JPM Dragon-i took second despite dramatical 12hrs

Published on August 20th, 2010

While all the attention has been directed towards the winners, let’s take five minutes and take a look at one of our local teams who participated in the recently concluded Merdeka Milennium Endurance Race 2010, which was held at the Sepang International Circuit; the JPM Dragon-i Team.

Participating on the wheels of their Porsche 911 (996) GT3 RS (which the team has been using since 2007, but with new livery), the team suffered some heavy drama from preparation period before the race.

The team was considering sitting the race out due to the absence of sponsors, but late interest by Dragon-i (Chinese Restaurant serving traditional Chinese dish) gave them two weeks of preparation before the official practice session took place.

The team was determined to prove their worth on the track come race day. But the first problem that came was their brake lights. Faulty electrical system caused the lights to be permanently switched on and they couldn’t fix the problem minutes before the race began.

But their major problem was when the exhaust system started leaking at 4 o’clock in the morning. This caused the engine to lose pressure which followed by considerable loss of power. They had to give up their lead position to Tracy Sports after four strong hours in the race.

They could easily replace the whole system of course, which would have cost them valuable minutes, and minutes are crucial in an endurance race. The only problem would be they didn’t have a single spare part for the car, except for a few light bulbs.

They continued racing but they monitored the temperature very closely because if the sensor detected tremendous heat (of which the O2 sensor underneath the car will definitely pick up because of the exhaust leak), the ECU would shut the car down completely. Since the race started at midnight instead of the usual afternoon timing, the temperature was quite cool to begin with, and the car’s sensor didn’t pick up a spike in the temperature sensor until almost at the end of the race, which was noon.

They crossed the finish line as second in Sports Production Class, achieving the highest win for a domestic team in its class. They also broke their previous team record of 268 laps in 2003 podium finish by completing 271 laps. This also broke the three year no-podium spell for the team.

The team have claimed podium finishes since the introduction of MMER by Sepang.

During the press conference held by the team in Kuala Lumpur recently, JP Chin, the team’s manager, commented on a few issues regarding MMER2010 and the team itself.

“First and foremost, SIC (Sepang International Circuit) introduced new rules for the participants along with an increase of entry fee. Frankly speaking, it’s simply too much for local participants considering that MMER is a national event. Yes, we do understand that the race is targeting for international participation, but why push aside the local boys who are just as equally passionate?

“Without Dragon-i’s generous sponsorship, it would have been the first time for JPM Motorsport not racing in MMER since its inception,” he said.

“I told the drivers before the race started that if they break anything, they can come back to the pit lane, and we will all go home together as we had no spare parts. It was a very stressful day and every hour that passed became more intense.

“It was until 4.30am that Jeffry Wong came into the pit lane fifteen minutes earlier than as scheduled and complained about loss of power. We all looked at each other, asked the next driver to get into the car and continued racing. The faulty exhaust pipe caused us complete a lap ten seconds slower than usual. Of course, we did try to find parts and I even had to call a friend of mine to drive the GT3 RS to Sepang at 5 o’clock in the morning!

“It was until when the car has arrived that we found out that the exhaust pipes were of different setup. We said ‘you know what, let’s just maintain our pace and continue racing’, and we did.”

“Later at 9am, our carbon brake-pads wore out. We spent eight minutes replacing the pads, and hope to God that that was the end of the drama. We got lucky, and finished second overall in class,” he continued.

When asked about whether or not the team would be interested for a 24-hours race, he said, “We will participate if there are a lot more attractions for the spectators. We race for ourselves, yes, but we must appeal to our sponsors. Who would sponsor if there are no spectators? And without sponsors, we can forget about participating as 24-hour races require much, much more resources to manage and that is just on the mechanical aspect alone.”

During the MMER2010, a Lotus 2-Eleven (Empire Motorsport) caught fire and three people were rushed to the hospital. JP Chin said, “People learn from mistakes. Safety measures will be taken more seriously, and that is one definite thing. The people and crew will be more closely monitored. Let’s have more common sense on the pit lane from now on.”

“People have asked me whether any increase of fee will be imposed for added safety precautions and I told them that I don’t think so,” he said.

“What we are all wishing for MMER is very simple: more cars, more entries, more spectators, cheaper entry fee. Above everything else, we are all racers with a passion for motorsports,” said JP Chin with a smile.

“For SuperGT 2011, we will try to do better. We will make it more attractive for people to come. We will not be inventing anything new, merely utilising what’s already available here. We want the people to start enjoying things, so let’s create some fun!” finished JP Chin.

words: Al-mu Syahrisyawal Ahmad  pix: Syafril Ismail

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