2008 Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Racing (MMER) champion Mok Weng Sun led his Clearwater Racing Team to pole position for tomorrow’s 13th edition of the 12-hour race at Sepang Circuit; giving the Singapore-based psychological advantage over the defending champions, Team Petronas Syntium that had boldly declared that they would be going all out to top qualifying today.
Partnering 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours Race class winner and former F1 driver Gianmaria Bruni; and Ireland’s top international GT and sportscar driver Matt Griffin in an awesome Ferrari 458 machine, the trio recorded an aggregate best time of 2 minutes 4.108 seconds around the 5.553-km track.
Speaking at the official pole position press conference, Griffin said: “We definitely aim to take pole position today and the team worked very hard to achieve this target. But, the primary aim will, of course, be to win the race.
“Yes, it is going to be a long 12-hours race and in the long run, the pole position would have little meaning as anything can happen in an endurance race. But, for us, it’s definitely great to start from the front.
“It’s also great confidence booster for the team and we are really looking forward to the race,” added Griffin, who had raced in and excelled in nearly every International GT Championship including the Le Mans Series, FIA GT, International GT Open and British GT & The Blancpain Endurance Series.
Joined by Bruni at the press conference, the Italian driver said it was an extremely disappointing experience not to finish the race last year and that the team had put in extra efforts to ensure the Ferrari 548 machine could go all the way to the chequered flag tomorrow.
“This year has been great for me … hopefully, it will continue and the team would win the race,” said Bruni, who won this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours Endurance for the GTE-Pro class; partnering Toni Vilader and former F1 driver, Giancarlo Fisichella in a similar Ferrari 458 machine.
Defending champions Team Petronas Syntium featuring Nobuteru Taniguchi, Masataka Yanagida and Dominic Ang, whom declared that they would be going all out to take pole position as well trying to retain their crown, would start along Team Clearwater Racing on the front row in second place on the grid.
The trio clocked an aggregate time of 2 minutes 4.759 seconds with their team-mates in the second Mercedes SLS car featuring Fariqe Haruman, Melvin Moh and Tetsuya Kataoka clocking the third fastest time of 2 minutes 4.873 seconds.
Overall winner of the GT3 Asia championship last year and a three-time Malaysian Super Series (MSS) championship, Mok, who could not attend the press conference due to work commitments, won the overall title in 2008 with World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) driver Darryl o’Young and Alexander Nielsen.
A repeat script of last year, Nexus Racing – the defending champion for the Sports Production class and featuring Fahrizal Hassan, Adrian d’Silva and Daniel Bilski – was again fastest in qualifying after topping the opening day official free practice yesterday. The team clocked 2 minutes 18.360 seconds for the best aggregate lap time for qualifying today.
Bilski, who replaced Ian Ross Geekie as the third driver this year, said their Aston Martin Vantage was brilliant and he was truly privileged to be part of the team this year.
“Everything is going well and I am really enjoying myself … I am looking forward to the race and hopefully, everything will continue to go well until the chequered flag,” added Bilski, who is also competing in the Asian Classic Car Championship (ACCC) this weekend.
Bilski would be competing in Race 1 of the ACCC in the morning; hours before the official flag-off of the 13th edition of the MMER at 12 noon.
In his comments, Fahrizal, said Bilski was a perfect replacement for Geekie and that he did not see any problems in the absence of the veteran driver.
“Last year, we finished with 277 laps. This year, we are targeting and confident of breaking 290 laps,” said Fahrizal, who disclosed that their car was running without the first and second gear for the second half of last year’s race.
“We aim to be free from mechanical problems this year,” said Fahrizal, who would be making his 13th start in the MMER; having competed in all the previous races without fail.
As expected, the Touring Production class was topped by the awesome trio from Type R Racing Team – Boy Wong Yew Chong, Soh Kee Koon and Lai Wee Sing, which had 2 minutes 27.153 seconds as their aggregate lap time in their Honda Civic FD2 Mugen machine.
Winner in 2010 and second last year, the trio declared that they were very happy with the performance of their car and that they were confident of bettering their 2011 results.
“We had mechanical problems last year and could not push the car to maximum speed last year. We have make comprehensive preparations this year so that we don’t have recurrence of last year’s problem. Hopefully, everything goes to plan and we will win again,” said Lai, in representing his team-mates.
words: SIC pix: SIC, Johan Izham, Dice & Hazwan Najims
2012 MALAYSIA MERDEKA ENDURANCE RACE
Top Five Qualifiers
1.Mok Weng Sun/ Gianmaria Bruni/ Matthew Griffin Ferrari 458 2:04.108s
2. Nobuteru Taniguchi/ Masataka Yanagida/ Dominic Ang Mercedes SLS 2:04.759s
3. Fariqe Hairuman/ Melvin Moh/ Tatsuya Kataoka Mercedes SLS 2:04.873s
4. Frank Yu/ Alain Jacques Gilbert Li/ Tomonobu Fuji Aston Martin 2:05.141s
5. Siu Yuk Lung / Keita Sawa / Darryl O’Young Porsche 911 2:05.646s
1.Mohd Fahrizal Hassan/ Adrian D’Silva/ Daniel Bilski Aston Martin 2:18.360s
2. Zen Low/ Patrick Ng Bee Soon/ Marcus Lotus Evora 2:18.622s
3. Kyoungouk You/ Hyungil Park/ Seoung Hon Lee Lotus 2-11 2:22.464s
4. Mohamed Nazir/ Mohamed Ridzuan/ Khairul Anwar Nissan Fairlady 2:26.709s
5. Desmond Ng/Chong Khim Cheng/Tan Pye Sen Lotus 2-11 2:32.003s
1.Wong Yew Choong/ Soh Kee Koon/ Lai Wee Sing Honda Civic FD2 Mugen 2:27.153s
2. Kefli Othman/ Firhat Yuri Mokhzani/ Kesavamoorthy Honda DC5 2:27.526s
3. Teh Kian Boon/ Desmond Soh/ Derrick Ang Honda FDR 2:28.151s
4. James Hunter/ Gavin Bullas/ Grant Johnson Subaru 2:28.196s
5. Kenny Lee Wan Yuen/ Chris O’Shannessy/ Rhomel Singh Toyota Altezza 2:29.002s