After nearly eight years of ‘suffering’ watching races from the tinted glass of Sepang Circuit’s air-conditioned paddock club, former racing champion Tan Sri Azman Yahya will be back on track and behind the steering wheel for competitive racing at Sepang’s Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race (MMER) this weekend.
Having full support from his close friends and former MMER winners Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir and Aminuddin Omar, the distinguished corporate figure – winner of the open class in 2004, podium winners in other editions as well as failing to finish in some of the races, would not, however, be part of the main 12-hour endurance contest.
Instead, Azman, who is also 2004 Malaysian Super Series Supercar champion, chose to make his comeback on a smaller scale by taking part in one of the support races – the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia (PCCA) with Team Sime Darby Auto Performance (SDAP).
But, having tasted again the thrills and excitement of racing, it would be no surprise to see Azman, who had his FaceBook poured with well-wishes since announcing his plans to compete in Round 7 and 8 of the PCCA in Sepang, getting himself registered for next year’s MMER.
“Datuk Mokhzani, being a partner to Sime Darby at SDAP was fully aware and supported Arnt Bayer’s (of Sime Darby Auto Performance) proposal to offer me a drive. Aminuddin seems excited too! Maybe it is time for all three of us to do a comeback at next year’s MMER!” Azman said, adding that the whole issue of his comeback actually started because of his Porsche GTR3RS had a problem.
“I participated in a Porsche Track Training event a few months ago and when my GT3RS had clutch problems, Arnt was kind enough to lend me a spare Carrera 991S which is their demo car. The car had normal road tyres with road set-up compared to the numerous GT3 and GT3RS that were blazing the track that day.
“Surprisingly I posted the fastest time that day in the demo car. I was then approached by Arnt to consider driving as their guest/VIP driver for the upcoming PCCA race.
“Initially, I was reluctant. But, I agreed to do a test in the Cup Car to see if I can still drive a race car – and that was my mistake! Having been in the race car, it got my adrenaline going and I agreed to race for SDAP,” he said, adding although he had actually retired eight years ago, he did compete in a race four years ago.
“I did one race in the Aston Martin GT4 sometime in 2008 but that was it!,” said Azman, who won the open class in 2004 with Aminuddin and Ila Ridak in a Porsche. He had once partnered with Mokhzani and Aminuddin in the MMER, but their Porsche encountered mechanical problems and they were forced to retire early.
While admitting that he was truly looking forward to the race, Azman said that he was unable to make proper preparations for the event.
“My preparation is sadly almost next to nothing. PCCA has a ruling that there shall be no testing 21 days before the race – and the race is just two weeks after Hari Raya. With Ramadhan and limited track availability, I only managed to do several lap hours over a few days.
“To be honest, the Porsche GT3 Cup car isn’t the easiest car to drive. With its stick shift sequential box, the pure racing brakes that is neither servo-assisted nor with ABS and the rear-mounted engine that has a unique but tricky handling characteristics, you need track time to drive the car well.
“I am just hoping that my familiarity with the Sepang track will help but I am not expecting much. Just hoping to have a good time, finish the race and survive the heat!” said Azman, who had wishes pouring in his Facebook including from SIC Chief Executive Officer Datuk Razlan Razali.
Announcing Azman’s participation at a recent press conference, SDAP, which is the official importer of Porsche vehicles in Malaysia, said that it was happy to be part of the prestigious MMER event and making its presence at the PCCA.
“In Malaysia SDAP has supported the motorsport ambitions of its customers by organizing circuit training and track days at SIC. In these events, seasoned Carrera Cup drivers train our customers on how to drive Porsche road cars fast but also safely on the racetrack.
“The participation in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia is the next logical step up in customer motorsports and we are proud to support one of our very loyal customers in this. Tan Sri Azman Yahya will represent the SDAP team in our debut race. As a sports car company, we are always in support of customers in sports driving,” said Bayer, who is Chief Executive Officer of SDAP.
In his speech, Azman said: “As a guest driver, I am excited to be part of the overall experience of an international championship series and ready to endure the challenges ahead.
“It will be a very exciting race in the all identical 911 GT3 Cup cars, where the focus is mainly on sports driving and drivers’ competencies,” added Azman, who would be using the #3 plate and competing in Class B, which would also feature another Malaysian driver, Adrian d’Silva of Nexus Racing.
Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race, MMER will be held from August 29 to September 2 2012. Entrance is free at the grandstand area. Apart from that, there will be a concert to cheer up your Friday night at the Rooftop, Paddock building on August 31. TWELVE Merdeka Edition will present Tom Fall of Armada and local DJs such as Rebirth Brothers, Leey Houdini, Rojak Bois, Chukiess, Kuzii and Falchionist Fahmi. You can enjoy the great music and spectacular view of car racing from the paddock rooftop at only RM65.
Porsche Carrera Cup Asia 2012
Rounds 7&8 – Provisional Entry List
No.1/Keita SAWA (JPN)/LKM Racing Team
No. 3/*Azman YAHYA (MAL)/B/Team Carrera Cup Asia
No. 5/Yuey TAN (SIN)/B/Dorr McElrea Racing
No. 6/ZHENG Ting (CHN)/B/BBT
No. 8/Benjamin ROUGET (FRA)/Team Yongda Dongfang
No. 9/WANG Jian Wei (CHN)/Team Betterlife
No. 11/Ringo CHONG (SIN)/Team Kangshun
No. 16/Wayne SHEN (HKG)/B/Modena Motorsports
No. 20/Rodolfo AVILA (MAC)/Team Jebsen
No. 21/Francis TJIA (HKG)/B/Open Road Racing
No. 23/Paul TRESIDDER (AUS)/B/Hewlett Motorsport
No. 25/Christian CHIA (CAN)/B/Open Road by ART Motorsports
No. 27/Adrian Henry D’SILVA (MAS)/B/Nexus Racing
No. 28/John SHEN (HKG)/B/Modena Motorsports
No. 31/*Eric LO(HKG)/PS Racing
No. 37/Davide RIZZO (ITA)/BBT
No. 55*Marc CINI(AUS)/B /PS Racing
No. 66/Rose TAN (CHN)/Team C&D
No. 68/MAK HingTak (HKG)/B/OMAK
No. 78/ZHANG Da Sheng (CHN)/Team Basetex
No. 81/HUANG Chu Han (CHN)/B/Asia Racing Team
No. 83/Dr. MA Chi Min (HKG)/B/Dr. Ma Chi Min
No. 86/Martin RAGGINGER (AUT)/Team Eagle – Jiejun & Junbaojie
No. 88/Egidio PERFETTI (SUI)/B/Seminole Racing Team
No. 95/Kevin CHEN (USA)/Asia Racing Team
No. 96/LI Chao (CHN)/B/Asia Racing Team
No. 98/Ho-Pin TUNG (CHN)/Budweiser Team Star Chase
No. 99/Alexandre IMPERATORI (HKG)/PICC Team Star Chase
*Non series registered