Petronas Syntium Team returns to MMER to defend title

Published on July 30th, 2010

PETRONAS Syntium Team, which scored a sensational 1-2 at last year’s 10th edition of the Merdeka Millennium Endurance Race (MMER), will be back to defend its crown in Sepang next weekend.

“2010 will see the team returning with a line-up of two BMW Z4M Coupes to compete in the revamped GT-class. The team is hoping to maintain and build on their impressive form at the 2010 Super Taikyu Endurance series, where the team chalked up four race wins out of the four rounds contested so far. The team will sport competition numbers 1 and 28,” the team announced in a statement released here today.

Featuring the unique combination of experience and youth in its pool of drivers, the team’s challenge this year will be spearheaded by 27-year old Malaysian Fariqe Hairuman. He will be joined by young Malaysian Melvin Moh Chun-Ho who will be making his first appearance at the MME. Completing the line-up in the team’s No. 1 BMW Z4M Coupe is experienced Japanese driver Tatsuya Kataoka.

Meanwhile, Japanese duo Masataka Yanagida and Nobuteru Taniguchi will be making their third appearance at the MMER, piloting the sister No. 28 BMW Z4M Coupe. The duo will be joined by another young Malaysian rookie driver, Imran Zaharias Shaharom.

Commenting on their participation, team principal David Wong said the team is looking forward to the race; adding that it would be a challenging one, given the high level of participation for this year’s 11th edition of the MMER.

“Coming back to compete on our home soil in the country’s largest motoring event is always a welcomed and special occasion for the team. The quality of the participants will definitely raise the standard of competition. Having established itself as great platform for teams from Malaysia and the region to showcase their craft, we can definitely look forward to a great MMER!.

“This year, we are returning to take on the challenge in the new GT-Class with the two BMW Z4M Coupes. Looking at the level of competition in the class, it will be difficult to expect a repeat of the fantastic feat we achieved here last year. Nevertheless, everyone on the team has worked hard preparing for this race and we are optimistic that we can put up quite a challenge to the other drivers.

“As for drivers, we will be returning with the same driver line-up as our campaign in the Super Taikyu Endurance Series. The No. 1 BMW Z4M Coupe will feature the trio of Tatsuya Kataoka, Fariqe Hairuman and Melvin Moh, while the No. 28 car will see the current STES leaders Nobuteru Taniguchi, Masataka Yanagida and Imran Zaharias Shaharom. This will be the very first MME in our colours for the two youngest members of our squad, Melvin and Imran, but I am confident of what they can achieve,” David said.

Like David, Fariqe is also happy to be back; describing the MMER as a very special event for him.

“Being back for the ‘home’ race is always very special for me. Although this year will be my ninth MMER, it will still be very distinctive as no two events are ever the same; the atmosphere at the MMER changes every year. Last year was a truly memorable MMER for the team, as we achieved a historic target of a 1-2 finish.

“This year, the organisers have introduced a brand new format. The addition of new competitors will make the race even more challenging and definitely more interesting. Having come off a strong start to our season in Japan, I am hopeful that we will be able to maintain the same momentum in the MMER,” Fariqe said.

His teammate, Melvin said: “I am really looking forward to this race as this is my very first MMER with the PETRONAS Syntium Team. The fact that it is our home race also makes it a very special occasion. I am proud to be able to fly the team’s colours here, in front of our home crowd.

“Of course there is also a lot of pressure for a repeat performance, as we are coming back as the defending champions. I prefer not to see it that way but rather take this in stride.

“I will be taking the cue from my more experienced teammates and I will be using every opportunity that comes my way to learn as much as I can,” Melvin added.

Expecting an even stiffer competition this year, Kataoka said: “Although have come to Sepang many times with the GT races, the MME race always presents something very different every year. Personally, I enjoy racing at Sepang a lot. For a driver, the track has a little bit of everything – a good mix of fast and slow corners. It is a high speed circuit and I particularly like the double S’s, turns 7 and 8 before the hairpin.

“This year will be my third MMER and I am really looking forward to racing at the team partners’ PETRONAS’ home race. I’m quite sure it will be more difficult and more challenging. So I am really looking forward to the MME race!” he added.

His views were shared by compatriot Yanagida, who described Sepang as one of his favourite track.

“For Kataoka, Taniguchi and me, the Sepang circuit is a track that we are very familiar with because of the GT races were held here. For me, it definitely ranks as one of my favourites after Suzuka.

“The fact that MMER is a long 12 hours race presents quite a different challenge for us. Last year, we had our very best result with the 1-2 finish. This year, with the changes in the format and new competition, I am really looking forward to this race!” he added.

Imran Zaharias is equally enthusiastic to be taking part in the great event.

“Racing in the team’s and our partner PETRONAS’ home race will be an especially proud moment for me. This is undoubtedly one of the most unique races, not just because it is a 12-hours race but because it has a different feeling to it when compared to the races we have in Japan. The level of competition and environment is totally different and special. I am really looking forward to it as I hope I can learn as much as possible from this experience,” added Imran.

This year would mark the 11th edition of MMER, which would be held at Sepang Circuit from August 5 to 8. The newly revamped structure is featuring the new Super GT class, Sports Production and Touring Production classes; replacing last year’s categories – the open class, A1 Class and A2 Class.

The 2010 event looks set to be the most competitive ever; having attracted plenty of big names in motor racing which includes winners of the prestigious 24 Hours LeMans Race such as Frank Biela, Marco Werner, Peter Kox, Christopher Haase, Daryl O’Young, Matthew Marsh, Dominik Farnbacher, Malaysia’s former F1 driver Alex Yoong as well as Fairuz Fauzy, the Lotus F1 Racing test driver.

text & pix: SIC

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