Google Indonesian Anderson Tanoto and the most cursory glance at the results will tell you he is a busy man. On the board of his family’s philanthropic organisation, a successful businessman, and holder of a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School where he now sits on the Executive Board of Asia, you would be forgiven for imagining Anderson is well into middle age. Except that Anderson is just 30, a justifiably unashamed ‘millennial’.
At Germany’s iconic Nürburgring for the second stop of the 2018 Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup season, this is Anderson’s first ‘real’ race, the latest progression of a hunger for motorsport which began a decade ago.
“You can’t call something a passion until you’re willing to sacrifice and make compromises in order to achieve what you want to achieve. That’s what a passion is all about.”
“Reflecting back, it’s been a fun journey because motorsport is a passion that I’ve built for almost 10 years, when I first got my own car in 2008. I was in university at the Wharton Business School in United States. I bought a BMW M3, and I’m the kind of guy that if I want to get into something, I really focus on it and deep dive. When I bought the car, the first thing I did was to dig into the online community forums to find out more about the potential of the car and what else I could do to it.”
“I got hooked on track days. I would bring my street car down to the track, change my own wheels and tyres – there were definitely no mechanics back then. I was working part time when I was in college trying to have spare money to go on track days. It cost US$300 to 400. It wasn’t cheap and I was on a budget. A set of tyres was $1,600. It was very costly for me! If I could squeeze in two to four track days every semester I was very happy. I learned how to change my own brake pads, invested considerable time and worked with my own hands - that’s how you build your passion.”
From saving funds from a hard-earned budget during his university days to carefully setting aside precious time in his professional life, Anderson is crystal clear about what, in his opinion, constitutes a true passion: “You can’t call something a passion until you’re willing to sacrifice and make compromises in order to achieve what you want to achieve. That’s what a passion is all about.”
Building his passion very much from the grassroots up, Anderson chose carefully when he decided to take the plunge into the realms of professional motorsport. As he did with his road car, it is immediately apparent that Anderson weighed every aspect before deciding on the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup and the new-for-2018 Audi R8 LMS GT4.
“The last four days have been incredible. There is a large spectrum of motorsport leagues, especially in privateer racing. I really took the time to analyse each of the championships and I realised that Audi has the whole package. The fact that you are all in identical vehicles, that means you’re on a level playing field, really focussing on the quality of the driving. Also, the [Audi R8 LMS] GT4 allows you to ease your way into motorsport. A GT3 car is fast!”
“It’s also very good that you have an opportunity to compete in an open category. The GT4 can also be entered into a European GT4 series or in the Blancpain GT Series Asia as well. The Audi R8 LMS GT4 is an incredible car to start with; very friendly to drive and very approachable.”
“At our level, it’s not only about the driving but about understanding the intricacies of each track. It’s always easier to understand the track in a more manageable car. So I’ve decided to learn the circuits in the GT4. Exploring each of the tracks and learning the racing lines, then jump into a GT3 when I am ready.”
“Sometimes you need to sit down and calm your mind and actually focus on one thing. I believe that’s how breakthroughs happen, whether it’s in science, in art, or anything. You have to focus.”
Anderson seems to carefully analyse everything, so what is his take on Generation Y and its oft-maligned apparent inability to concentrate?
“I’m a Millennial and I think I can comfortably say that, I’m only turning 30 next year. This generation that I’ve grown up with – we are all about instant gratification, constantly doing three or four things but not really focussing on anything. Some people are driving, texting, talking on the phone and eating. You are expected to be listening to a lecture, checking out Instagram and typing notes. Great, that’s multitasking and I think the world needs a lot of multitaskers. The world’s getting ever more complex so you’ve got to do multiple things at one time. But there’s also value in being able to focus on one specific thing because it allows for deeper thinking, more reflective thoughts. Sometimes you need to sit down and calm your mind and actually focus on one thing. I believe that’s how breakthroughs happen, whether it’s in science, in art, or anything. You have to focus.”
Multitasking has its place in today’s world then, but so does focus, particularly in Anderson’s chosen sport.
“If I draw parallel with motorsport, it’s almost the same thing. You’re driving at 250, 280 km/hr down to turn one and your braking point is at 75 metres. If you miss that by 0.1 seconds you’re going to go to 70 metres. Another 0.1 seconds you’re going to push yourself to 65 metres, and at 65 metres - if you miss that concentration of 0.2 seconds, you’re not going to be able to brake hard enough to take turn one. That’s the margin for error we are talking about in motorsports and that’s the kind of risk you’re placing on yourself. Therefore, the concentration levels have to be very high.”
Unsurprisingly, Anderson’s focus goes far beyond braking distances: “The data we’re working with is very advanced; we have throttle pressure, brake pressure, turning steering angle, GPS, and now you can overlay that with video of the racing lines. It’s this notion of quick feedback. Anything that’s successful - whether it’s investment or technology or any businesses - you have to get quick and accurate feedback. So, we drive, sit with the engineers, understand what went wrong, and set out two or three things that you want to do better, get out on the track and try to do it. Of course, that sounds easy on paper but in reality it’s quite difficult to execute. The better you can do that, the better a driver you will be.”
For a man who grew his passion from the grassroots, the Nürburgring 24 Hour weekend proved the ideal event at which to make his racing debut. An iconic, demanding track, thousands of dedicated fans, and an Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup weekend which provided an unrivalled combination of experiences.
“It’s a dream come true for me and extremely enjoyable but at the same time it’s also mentally draining. I am exhausted. Just after the race, Audi organized an exclusive Nordschleife experience where we drove on the track before the start of the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Normally, I would have jumped on such an opportunity but I let my friend drive instead and sat as a passenger. I was exhausted. I wanted to rest and that’s after a 30-minute race, so you can imagine how these guys are doing after a 24-hour endurance race, it’s incredible.”
After practice, qualifying and two intensely-competitive Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup races, it’s time to enjoy the main event; 24 hours of brilliant motorsport, legions of fans who verge on the fanatical, and that permeating frisson of excitement so impossible to manufacture. A week to remember?
“What the Nürburgring has been for me since I arrived in the last four days has been an utterly immersive experience. I can let go of what’s happening momentarily around the world and be fully immersed in motorsport. When you do that, the environment is critical, the people around you are very important and the set-up here at the Nürburgring has been top notch. There are over 200,000 people here. I’ve been to F1 in Monaco Grand Prix, while it’s a special weekend; it’s not even close to the passion I see here.”
“Motorsport should be inclusive – we have let more people in! I don’t believe in exclusivity – be inclusive.”
Anderson is very definitely not what many perceive as the typical millennial. Or is it that the older generation are too dismissive; believing an ability to multitask precludes focus? Whatever your take on ‘Generation Y’, Anderson’s parting words will be enough to assure the staunchest cynic that the future of motorsport is in safe hands.
“A father with his little boy came up to our Audi R8 LMS GT4 race car yesterday and asked for permission to see the car – I told him he can not only see the car but also sit in the seat! They were elated and snapped a bunch of photos. He’ll never forget that moment of sitting in the Audi R8 LMS race car. Motorsport has to be inclusive – we have to let more people in! I don’t believe in exclusivity – be inclusive and we need to bring the fans as close to the sport as possible.”