Life is unpredictable and motor racing is no different, especially in endurance racing. An endurance race is defined as a long-distance race where reliability of machines and consistency of drivers are tested. Over races that are three-, six-, 12- or even 24-hour long, each car is assigned a certain number of drivers and they take turns to complete the race. Until the chequered flag is given, anything can happen.
A prominent endurance race in this region is the 12-hour Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race (MMER) that just had its 13th edition last weekend at the Sepang International Circuit. Flagged off at noon, 30 cars competed this year across three classes — GT, Sports Production and Touring Production — and it was the PETRONAS Syntium Team who emerged triumphant at the stroke of midnight. Their Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 cars #1 and #28 finished overall first and second respectively, making this the third MMER win for PETRONAS Syntium Team and the first time any team has won the MMER three times.
As the defending champions, PETRONAS Syntium Team had a certain amount of pressure put on them to retain the title. Featuring the same winning driver combination from last year, Super GT champions Nobuteru Taniguchi and Masataka Yanagida, as well as Malaysian Dominic Ang were back in the same car in aim of repeating their success in 2011. Their sister car #28 had Tatsuya Kataoka, Fariqe Hairuman and Melvin Moh.
Despite not qualifying in pole position, PETRONAS Syntim Team remained cool-headed and confident with second and third place on the starting grid. It was another Singaporean-owned team, Clearwater Racing that took the top qualifier spot with their stellar driver line-up of ex-F1 driver Gianmaria Bruni, Ireland's international GT car driver Matt Griffin and GT3 Asia champion Mok Weng Sun of Malaysia.
In their Ferrari 458, Clearwater Racing commanded the race from the start, charging ahead with the lead for the next eight hours, only briefly losing the lead to PETRONAS Syntium Team's car #1. Then the tables turned on Clearwater Racing in the ninth hour, when they suddenly rushed back to the pits for an unplanned pit stop. Facing a problem with the power steering, the crew worked hard to quickly get the car back in shape to get back out there.
Seconds turned to long minutes and by the time the car went back out they had already dropped to third. The car was hardly out for a few laps when it had to return to the pits once more, with the problem still unresolved. That was the end of their run and the Clearwater Racing camp held an air of gloom and sheer disappointment.
Thereafter, PETRONAS Syntium SLS AMG GT3 #1 fronted the pack and kept its consistent pace to safely clinch the victory after 12 hours and 319 laps. Fulfilling their target of a 1-2 finish, their sister car #28 finished in second place with 317 laps.
Singaporean Dato' David Wong, team principal and founder of PETRONAS Syntium Team said, "I have confidence in my drivers and crew. In endurance racing, it is often said that to finish first, you have to first finish. We just focused on keeping our car working and our drivers to push hard but watching the limits too. I'm very glad to have attained our goal and am very grateful to all the support from our partners such as PETRONAS, as well as from all our fans."
There was a fair bit of local participation in the Touring Production and Sports Production categories as well. Patrick Ng, team principal of FXPrimus Aylezo, drove to a second place with their Lotus Evora #99 in the Sports Production class with Malaysians Zen Low and Marcus Chye. KC Chong and Desmond Ng of BTB Racing also teamed up with Malaysian Tan Pye Sen and came in fourth in Sports Production with their Lotus 2-11 #66.
Winners of last year's Touring Production class, local garage ST Powered failed to repeat that success with only one of their three entries surviving the 12 hours. It was Malaysian Type R Racing Team that took the Touring Production class win this time.
Of the 30 cars, only 20 cars finished the race.
2012 MALAYSIA MERDEKA ENDURANCE RACE RESULTS
Nobuteru Taniguchi/ Masataka Yanagida/ Dominic Ang (PETRONAS Syntium Team) 319 laps
1. Nobuteru Taniguchi/ Masataka Yanagida/ Dominic Ang
(PETRONAS Syntium Team/Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 #1) — 319 laps
2. Fariqe Hairuman/ Melvin Moh/ Tatsuya Kataoka
(PETRONAS Syntium Team/Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 #28) — 317 laps
3. Darryl O' Young/Keita Sawa/Siu Yuk Lung
(LKM Racing/Porsche 911 GT3 R) — 310 laps
1. Mohd Fahrizal Hassan/ Adrian D'Silva/ Daniel Bilski
(Nexus Racing/Aston Martin) — 283 laps
2. Zen Low/ Patrick Ng / Marcus Chye
(FXPrimus Aylezo/Lotus Evora) — 268 laps
3. Mohamed Nazir/ Mohamed Ridzuan/ Khairul Anwar
(Nissan Fairlady) — 264 laps
1. Wong Yew Choong/ Soh Kee Koon/ Lai Wee Sing
(Type R Racing/Honda Civic FD2R) — 270 laps
2. James Hunter/Gavin Bullas/Grant Johnson
(Subaru) — 267 laps
3. Akira Aida/Takeshi Tsuchiya/Morio Nitta
(Wing Hin Motorsports/Toyota 86) — 264 laps
Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. More of her at www.cheryl-tay.com.