Macau’s junior race-driver Charles Leong was recently in the spotlight after he clocked the record-breaking time of 1:33:989 in the Asian Formula Renault Series (AFR) in Zhuhai. Leong began racing competitively at 10 years old and made an impressive leap to the Formula 4 (F4) category in late 2015, at the age of 13. The Times spoke to Leong, who divides his time between his studies at The International School and racing, about his achievements and ambitions.
Macau Daily Times (MDT) – How did you start your career in motorsports?
Charles Leong (CL) – My first time [in motorsports] was driving a go-kart – I was studying in Grade 2. It was not really a proper go-kart, but just one of those [rentals] for people to have fun with. It was during a school trip and when I sat in the car, I [felt] like I really wanted to drive fast in the future. I was the fastest of all my classmates [at that time]. When I was in Grade 3, I finally moved to Macau and had the chance to drive a proper go-kart and so it started.
MDT – You are now at Formula 4 with Black Arts Racing and also in AFR. What is your biggest challenge?
CL – My biggest challenge now is to win both [the] Formula Renault and the F4 season, but I already know I will miss one of the F4 races because of the AFR [calendar clash], so I’m aiming to get more wins in F4 [in order to guarantee the goal even if failing to race one of events].
MDT – How far do you want to go? What is your ultimate dream?
CL – [First] I really want to go to F1 and my [ultimate] dream is win in the Formula One too.
MDT – How do you manage your school duties with racing? What kind of support do you have for that?
CL – Every time I come back to school I need to catch up with the work, and I need to manage my time well because I also [need] to go to the gym. When I find difficulty in understanding something I will ask the teachers [for help].
It is hard because there is pressure from both sides. I need to study well and race well. It is really hard for me. I will try my best on both things. The school supports me by helping me on my studies in the evening since I have enrolled in boarding school [at The International School].
MDT – What is your favorite racing track and race idol?
CL – My favorite track is Shanghai. It is very challenging. It has a lot of fast corners, slow corners, and a very long straight. It is really fun. My [racing] idol is Max [Verstappen]. He is a very aggressive driver. He makes perfect starts most of the time and in the rain, he is also much faster than his teammate [and I appreciate such skills].
I recall that when he was in Shanghai [earlier this year], he performed an amazing overtake from the outside line and he also overtook his teammate easily as he was starting from last. He also managed to achieve his first win [in F1] with Redbull when he was only 18.
MDT – What will be your next step? Formula 3?
CL – My next step will be going to Europe for the [European] Formula Renault, because I am still very young and I need to have more race experience [before trying to launch myself into more competitive categories].
MDT – Do you ever race in simulators? How accurate do you find those?
CL – Yes, I do, I always race with my coach Josh Burdon when I am in the team. We usually race on RFactor [computer game]. It is really nice to test on a simulator; you get to learn the track much faster and also helps you to train your reaction time. You can get the feeling of driving when you don’t get a chance to test [on the real track]. It’s very nice [and helpful] to test on a simulator.