It's good news on two fronts for one of the most consistent drivers in this year's Toyota Racing Series. Singaporean Andrew Tang leads the series heading to Manfeild this weekend for the last round and it's something of a miracle he's even here to finish the championship.

Tang was to fly back to Singapore this week to start his compulsory military service and would have missed the three races this weekend, which would have put paid to any chance of winning this year's title.

National service was introduced to the country in 1967 and is mandatory for men over 18. They serve a two-year stint in the Civil Defence Force, Armed Forces or the police.

At 19, Tang must serve his time and it's rare for anyone to avoid the call up unless they are in jail, disabled, have a severe medical condition or who have dual citizenship. If they are competing in an international, or national, sporting event they can complete the championship and then start their military service.


Unfortunately for Tang, motor racing is not regarded as a sport by Singapore authorities - despite the country having a Formula One Grand Prix - so it looked like Tang was bang out of luck and had to pack his bags and head home.

But with help from people in New Zealand, his parents, friends and sponsors his request to the Government was approved. So, it's one happy chap who'll be belting up today for race one knowing he can contest the entire TRS championship and that he's the point's leader.

He said he hoped it was a sign that Singapore was taking motorsport more seriously.

Right from the opening round in Teretonga, Tang was fast straight out of the box, winning the second race of the weekend.

Things wobbled a bit in the next two races. He came back with a ninth and over the next seven races was never outside the top four with a win and five further podium finishes.

Tang met Andrew Neale last year while racing in the series and since then Neale has spent six months in Europe working with him in Formula Renault, where he achieved some noteworthy results in the toughest season to date. "Andrew was just in his first year of motorsport out of karts and it was a learning year for him," said Neale, who has put a two-driver team - Kiwi James Munro is the other - together for this year's TRS championship.

"This is a really great series in my opinion," Tang said.

"I learn so much from racing with the other drivers. Racing in Europe last year was hard and I learned a lot with the help of Andy (the team principal at Neale Motorsport), which I'm pleased to show here.

"This time I feel much better in the car and more confident when I'm racing. The team have been great and have given me a really good car to race.

"Vying for the championship is a great feeling and I hope I can make the most of the two opportunities I have - leading the series and being able to stay and race.

"Until the news I could stay I realistically had no chance of winning of title. But now that I can do all five rounds I'm definitely going for the championship."

Neale is one happy man knowing his driver can stay. First, he reckons it's great for Tang's development as a driver and to be able to finish the job is good. "It's a great opportunity for Andrew and if he has to do his national service as a TRS champion it can't be all bad."

TRS points after four rounds

1. Andrew Tang - 610
2. Jann Mardenborough - 603
3. Egor Orudzhev - 586
4. Damon Leitch (NZ) - 581
5. Martin Rump - 551
6. James Munro (NZ) - 466