Sepang 12 Hour


Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race 2013 or its new title, Sepang 12 Hour surely is getting loads of interest from international parties. Drivers from all around the world came to participate this challenging 12 hours endurance race. MMER had been a yearly event and held at the end of August in conjunction with Malaysia's Independence Day celebration. I never had the chance to visit, until today, 31st August.

This was my first time to MMER event and I had no idea on what I can expect at Sepang. I only knew that the race starts at 12am, and I should practise my night shots with the D5200 camera I have. :) When I arrived at about 11pm, the cars are getting in position and readying for the rolling start procedure.

1st and 2nd on the grid this year was #28 and #1 Team Petronas SLS AMG GT3. Both cars won 1st and 2nd position at 2012 MMER race and here there are again at the front of the grid. A strong Malaysia team that worth paying attention to. However, the famous driver Nobuteru Taniguchi (who won 2012 MMER) wasn't the driver for Team Petronas this year. :(

There were 34 teams, more than 50 drivers will be competing each other in their respective categories (GT3, GTC, Sports Production & Touring Production).

The grid lane was actually opened for public during the lineup and immediately, I zoomed across to have a better look at what MMER is all about. Above, Team ST Powered Civic Type-R from Singapore and had four Civic Type-Rs to compete in the Touring Production category.

Team Wing Hin Motorsport sent two Toyota GT86 as the main rival to those FWD (front wheel drive) contenders: the Civic and Integra Type-Rs.

A fully stripped race car cockpit. Necessary for the weight saving. 

#96 Team Mike Racing Aston Martin GT4 V8 Vantage from Malaysia in the Sports Production (SP) category.

Alex Yoong, our very own Malaysian ex-F1 driver would be competing in the GTC category with this Audi R8 LMS Cup from Hong Kong's Tiger Absolute Racing Team.

It was quite hard to walk the whole grid line, looking at every single car in such a short time. I had to picked the interesting ones, take few shots and proceed with the next one in front. At the 10th position row was #777 Audi R8 LMS Ultra from Team J Fly Absolute Racing with a lovely Audi model posing for my camera.

Next, was the special one, the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3. This was Japan's Nissan Racing team first participation at MMER and the GT3 class car will be driven by GT Academy winners (Drivers from virtual racing game Gran Turismo), Mark Shulzhitskiy and Wolfgang Reip together with Japanese driver Katsumasa Chiyo. The night endurance race here would challenge mentally and physically for the virtual-turned-reality race drivers and...

... they'd be starting at 6th position. With the only Japanese car in the GT3 category, I wished them the best of luck! Go Nissan! Go GT-R! Go Japan!

Before I even managed to get to the front grid to check out the pole position #28 SLS AMG GT3, everyone was being driven out by the marshals as they would commence the start of 12 hours endurance race soon.

Most of the people went up to the roof of the paddock to get the great view of starting grid.

At the top of the paddock, you could see more, observe and understand what they are working on. Here, was the Team Nismo's engineer returning the fresh new Intermediate tyres back to the pit.

MMER 2013 would be racing at night and therefore, all cars have to be equipped with extra high beam foglights for the drivers to see clearer at the dark and low visibility Sepang track.

And, they were off for the rolling start.

Same like SuperGT and Nascars, the cars have make a round around the track and wait for the green light before accelerating to race speeds.

Let the race begin! 

And my Race Mode photoshoot began too. How about a B&W effect on N1 Racing Team's Integra Type-R? Cool eh? :)

The race was very exciting which I managed to follow for the first 30 minutes. But, there were more interesting things going on at the back of the paddock. So, I walked around at the back instead and voila, there was a Gallardo Superleggera LP570-4 parked still. :D

Aston Martin KL brought three Astons, four-seater Rapide S, James Bond's DBS and this gorgeous looking Vanquish. First time looking at a real Vanquish and I do agree with Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear saying that the Vanquish is the best looking Aston ever. Its engine was a 5.9L V12 with 565hp. You should search 'Aston Martin Vanquish' at Youtube and hear the lovely sound it makes. ;)

More actions at the pitstop. An hour after the start of the race, GT-R Nismo GT3 was facing some mechanical issue at the left rear wheel. The Japanese engineers were working desperately in professional manner to get the car back on track. Fortunately, car was fixed 30 minutes later but dropped to 30th place from 6th.

Wear and tear of the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 race tyres.

Then, I came across this Media Room place at Sepang Circuit paddock, where many media photographers were taking break from the race coverage. This was probably the best place to hangout as the room was air-conditioned and filled with many TV screens showing live telecast and live result of the MMER race.

MMER official safety car was Audi R8 V10.

After much interesting exploration at the paddock, I went back to the grandstand area for more night racing photoshoot. As a newbie, the tough part of taking night shots was noisy image produced due to high ISO. To obtain lower ISO value, the camera had to absorb more light which in this case, powerful flash unit (capable of reaching far distance) was needed. I don't have external flash unit and the fast moving subject made the photoshoot more challenging.

However, I tried my best in beginner way to capture the best picture. XD

At races like this (endurance + night), we could see the disc brakes of each car glowing red hot during braking. What a sight on Team LKM Racing's Porsche GT3R.

At the start of the race, Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3 from Craft Racing AMR Team managed to capture the number one spot from #28 SLS AMG GT3 and stayed on the position for the first hour, widening the gap slowly each lap.

Would 2012 MMER winner, Team Petronas SLS AMG GT3 take another win this year?

The 30th place Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 was working hard to recover the 30 minutes loss at pitstop.

One of the highlight was Malaysia Team Naza Nexus Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 driven by Alif Hamdan. Many might not know about him but, he is one talented Malaysian young driver. Why? Because, he partipated in World Time Attack Challenge 2012 (WTAC) at Sydney, Australia and got 2nd place with his Blue Arrow Lancer Evo VI. Read more here!

Next Alex Yoong in the making. All the best to him!

The battle between the Civics of Singapore and Malaysia!

This was just the beginning of the race. There were still many more hours to go before the end of the 12 hours endurance race. All drivers will test their skills, teamwork, concentration, and consistency during the night and with clever driving and not overworking the cars, they can bring the cars safely to the finish line.

So, it isn't about how fast your car gets to the finish line, it's about how reliable your car and your team throughout the 12 hours non-stop race.

The winner of MMER 2013 would stand at the top of this podium once the race finishes.

More info on the result, click here! :D

Too bad I couldn't stay throughout the night watching the race as my fatigue is at its minimum level and most importantly, I cannot miss Formula Drift Asia Malaysia Round at Speed City KL later this evening. More on that later.

I hope you guys have enjoy the article and pictures here. Thanks for looking! 

Above: I did my version of MMER, zooming back at 150km/h. (Not fast, but that's the best my car could do! XD)