driver so I have a greater responsibility to share. If you help one driver, that doesn’t mean you will go slower. Other drivers can look at my setup if they want; I won’t explain to you but you can go and see.
Q: How long will you keep racing?
A: Other than racing, I honestly don’t know what I can do. I will race until I’m not competitive anymore. If I start to qualify 15th, 16th, then I’ll know my time is up.
Q: Have you thought of what you would do after that?
A: I haven’t really thought of what I would do after racing as I don’t think that day is close, so I don’t want to think about it yet.
Q: Advice to young drivers?
A: Pick up multiple languages, as you need to speak in English especially. Otherwise, you can’t speak in front of press! Nowadays, being FAST IS NOT ENOUGH! You need a whole package. You need to be prepared and be prepared to fail, you have to make mistakes until you learn, you need to be open-minded.
I’ve helped some young drivers develop their career and some really have talent, but you need the right attitude and you have to love racing. Racing has to be in your blood and something that you cannot take out. You miss it badly when you don’t do it.
Also, don’t pretend to be a racing driver, be a racing driver. I see so many drivers pretend and then there are those whose parents are overly concerned to the point that the drivers cannot be themselves, ending up acting and not being a racing driver. Do it because you like it and because you want it.
Q: Any plans to set up a racing school or academy?
A: I don’t need and never needed people to teach me. If you are good, you will find your own way. Some people pay a lot of money for coaches but if they really don’t have talent then they are just paying to hear what they want to hear. For example, if I were to go into basketball and pay lots of money only to have the coach tell me I am short but have the talent to be NBA player – will you believe it? If you don’t have talent, then be a good amateur driver and enjoy it.
Q: Will you let your daughter go racing?
A: I will try my best to support if my kids want to race, regardless of whether it’s my daughter or if I ever have a son. I won’t force them to take it up just to follow in my footsteps.
Q: Who are your idols?
A: My idols are Ayrton Senna, Bruce Lee and James Hunt, especially Bruce Lee though I’m not a big fan of fighting but it’s his spirit that I look up to him for. I also admire Michael Schumacher for what he is doing. Every day he faces so many people talking bad about him. He’s a seven-time world champion and he’s very rich and he doesn’t need to come back and race. He can stay home and do nothing, but no, he is in love with motor racing that’s why he came back.
Q: Congratulations on a perfect weekend at Ordos. How do you feel about it?
A: Getting a pole to flag win in both races was great! It is a very good feeling to win on a track that I’ve never been to. Of course, there are still two more race weekends (hence four more rounds) to go and I’m not sure if I can win the championship yet. But the mood is good now – everything went well at Ordos and everything fell in place. I worked well with the engineers, the mechanics were good, my car setup was good.
In Round 5 I saw Adderly pushing hard in the beginning and then he disappeared on lap 3 and then I saw Alex behind and I went “AGAIN?!” So I just tried to drive faster to maintain a good gap and good pace, keeping my composure calm. Then in Round 6, there was no pressure to push hard and I just worked at steadily keeping the lead, increasing it lap by lap to take the win.
This is the first back-to-back victory in a single race weekend in the inaugural Audi R8 LMS Cup. I’m really happy and although it has only been three outings so far, you can see the progress of every driver. I’m back at the top of the leaderboard and that’s great, but it’s just a two-point lead over Adderly. I can’t say that the overall championship is mine yet – we still have two more weekends to go and we do have bad days too. Round 4 was bad for me for example, and Ordos was bad for Alex.
Q: Both Alex Yoong and yourself are strong title contenders in the series. In Round 4, an incident on track between Alex and you cost you the race and valuable championship points. Still friends?
A: Yeah I was leading overall after Round 3 but I dropped to overall third after what happened in Round 4. Hey it is a race after all and we are all competitive, making things challenging and exciting. People asked if we are still friends, if I am angry at him, if there is any tension between us… Well, Alex and I have known each other since the age of nine and we are very strong competitors on track but we are still friends. I want the championship, he wants to win, so it’s very intensive as everyone has the same goal. Hopefully in the races to come we will steer clear of each other so we don’t take each other out!
Good luck Marchy!
For more of my photos at the Audi R8 LMS Cup Rounds 5 and 6 at Ordos, view here.
Read my Postcard from Ordos here.