Defending champion Petronas Syntium Team (PST), which is bidding to be the first team to win three consecutive Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race (MMER) overall crowns, will be well-placed to accomplish that mission as their two entries start from the front row for tomorrow’s race after topping qualifying at Sepang International Circuit today.
The partnership of Thomas Jäger, Lucas Wolf and Luca Ludwig, who are making their debut in the iconic 12-hour endurance race, stunned their more experienced rivals as they clocked the best average cumulative time of 2 minutes 3.184 seconds in the mean Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 #28 machine.
Malaysian Dominic Ang, who is bidding to set a personal milestone of becoming the second driver to win three MMER crowns, would start from second on the grid as he and partners Bernd Schneider and Jono Lester had the second best qualifying time of 2 minutes 3.428 seconds in the other SLS machine.
Qualifying time for the 14th edition of the MMER, which features 34 cars from four different classes, was based on the average of the combined best lap times of all three drivers.
Mercedes-Benz AMG Customer Sports co-ordinator and leader for car 28, Jager confirmed that there would not be any team orders at tomorrow’s race and that both cars would compete against each other for a win.
“We are here to win the race. We are happy to emerge top at qualifying. But, there’s actually no big prize in winning the qualifying for an endurance race,” Jager said at the Top Qualifiers Press Conference after the session.
Super GT driver and winner of the Malaysian round in Sepang in 2005, Richard Lyons clocked the best personal lap time in qualifying with a time of 2 minutes 2.099 seconds around the 5.543km track in an Aston Martin Vantage GT3 machine and helped his Team Craft Racing clocked the third fastest time and a second row start for tomorrow’s race.
Joining them in the second row would be the Italian-based AF Corse team, featuring drivers Mika Salo, Pasin Lathauras and Michele Rugolo, which had the best average time of 2 minutes 3.853 seconds in their Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.
The GT Cup category was topped by Tiger Absolute Racing Team, which have former Malaysian F1 driver Alex Yoong leading the charge. Driving an Audi R8 LMS Cup car and partnering Jacky Yeung and Ashraff Dewal, they clocked 2 minutes 10.749 seconds to finish 11th overall in the qualifying charts.
The Sports Production class was topped by the four-man BTB Racing Team – Patrick Ng, Marcus Chye, Tan Pye Seng and Zen Low, which clocked 2 minutes 22.462 seconds to finish 14th overall.
Hunter Racing Team spearheaded by team owner Jim Hunter, topped qualifying in the Touring Production class with a best lap time of 2 minutes 25.962 seconds.
The 12-hour MMER ran on the 5.543km Sepang track will start at midnight tomorrow (Saturday, 31 August) and end at noon on Sunday, 1 September.
Top 10 Qualifiers
(Based on average cumulative time of all 3 drivers)
1. Thomas Jaeger/Lucas Wolf/Luca Ludwig (Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT3) 2:03.184s
2. Bernd Schneider/Jono Lester/Dominic Ang (Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT3) 2:03.428s
3. Frank Yu/Alain Jacques Gilbert/Richard Lyons (Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3) 2:03.633s
4. Mika Salo/Pasin Lathauras/Michele Rugolo (Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) 2:03.853s
5. Mok Weng Sun/Hiroshi Hamaguchi/Craig Baird (Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) 2:04.258s
6. Katmusasa Chiyo/Wolfgang Reip/Mark Shulzhitskiy (Nissan GTR Nismo GT3) 2:05.231s
7. Roger Lago/David Russell/Peter Kox (Lamborghini LP560-4) 2:05.376s
8. Adrian D’Silva/Earl Bamber/Alif Hamdan (Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) 2:06.306s
9. Darryl O’Young/Vuthikorn Intharaphuvasak/Siu Yuk Lung (Porsche GT3R) 2:06.449s
10. Jeffrey Lee/Marchy Lee/Adderly Fong (Audi R8 LMS Ultra) 2:06.08s
words & pix: SIC