The sixth edition of Sepang 1000KM (S1K) race got underway at Sepang International Circuit (SIC) today with all past champions on the grid; promising what could perhaps be the most exciting race in its history. With three works team – Honda Malaysia Racing Team (HMRT), Proton R3 Motorsports and Toyota Team Thailand, and a former champion of the Asian Touring Car Championship (ATCC) and Japan’s Super Taikyu series in Malaysian Fariqe Hairuman making his debut, the grid is loaded with experienced drivers at the highest level.
Flagged off by SIC Chief Commercial Officer, Sharmila Nadarajah at 1pm, 2012 champion Syafiq Ali, who is partnering Malaysia’s Drift King and a two-time Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race (MMER) champion, Tengku Djan Ley Tengku Mahaleel, started from second on the grid behind their Proton R3 Motorsports team-mates.
Heavily depending on weather conditions, the race, which would run for 181 laps around the 5.543-km, track, should take between eight and nine hours before the chequered flag is handed down. Syafiq, who won the title with Super GT driver Morio Nitta in a Proton Satria Neo machine, is challenging for crown in a Proton Preve, which had shown in qualifying yesterday that they equally fast as the pole position winner – Proton Suprima S machine.
James Veerapan and Tengku Ezan Ley clocked an average fastest lap of 2 minutes 37.103 seconds to start from pole today. Syafiq and Tengku Djan had 2 minutes 37.364 seconds for their average best lap time yesterday.
Eddie Lew and Aaron Lim returned to defend their title; in an all-new Honda Jazz machine and supported by two other entries HMRT including an all-new Honda City, which is making its debut in the S1K with Muhammad Farriz Fauzy and Alif Hamdan behind the steering wheel.
Starting from fourth position on the grid, Eddie started alongside newly-crowned Malaysian Super Series (MSS) champion Fitra Eri of Indonesia, who is partnering Malaysian Mark Darwin in a Proton Satria Neo.
Overall champions in 2009 and 2011, Type R Racing Team started from the third row and featuring youngster Gilbert Ang instead of the regular Boy Wong Yew Choong. Having helped the team winning MMER Touring Production class last August, both Lai Wee Sing and Soh Kee Koon would not be too worry In the driving capabilities of their 18-year old partner.
“He (Gilbert) is a very fast and very good driver. Our bigger concern will be to make sure our car stay trouble-free throughout the race. It is a long race and anything can happen,” said Lai, a two-time MSS Supersixteen champion and a two-time Sepang Drag Race champion.
Winning the title in 2010 with Australian top driver Chris O’ Shannessy (Toyota Levin) for Ultra Racing-Kegani, Kenny Lee has entered this year’s race with a different agenda as he roped in two of his students – Nick Mah and Y.S. Lim as his racing partners.
“This race is about gaining experience for both my students. I hope to share my race experience as much as possible with them. The main aim is to finish. Having said that I would aim for Top 6 finish. Any better would be a bonus,” Kenny said.
Met at the starting grid, Fariqe said that it would be a different kind of challenge for him at the S1K after having raced for many years with a full-fledged Petronas Syntium Racing Team.
“Naturally, the race would favour the factory teams and those with bigger budgets. We would be the underdogs, and that suits us fine. This is an endurance race and in motorsports, anything can happen. We will see,” added Fariqe, who is partnering veterans Abdul Razak Mohideen and Sutan Mustafa Salihin.
The 2014 S1K also recorded its youngest ever driver for the event in 16-year old to Singaporean karter, Daim Hishamuddin. Partnering Megat Shareal Iskandar and Tunku Mutasim Tunku Daud, the Sim’s Racing Team started from the ninth row in a Proton Gen2.
The all-ladies team of Siti Shahkirah Shaharul, Illyaquila Fateen Ismail and Geraldine Darlene Road started from the 13th row in Proton Satria Neo.