From Malaysia to Germany: No shortcut to success for 21-year-old Proton R3 driver Mitchell Cheah

Mitchell Cheah, 21, is looking to impress at the ADAC TCR Germany Touring Car Championship this year, after proving himself on the national stage. ― Pictures by Shafwan Zaidon
Mitchell Cheah, 21, is looking to impress at the ADAC TCR Germany Touring Car Championship this year, after proving himself on the national stage. ― Pictures by Shafwan Zaidon

PETALING JAYA, July 12 ― At just the tender age of 11, Mitchell Cheah has been hooked on racing since his father introduced him to the sport ten years ago.

Now at 21, the 2018 Touring Car Racing (TCR) South-East Asia Champion is focusing on his task behind the wheel, even shelving his studies to focus on getting further ahead in his career.

“I was studying business at Sunway University but I was very lucky because Sepang had the Talent Programme and they chose me as one of the talents, or I might not have become a racer,” said Cheah.

And there hasn’t been a moment of regret, with Cheah racing for the Proton R3 team in the Malaysian Championship after his win in the TCR Asia Shoot Out 2018, , and even setting a new lap record for TCR cars in Sepang earlier this year.

“My dad was a hobby-karter, I used to follow him when he went go-kart racing, and one day he asked me if I wanted to try it out, the rest is history,” said Cheah in an interview with Malay Mail during Proton R3’s Media Joy Ride event at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) today.

A Proton R3 technician carrying out the final checks on Cheah and James Veerapen’s Proton Saga before sending it out for a test-run.
A Proton R3 technician carrying out the final checks on Cheah and James Veerapen’s Proton Saga before sending it out for a test-run.

Cheah, who idolises Lewis Hamilton, could have taken a very different lane if he had not flourished under the SIC Talent Development programme last year.

The young lad impressed initially SIC officials by winning the Touring Production class in the Malaysia Championship Series 2017 when he was only 19.

After doing well at the national level, Cheah has gone on to become the first-ever Malaysian to race at the toughest Touring car series in the world at the ADAC TCR Germany Touring Car Championship, for Volkwagen Team Oettinger, in April this year.

“Racing in Europe is good for my development, the drivers there are a lot more aggressive,” said Cheah.

 Cheah is currently 11th overall and 4th in the Junior category after three rounds at ADAC TCR, with a 2nd place finish, 8th place finish and 10th place finish in the three rounds.

Mitchell (right) posing with his Proton R3 teammates, (from left) James Veerapen and Farique Hairuman.
Mitchell (right) posing with his Proton R3 teammates, (from left) James Veerapen and Farique Hairuman.

It has been no easy achievement with the young racer dedicating his time and effort into improving his skills, both on and off the track.

“We don’t get a lot of practice sessions on the track unless it's before a race, so I spend a lot of time on my simulator at home, familiarising myself with the different tracks,” said Cheah.

He even pays more attention to his diet and physical health now that he races internationally, as he spends most of the time at the gym or attending physiotherapy sessions to keep himself in prime physical condition.

Despite achieving so much already, Cheah has no plans of slowing down as he hopes to one day wave the Malaysian flag high at the FIA World Touring Car Championships.

Cheah said: “That’s the end goal, my ambition, to race on the world stage at the World Touring series, so hopefully everything will work out.”

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