October 31, 2016 @ 06:43 PM

​A dose of Champion spirit

How does a champion think and act? We went on a roadtrip to find out

Words by Jerrica Leong
Photography by Hussein Zain

I stood, bleary eyed, at the edge of the pit garage watching our photographer snap away at everything that caught his eye. I’m not a morning person, at all. If only mornings start at, like, noon then I would be a much more productive person. I am not at all like the hardworking Audi R8 LMS Cup pit crew that wakes up at the crack of dawn to work on the cars for every race.

Today, I had to wake up at the ghastly hour of 6.30am to drive a little more than an hour and a half just to catch the full day of activities that surrounds the Champion Racing team in the Audi R8 LMS Cup. Rounds 5 and 6 were happening right here in the Sepang International Circuit and we were invited to experience the awesomeness of being a Champion. 

Champion is a brand that builds and sells spark plugs and all other car accessories internationally. They’ve deep their hands in motor racing previously with Renault F1, back when Flavio Briatore was still heading the team along with other race series. This year, the brand made their return to motorsport sponsoring their first ever Audi R8 LMS Cup season in conjunction with their “Be a Champion” campaign. 

Now that they are back in racing they are determined to win but at the same time show the world that everybody is a champion in their own right. So while Champion has yet to win any championships yet they have a very talented driver in their car who have been busy making a name for himself in the great world of motorsports to help win that championship.

Introducing Martin Rump, full time Uni student and part time racing driver from Estonia. Seriously though, he’s only a part time racer, his focus is on his studies which his father, Mehis, let slip that the youngster will have to jet back to the United Kingdom for one of his subject’s exam right after the race. Now that is dedication. 

Young Martin is determined to finish his Degree in Mechanical Engineering but at the same time do everything he can to keep his hobby and passion alive. My curiosity peaked here because in the UK there were numerous degree courses in motorsport engineering and being an aspiring driver, why didn’t Rump take part in that instead? When I asked, he answered that’s because he wants to have a wider scope when it comes to the working industry and studying purely on motorsports alone will limit him to the possibilities in the future.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a youngster with good future planning! To think I was still a K-drama recluse back when I was 20…

At the age of 20, Martin already has quite an extensive portfolio. To think the man only started racing 10 years ago when he tried his hand out in go-kart racing under the disapproving eye of dad Mehis who was a racer himself and the inspiration of Martin’s love for racing. It took him only one year to win the Go-Kart Championship and four more years along with a few more championships to make it into open wheel racing in the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC in 2011.

If you had kept up with the inaugural KL City GP last year, Martin Rump will be no stranger to you. Rump was part of the Formula Masters China Series and won all three races that happened on the streets of KL. Didn’t keep up with the KL City GP but yet still find him familiar? Well, Martin Rump is an ambitious kid and after getting a taste of his first GT race courtesy of the Audi ThinkPad Racing Team in China, he went on to take part in the 2015 Sepang 12 Hours race and came home victorious on his first run.

Rump may not have won any huge championships at the moment but he is definitely a Champion in the making and a champion at heart. That was why the Champion Racing team think that Martin is the best ambassador for their official team spirit and invited him to drive their Audi R8 LMS car this year. And he did not disappoint.

The 2016 Audi R8 LMS Cup season opener happened in Shanghai in May, Rump had instantly shut the door on all his more experienced rivals and lead the race from start to finish. His second win came in Round 4 in Thailand making up for his disappointing Round 3 DNF. So with another win in the bag, Rump came into the Malaysian leg of the series with a massive weight penalty which means, he will be at a massive disadvantage in the newly established Superpole session.

This year, the Audi R8 LMS Cup saw quite a number of changes, one was the continuation of the Superpole shootout where the top eight qualifiers will head out for another round to determine who will take Pole position. The other change is the introduction of a brand new car. The second generation R8 LMS car now produces 585bhp and over 550Nm, so that means no more push-to-pass button and no more special mechanism to save oneself when one is weighted down by the Success Ballast.

Hence the very frustrating and rather uneventful race in Round 5, as Rump found himself sliding down the grid from fifth to finish eighth. The Success Ballast sure proved to be very effective in giving the winning drivers a disadvantage!

Entering Round 6 saw a very hopeful Rump, he was all fired up and ready to win with big plans to at least jump on the podium by the end of the day. And he was all set to make the team proud when he started eighth and actually made a few passes and looked to have secured himself fifth position before he got forced off the track sending his car gobbling grass and gravel at Turn 1.

He dropped back down the grid and this meant that Rump will have to fight back up the field. And fight he did now that he is free of the Success Ballast. His first target was fellow new generation racer and local boy Akash Nandy’s KCMG Audi, then his second it was Jan Kisiel who was racing in sixth. It took a few tries, as Rump found himself running out of straights every time he attempted to make a pass but he eventually made it pass Kisiel amidst the roar of approval from the garage.

Unfortunately for Rump, his next target was the very experienced Mr Alex Yoong, whose car inherited Rump’s Success Ballast having won Round 5. Equally bad news is that Rump’s tyres were running out of thread so he had to find his way pass the reigning champion as soon as possible. Which did not happen by the way, Yoong looked to be driving the widest car on the track and every time Rump was close enough to overtake, Yoong expertly manoeuvre himself into a position that Rump couldn’t get pass forcing him to settle for sixth.

Martin wasn’t discouraged by the weekend’s results though. He might have dropped a position in the championship standings but he was still in contention to win the title. Despite the sleepy atmosphere in the hospitality lounge Martin was already pumped up to head to the next race and win himself more points. 

His upbeat attitude must have helped when it comes to the championship. After Rounds 7 and 8 and with just two more races to go in the season Martin is one of five drivers in contention to win the 2016 title. But I suspect that winning the championship or not will not faze the man, he will always strive to become better and remain just as upbeat as he was after two very frustrating races. Now that is the spirit of being a champion.


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