Overall champions in 2010, Kegani Racing secured pole position for the fourth edition of the Sepang 1000 Kilometer (S1K) race after the Malaysian-Australian partnership of Kenny Lee, Chris O’Shannessy and Jim Hunter topped qualifying at Sepang International Circuit (SIC) today.
Competing in Class 1 for cars between 1601cc and 1800cc, the team clocked the best aggregate lap time of 2 minutes 39.350 seconds in a Toyota Celica around the 5.543-km Formula 1; and would be joined on the front row by Proton R3 Racing, which was second fastest in their Satria Neo.
Featuring Super GT driver Morio Nitta and Syafiq Ali, the newly crowned Malaysian Super Series (MSS) champion for Malaysian Touring Car Challenge category, the team clocked 2 minutes 39.609 seconds to become the fastest among the Class 2 runners for cars below 1600cc.
Driving the 1800cc Celica, their success of securing pole position was never in doubt especially with the highly experienced Kenny leading the team as he clocked the fastest lap time among all the 86 competing drivers with a time of 2 minutes 37.499 seconds during his session in the morning. Team-mate O’Shannessy had the second fastest time in 2 minutes 38.026 seconds.
Kenny’s time was more than a second faster than Shafiq, who clocked 2 minutes 39.194 seconds in his 1600cc Satria Neo. Nitta clocked 2 minutes 40.024 seconds; giving an aggregate time of 2 minutes 39.609 seconds.
Defending champion Type R Racing Team, which boasts the awesome partnership of Boy Wong Yew Chong, Lai Wee Sing and Soh Kee Koon, starts from the third row after the trio only managed the sixth fastest time of 2 minutes 41.842 seconds.
Overall champion in inaugural race in 2009 and second overall in 2010 after finishing behind Kenny and Gang, the Type R Racing Team would start the 181-lap race alongside the second Proton R3 car; featuring James Veerapan and partnering Masedenial Ali Maskamal Khan, in a Proton Preve.
Honda Malaysia Racing Team (HMRT), making their debut in their Honda Jazz, clocked the fourth and seventh fastest time; with the partnership of Eddie Lew and Aaron Lim clocking 2:40.726s; and the other partnership of Tengku Ezan Ley Tengku Mahaleel and Mohamed Farriz Fauzy penning 2 minutes 43.294 seconds.
Unlike Proton R3 and HMRT, the other factory works team – Fawter Motorsports, which is supported by Mazda Malaysia, did not have an enjoyable qualifying session as the trio of Mohamed Nazir Nor, Mohd Ridzuan Nor and Khairul Anwar Nor struggled to finish in 30th position with an aggregate lap time of 3 minutes 00.165 seconds.
The sole all-ladies team from Red Bull Rookies Team; featuring Singaporean Melissa Huang Shu Ming and Siti Zirwatul Iradah Awang Adinin of Brunei in a Satria Neo, would start from the 14th row after managing the 27th fastest aggregate time in 2 minutes 53.645 seconds.
To be flagged off at 12 noon tomorrow, the race would be a contest of 181 laps around the 5.543-km Formula 1 track. Type R Racing won their second overall title in 8 hours 48 minutes 6.567 seconds in their 1600cc Toyota Altis; finishing 1 minute 59.871 seconds ahead of second placed JC Racing, which had Kefli Othman, Halim Muadzam and A. Kesavamoorthy in a Suzuki Swift.
Keifli and Kesavamoorthy, who has a new partner in Akash Nandy for this year’s race, struggled in qualifying as they only managed 17th position in the Suzuki machine with an aggregate lap time of 2 minutes 47.017 seconds.
With grid positions decided based on aggregate qualifying times of all drivers, the format favoured the two-driver teams. The best qualifying time was decided by combining the best lap times of all drivers before they were divided by the number of drivers in the team.
Speaking at a press conference after qualifying, Kenny was quick to name Type R Racing Team as their biggest challenger in tomorrow’s race; along with Proton R3 and the two HMRT entries.
“Honda Malaysia may be competing for the first time … but, they have very good drivers. Shafiq and Morio Nitta would be very fast as well in the Neo. And, we all know how strong Type R Racing Team is. It will be a very close race.
“Yes, we have the fastest car … but, it does not mean that we will be pushing to the limit throughout the 181 laps. It is a long race. We have our race strategy and hopefully everything goes as planned,” said Kenny, who said that their challenge last year was spoiled by problems in their fueling system.
“Naturally, we have the problem fixed for this year … Hopefully, fingers crossed, we will be free of any problems in tomorrow’s race,” said Chris, who was also present at the press conference.
In a separate press conference, Syafiq said despite competing in a lesser powered car as compared to the Toyota Celica, his team would be gunning for the overall crown this season.
“We were unlucky last year to encounter some braking problems at the tail end of last year’s race. Hopefully, this year, we will have no problems. Regardless of what some people may say about the reliability of Satria Neo, I have full confidence in the car.
“We are at par to the Toyotas, Hondas and Suzuki Swifts … we aim to prove that at tomorrow’s race,” Syafiq added.
The race to be flagged off at 12 noon tomorrow and entrance for spectators at the Main Grandstand is free.
2012 SEPANG 1000 KILOMETER RACE – QUALIFYING
Top 10 Qualifiers (Best Aggregate Time)
1.Kenny Lee/Chris o’Shannessy/Jim Hunter (Toyota Celica) 2:39.350s
2. Syafiq Ali/Morio Nitta (Satria Neo) 2:39.609s
3. Chun Kie Chandra/Andrew Haryanto/Fitra Eri (Satria Neo) 2:40.641s
4. Aaron Lim/Eddie Lew (Honda Jazz) 2:40.726s
5. James Veerapan/Masedenial Ali (Proton Preve) 2:41.135s
6. Lai Wee Sing/Soh Kee Koon/Boy Wong Yew Choong (Toyota Altis) 2:41.842s
7. Tengku Ezan Ley/Farriz Fauzy (Honda Jazz) 2:43.294s
8. Chia Lek Seng/Chan Soon Chuan/Ng Hong Leong (Suzuki Swift) 2:44.268s
9. Sutan Mustaffa Salihin/Kok Pak Chiang/Siah Woei Pyng (Proton Gen 2) 2:44.605s
10. Lee Kok Kwan/Peter England/Vincent Leong (Toyota Celica) 2:44.726s
words & pix: SIC