Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race (MMER) is back again! With strong participation of teams coming from various regions of the world, the Sepang 12 Hour has became an important event in Asia to test the limits of their machines on the challenging 5.543km Sepang Circuit. 2014 marks the 15th edition of the endurance race, as well as Malaysia's 57th Independence Day; unique way to celebrate both events which MMER is proudly known for.
Join me on my solo quest to explore this prestigious event through my humble lens. :)
Last year's race began at midnight but, the organiser decided to bring the race forward, starting at 12 noon and ending at 12 midnight, just in time for the Merdeka celebration (8/31). The less crowded pit area at the early morning was an excellent time for me to explore around.
Pit members of respective teams were prepping up their track machines, making final adjustments before sending them out to fight the grueling 12 hours endurance race.
Pit ladies are always present to make everyone's day brighter, including mine. :D
At about 11.15am, the pit was opened and all 28 colourful race cars lined themselves up on the grid getting ready for the official start. There were three categories this year. The Ferraris, Audis, Aston, Lamborghini & Mercedes grouped under the powerful GT3 class. The Porsche 997 and Audi R8 cup cars were in the GTC class, while TP class consists of Civics, 86s, Subaru and Renaults.
The pole position was snatched by Singapore Team Clearwater Racing #1 Ferrari 458, which surprisingly the champion for last year's MMER race. The car was piloted by Gianmaria Bruni (as 1st driver), Alif Hamdan and Mok Weng Sun.
2nd and 3rd on the grid were car #007 Aston Martin of Team CraftBamboo from Hong Kong and #12 Ferrari 458 of Team Clearwater Racing, again.
And, began the 12 hours endurance race! In only the first corner of lap 1, Clearwater Racing #1 car was already creating quite a big gap, slowly leaving the pack of cars behind it.
Quickly, it full-lapped the cars from the Touring Production class.
CraftBamboo's #007 Aston Martin raced hard with Clearwater Racing's #12 Ferrari behind, but dropped to 3rd position after their first pitstop at the end of the first hour. It was exciting to watch their dogfight battle throughout the race, as they switched positions at times.
We could spot more teams using Honda Civic this year. Out of the total 13 TP Class cars, eight were proud front-wheel Civics. Those teams were R Engineering, N1 Racing, JC Racing, ST Wangan & Team Uber-Driven. Singapore's Team ST Wangan had four Civics out on the hot track, and amazingly all four crossed the finish line in one piece.
The battle beween the FF and FR. Your pick?
Malaysian Team Wing Hin Motorsport sent out two GT86 to race - #86 & #88. The #86 car driven by Kenny Lee, William Ho and Chris O' was facing some engine issues causing their early retirement at the 4th hour. Keep fighting #88 GT86!
JC Racing #8 Civic fearlessly dives into Turn 4 overtaking Wing Hing #86 GT86.
Instead of hitching a ride, I traveled along the first section of Sepang starting from Turn 1 to Turn 5 by foot. I got some nice shots and experienced some close-up racing action despite the ultra hot weather and distance.
Unfortunate event for Team Absolute Racing #101 Audi R8 LMS arose at the 4th hour. They were immediately disqualified when the team's mechanics entered the track to rectify the reason why the car spin out at Turn 6.
Coming out of the final corner towards the longest straight of Sepang Circuit.
GTC Class #777 997 Cup Car of Team NZ came into the pit for a new set of tyres and driver change at the 4th hour. The team showed a very consistent pace, maintaining top 3 position in its GTC Class since the start of the race.
I believe no one could drive the car in such condition. Impressively, the driver in Team Motorsport Services #68 997 Cup Car reduced his speed and carefully returned to pitstop to fix the mess.
The official safety car used for MMER this year was Volvo S60 and throughout the whole 12 hour race, it came out only three times for minor incidents.
Although Audi R8 #69 of Absolute Racing (HK) began from high 10th position (1st in GTC Class), it suffered major electronic problems, and dropped to the last position, achieving only 5 laps in the first hour. Things were fine after that, until disaster strikes again at the 109th lap which they had to retire due to technical issues.
As sun was setting, the long awaited glowing disc brake scene was starting to come alive. Mike Racing's #96 AMG SLS GT3 makes really good V8 noises.
Team MPS #28 Audi R8 LMS brakes hard on Turn 1...
... and makes a quick left counter into Turn 2. The Australian team managed to keep their 6th position unaffected at the end of the 12H race. Great job!
A close up of #11 ST Wangan's Honda Civic FD2R.
Double disc brake.
The only Lamborghini GT3 contender in MMER race - #888 Team Arrows Racing.
Under the special Invitational Class, the Daytona Cars Co. from Australia came to challenge the endurance race with their 6L V8 Daytona Sportscar. They did good finishing the race completing 145 laps, despite the engine issue they encountered.
Sadly, I only managed to catch the race up to the 8th hour. But, it was an achievement for me though, as I stayed much longer than last year's MMER race. :D
To sum it up, MMER or Sepang 12 Hour is an incredible endurance race in Malaysia. Probably the only race here, that includes the night and day. Throughout the 12 hours racing, one can witness frequent rough battles between car makers that took place from time to time, at almost every part of the track. However, the most important event is the Merdeka celebration after the race. Happy 57th Independence Day, Malaysia!
For me, I enjoyed photoshooting as much as watching the race from a close distance. :)
Clearwater Racing scored a one-two finish this year and also, the 2nd consecutive MMER champion title with the #1 Ferrari 458 GT3, completing a total of 325 laps! Congratulations!
|1||1||Clearwater Racing||W. S. Mok / A. Hamdan / G. Bruni|
|2||12||Clearwater Racing||Richard Wee / K. Sawa / Craig Baird|
|3||99||Absolute Racing||Alexandre Imperatori / Henri Moser / Matt Solomon|
|1||777||Team NZ||Graeme Dowsett / John Curran / Will Bamber / Yuey Tan|
|2||26||B-Quik Racing||Henk J Kiks / Daniel Bilski / Dario Garcia|
|3||68||Motorsport Services||Daniel Stutterd / Dylan Thomas / John De Veth|
|1||21||R Engineering||WS Lai / KK Soh / Gilbert Ang|
|2||90||N1 Racing||Desmond Yee / Ong Soo Yong / Faisal Asri|
|3||216||Modena Motorsport||Wayne Shen / John Shen / Francis Tjia|
Check the full official result here.