Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race starts at midnight tonight

At midnight today, 34 racing cars will race off into the night at the Sepang International Circuit to start the 2013 Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race (MMER). This will be the 14th time that the 12-hour event is being run since it was inaugurated in 2000.

Of the 34 cars in the MMER, 16 will be competing in the popular Touring Production class, 12 in the GT3 class, 4 in Sports Production, and 4 in the newly-introduced GT Cup category.

The Petronas Syntium Team (PST), which is bidding to be the first team to win three consecutive MMER overall crowns, will be well-placed to accomplish that mission as two of their entries start from the front row after the topping qualifying session yesterday. The trio of Thomas Jager, Lucas Wolf and Luca Ludwig, who are making their debut in race using a Mercedes SLS AMG GT3., stunned their more experienced rivals.

Malaysian Dominic Ang, who is bidding to set a personal milestone of becoming the second driver to win three MMER crowns, starts from second on the grid as he and partners Bernd Schneider and Jono Lester had the second best qualifying time in the other SLS.

Also making their debut in the iconic race will be Nismo Athlete Global Team, a collaboration between Edaran Tan Chong Motor Sdn Bhd and its Nissan Motorsports International Co. Ltd – better known as Nismo. The presence of the Nismo team is part of a larger initiative called ‘Nismo Global Driver Exchange’ which is aimed at uniting Nismo Athletes from all over the world.

Through the Nismo Global Driver Exchange programme which was launched in July, Katsumasa Chiyo (Japan) from the stable of Nismo Super GT drivers will team up together with two selected drivers from the GT Academy to compete as part of the new Nismo Athlete Global Team in MMER. Wolfgang (Belgium) and Mark (Russia) are both selected from the GT Academy, which is a programme from Nissan and Sony Computer Entertainment that uses the Gran Turismo virtual racing game to identify talented gamers and develop them into real racers.

The team will use a Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 which  is Nismo’s racing car developed for the FIA GT3 regulations. The car’s VR38DETT V6 twin turbo engine produces 550 ps/637 Nm which goes through a 6-speed manual gearbox to the rear wheels.

Naza Italia is also teamed up with Nexus Racing for the MMER, using a Ferrari 458 GT3. The team has had successive wins in the MMER and expects to use its experience and skilled drivers to continue the successful streak this weekend.

Twice champion in the Touring Production class, the Type R Racing Team will be taking a cautious approach despite their wealth in experience and a brilliant track record at the endurance race. They are not expecting things to be easy and predict a tough battle this year especially with the race having a midnight start.

“A midnight start is always challenging. You have to be very careful. For me, I have always liked an afternoon start when we have more daylight,” said Lai Wee Sing, one of the three drivers in the team which will be using a Honda Civic FD2 Mugen.

[Chips Yap]