He had his sunglasses on perpetually even when indoors, but there was no air of arrogance about Aaron Kwok, one of the four Heavenly Kings of Cantopop.
I met the Hong Kong superstar at Ordos International Circuit recently, where he was racing in Rounds 5 and 6 of the Audi R8 LMS Cup. Racing on track was the only time he was without his sunglasses.
Kwok has won hearts with his singing, dancing and acting, but is now gaining more support from a different market — motor racing. Equally passionate about cars and motorsports, Kwok has an extensive collection of much-desired exotic supercars and is rather active in racing, competing in the full season of the Audi R8 LMS Cup 2012 this year.
The Audi R8 LMS Cup is a brand-new racing series by the German carmaker, which has strong successes in motorsports, particularly in Le Mans, the world’s toughest endurance race. Based in China for 2012, the series goes around Shanghai, Zhuhai and Ordos for five race meetings with two rounds per weekend.
Leading the series after six rounds is a leading GT racing driver from Hong Kong Marchy Lee, with close contenders Adderly Fong — only 22 years of age and racing in GT cars for the first time — as well as former Formula 1 driver Alex Yoong from Malaysia.
Lee had a perfect weekend with back-to-back-victories in Ordos, taking the chequered flag from pole positions in both races. Yoong on the other hand, had a tough outing, suffering from mechanical problems in the car. He only managed one timed lap in qualifying before his car seized. A hard-fought Round 5 saw him finish in second place overall, but car problems pursued again and he failed to finish Round 6.
Classified under the amateur category, Kwok had a good start to the season when he won the amateur class in Round 2 in Shanghai. However, he crashed into the barrier in Round 3 in Zhuhai and had to give Round 4 a miss due to the wreckage of his matte black dragon liveried R8 LMS.
Coming back into Round 5 with no less confidence than before, Kwok qualified the fastest of the amateur drivers. However, a mistake in Round 5 saw him fall back the order, outside of the podium. He then fought back in Round 6 and at some points, was battling with Alex Au for the amateur class win. Alas, Ordos is a difficult track to overtake and Kwok finished second in class.
Bearing a fit body with his ripped muscles showing through his clothes, 45-year-old Kwok does not look a day past 35. Is racing his secret to keeping younger? I had the opportunity to chat with the friendly and jovial celebrity, who is full of jokes, in the Audi hospitality suite at Ordos:
Q: You totalled the car the last round in Zhuhai. Did that cause any fear?
A: No, no fear at all. I think it was my lack of experience that landed me in an accident. I was attempting an overtaking manoeuvre and I lost control then hit the barrier. It took a lot of effort to repair the car after the accident, even having to send it to Germany and back.
Q: You qualified fastest of the amateurs last weekend, how did that feel?
A: I cannot be too satisfied with the result. Driving the best of the amateurs at one race meeting doesn’t mean I’m the best or that I’m perfect. Qualifying is just one lap, but the race is 18 laps. Hence it is important to keep the race clean with a good pace. There are a lot of fast drivers and there will be very fierce competition and I don’t want any crashes though sometimes they may happen. I made mistakes and I fell back in Round 5, missing the podium eventually. I managed to come back with a second place in class for Round 6 though.
Q: How is it like racing in the Audi R8 LMS?
A: This is my first time racing the car and it is a very good high-performance GT3 car. However, there is a lot more to learn about the car and also the tracks. Unlike Marchy and Alex who have driven on many, many different tracks, I don’t have their level of experience.
Q: Any strategy in racing?
A: Even though I’m an amateur, it’s still a race and I’m still competitive. I aim to get a position in the amateur class, but the key is to be safe yet fast, and to finish the race.
Q: Do you feel any pressure racing alongside professionals?
A: Not at all. In fact, it is a good thing as we get to learn from them. We can take reference from their data and compare ours to the fastest drivers. The professionals like Marchy are more than willing to share tips and give advice, hence enabling progress in the overall driver field. I do have a lot to learn about racing this car and although Marchy has been very helpful, teaching me is one thing, being able to apply it is another thing!
Q: As a performing artiste, isn’t motorsports a risky activity for you to partake?
A: Racing dangerous? Not really. I’ve always wanted to go racing but never had the time and opportunity, until Zhuhai International Circuit opened in the late 1990s and I’ve been participating in races since. To me, I think playing soccer is more prone to injury so that’s why I don’t play soccer. Motorsports is not as dangerous as you think, especially when there are cars like the Audi R8 LMS that protects the driver really well.
Q: In what ways are the entertainment industry and the world of motorsports similar?
A: Both are the same, requiring the same spirit of giving your all and doing your best. In the entertainment world, you need 100% dedication in order to achieve performance and good results, just like motorsports. Success doesn’t come overnight and it isn’t just about luck. A lot of hard work and preparation is needed, just like how I prepare for a concert, the same effort needs to be put into preparing for a race.
Q: What do you aim to achieve in motorsports then?
A: I am focusing on improving step by step, progressively improving my time second by second.
Q: Is racing your secret to staying young forever?
A: As a singer, actor and performer, I require a high level of fitness and physical condition. I need to be in good shape when I take on my work. Racing is exercise and I like exercise. It is a form of fitness for me and maintains my fitness levels very well. Hopefully I will get more chances to race and keep getting younger and younger!
View more of my Audi R8 LMS Cup photos here.