One of the best drivers in Hong Kong, 17-year-old racing prodigy Jasper Thong, is still too young to get his driving licence.
“Everyone I race with is around 20 or older,” explained Jasper. “I’m the only one who they call ‘underage’. I’ve never driven a car on the road, so to actually win races in a professional racecar is pretty unbelievable.”
He made his professional racing debut last year at the 2016 Audi R8 LMS Cup at 16, making him the youngest driver in the cup’s history. While competing with older drivers was intimidating at first, he is now confident he can race anybody.
The sport was probably a natural fit for Jasper, who has been an adrenaline junkie from a very young age.
“I have always been in love with speed – I loved rollercoasters as a kid and I enjoyed sprinting,” he said. “I just love the competitive nature of racing. I might be friends with someone, but we won’t be friends on the racing track. I will battle you and do whatever it takes to win.”
That attitude seems to be paying off: he won his first pro race at the TCR Asia Series in March racing a brand new car, the Audi RS3 LMS. Not only was it his first win, it was also the first win in the car’s history.
Racing runs in the Thong family: like Jasper, his older brother Shaun is an official driver and ambassador for Audi Hong Kong.
It was their dad who introduced the brothers to motorsports. “My dad has always been a car enthusiast, and he would always take me and my brother to car shows and garages,” said Jasper. “Then one day, he took us to the Macau Grand Prix. We’ve been in love with racing ever since.”
The former Korean International School student said that although he has learned a lot from Shaun, 21, there is definitely a sense of competition between the brothers.
“We always want to get ahead of each other,” said Jasper. “There have been times where we have raced in the same car in the same race, and even though we represent the same team, we always try to beat each other.
“And the thing is – whenever we race against each other – our lap times always improve.”
As confident and as competitive as Jasper is, he is humble enough to recognise he still has work to do to achieve the same success as his brother.
“I have to admit, he’s still better than me right now – he’s got more developed racing skills, and [more] experience. But I think that just comes with time. The more I drive, the better I will get.”
And despite the rivalry, and the fact that they no longer live or train together, there is still plenty of love between the siblings.
“I am very glad that I have a brother like him,” said Jasper. “We are very supportive of each other. When I won my first race, he was so happy for me. And whenever he races, I make sure I watch live streams or go to the track and support him. I’m always so proud of him when he wins.”
Like Shaun did before him, Jasper will go to Britain for university, while continuing his racing training. He will fly back to Asia periodically so that he can continue racing competitively.
“I will be going to Coventry University to study business in January,” he said. “Training will be a lot easier [there], because the racing industry is much more mature. There are racetracks everywhere, more advanced simulators, and better coaches.”
After his studies, Jasper hopes to return to Hong Kong to continue his career and help continue the growth of motor sport in the city.
“The racing scene in Asia is already getting competitive, but it’s still no where close to [what it’s like in] Europe,” said Jasper. “I just want to be part of the racing industry and help it grow, anyway that I can.”