KC Motorgroup Ltd may have been the “new Asian team” to take part in the first WEC event of the season, the recent 6 Hours of Silverstone, but they have made an impression that have kept people talking about how they will perform at the iconic 24 Heures Du Mans this coming June. The Northamptonshire event was part of their build-up to the toughest race in the motorsport world, which pushes both man and machine to the limit.
Paul Ip, KCMG’s owner and MD, made the trip over several continents to witness his team’s debut in their Morgan-Nissan LMP2 prototype, which had made it onto the grid after just three months of hard work and preparation, but was gunning for glory from the onset.
Ip has incredibly hands-on in respect of the WEC project, as well as being rather busy travelling back and forth between Asia and France, in order to have overseen the acquisition phase of the Morgan LMP2 car being delivered, as well as getting a complete understanding of the technical practices that would need to be employed.
They were to compete against the likes of G-Drive, Oak Racing and Greaves Motorsport in the LMP2 category over 6 hours of strategic and full-throttle racing, and showed clear promise in the practice sessions, finishing session 1 in P6 and P5 in session 2, and then qualified 8th overall in class.
The team of drivers for KCMG is clearly a truly international affair for the Chinese outfit, as Britain’s Matthew Howson, Switzerland’s Alexandre Imperatori and Hong Kong’s Ka To Jim lined up to tame the #47 LMP2 Morgan in the familiar blue and white livery around the “Home Of British Motorsport” for the 6 Hours of Silverstone.
Howson may have spun on the formation lap, but this did not deter the former Japanese F3 driver from pushing hard to get the car back into contention, as he pulled a double stint behind the wheel, and posted the 2nd fastest time on the way to getting the outfit up to P6, before handing over to Imperatori.
The Swiss driver got straight down to business, as he quickly caught up with the opposition, and continued to set several fastest laps on his way to getting up to 2nd place at one point after the rain brought cars in to pit for slicks, after the rain decided to join the party part way through the race, forcing many onto wet tyres.
Imperatori then was lapping quickest of all, before he then handed the reigns over to Ka To Jim, who became the first Chinese Hong Kong driver to race in an official WEC event, which was a proud moment for the 28-year-old. The team was running in 4th place, before an issue with the oil pressure dropped KCMG down the order. However, the team carried on the fight, got the car running, with Imperatori jumping in the Morgan-Nissan for the final stint of the race, where 179 laps were completed by the Asian outfit after just over 6 hours of racing, ultimately finishing 6th overall.
This may have been their debut, but the team really gelled together and contributed massively to this stellar effort in such a short time frame. Paul Ip complimented the efforts of all concerned, and was clearly impressed by how all three drivers adapted to the new challenge of endurance racing in such a short time, as well as looking forward to the future: “I’m very happy and impressed with how everyone performed. It makes all the hard work and lengthy time spent on this project worth it. I’m now looking forward to bigger challenges, and that would be the Le Mans 24 Hours in June. I’m proud to be representing Asia, particularly China and Hong Kong in such a massive and prestigious venue. Everyone is excited and getting ready to compete in June. As always, our work never stops.”
All three drivers really enjoyed their first time out in a racing situation they had never experienced before, with Alexandre saying that it was great to get a realistic race situation test, which had its issues, but said the team could be really proud of its efforts: “There is obviously a lot of room for improvement but we knew that coming into the week-end so now it will be important to debrief and learn all the lessons to come to Le Mans in top shape. We also showed we had a strong potential and a good pace, even though we had virtually zero running in dry conditions prior to the race. Thanks to all the crew for putting in the efforts they have to get this car ready and through the week-end!”
Howson said that there was not a bad word said about KMCG at all throughout the weekend suitably impressed with the presentation, efficient manner and overall performance from the team in general. Even with their lack of experience in the category, it all went smoothly apart from the odd occasional hiccup: “It was a pleasure racing with Alex and Ka To, the mechanics did a great job and there wasn't one mistake, engineering and strategy to the same standard. All of this was only our 'shakedown' race so it gives us great confidence for Le Mans. On to night testing and longer stints, and we'll be ready!”
Ka To Jim was still on a clear wave of eurphoria after racing at Silverstone, which the Hong Kong driver consider a dream come true to race there, as well as being thankful towards Paul in providing him with this chance: “We have been given limited time to practice and work as a team but the results at the actual race were amazing. Being the first Chinese Hong Kong driver to participate in a WEC event is such an honor. It was also great racing alongside Alex and Matt and working with the rest of the team. We all learned a lot from each other.”
So, as the days continue to count down towards the first official test day at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 9th, you can be rest assured that KCMG will be looking to make history as the first Chinese entry that has been recognized by the ACO, and that their efforts will be remembered for years to come…