Nail-biting Win at Fuji

11 August


A nerve-wrecking race kept everyone on the edge of their seats till the last minute
The PETRONAS Syntium Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 car #1 started in P3 to take the win after seven hours
Sister car #28 suffered a stroke of bad luck and ultimately just finished the race 
PETRONAS Syntium Team continues to lead the Super Taikyu championship with car #1

Japan, 11 August 2013 – The last hour of the seven-hour race at Fuji Speedway sent everyone’s hearts racing to their mouths, as the PETRONAS Syntium Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 #1 had the GTNet Advan Nissan GT-R #81 breathing down its neck, closing in fast and erasing the lead increasingly. Steadily keeping ahead, Melvin Moh knew he had to remain calm and focus on getting the car across the finish line first. As luck would have it, the GT-R ran into a spot of trouble in the closing minutes of the race, taking the pressure off Moh for a hard-fought win to the PETRONAS Syntium Team.

The day started out bright and optimistic as the PETRONAS Syntium Team got ready for the seven-hour race ahead of them on the 4.563km Fuji track. However, as the day wore on and the rain came down, the fourth round of the Super Taikyu Series 2013 unfolded with tough conditions, challenging the team to the end. Eventually, the SLS AMG GT3 #1 beat the GT-R #81 after battling hard with it – exchanging the lead between them throughout sunshine and rain – for the win. Unfortunately, sister car #28 suffered a bout of bad luck this weekend, facing a string of incidents during the race and ultimately just finished the race.

Once again the two GT-Rs’ outright speed in qualifying pushed the two SLS AMG GT3 cars to the second row, with car #1 qualifying in P3 and car #28 in P4. However, car #28 was relegated to P8 due to a penalty incurred by Jono Lester when he crossed the blend line upon pit entry during his qualifying session. Undeterred, the team was confident of maintaining a consistent race pace to challenge for the win. 

Into the first corner right after the race start of a busy 53-car grid, the Endless Advan Porsche 997 #3 got up to third behind the GT-Rs, cutting in front of Dominic Ang in the SLS AMG GT3 #1. By the end of the first lap though, Ang managed to get back in third place, whilst Tatsuya Kataoka brought car #28 to P5. Around the 40-minute mark, the safety car was deployed and race leader GT-R #81 took the opportunity to pit. On the restart, car #1 was up in P2 and car #28 in P3.

Leading the race at this point was the ThreeBond Nissan Technical College Nissan GT-R #24, before Kataoka went on a charge and overtook Ang for P2, then kept biting at the heels of the GT-R #24. Around the one-hour mark, the GT-R #24 makes its first pit stop and Kataoka takes over the lead for the rest of his stint. Handing driver duties over to Fariqe Hairuman next, Fariqe rejoins the race in P2 behind the GT-R #81. Ang also passes car #1 over to Moh, who follows up in P3.

During this stint, the GT-R #81 makes it second stop and puts Fariqe in the lead with car #28. When the GT-R #81 went back out, it had to settle for P3 behind Moh. As Fariqe continues to lead, Moh gets overtaken by the GT-R #81 and falls back to P3. 

Ill fate then struck car #28 towards the end of Fariqe’s stint, when he spun and lost about 20 seconds, just before he was to come in for a pit stop. The streak of bad luck continued when Fariqe rushed off during the driver change to warn the team of a warning light in the car and an extra pair of hands was needed for the change, landing a 20-second stop-and-go penalty as a result. 

Lester went out in car #28 next and had to serve the penalty for Fariqe. That dropped him to P3 when he got back out. At this point, Nobuteru Taniguchi was at the wheel of car #1 and was in the lead after the GT-R #81 made its third stop and came back out in P2. Lester then overtook the GT-R #81 but disaster struck big time and car #28 had to come into the pits to fix a broken fan belt. 

Overstaying in the pits for half hour, car #28 slowly dropped down the order whilst Taniguchi was pushing hard in car #1 to widen the lead to almost a minute at the four-hour mark. Dark clouds gathered and rain started to fall slightly, so car #28 took a gamble and sent Fariqe out on wet tyres. Ang took over from Taniguchi after almost four and a half hours into the race, but stayed on slick tyres until the thunderstorm hit, before coming in to change the tyres.

Fariqe initially struggled with the wet tyres on a slightly damp track and by the time rain fell hard, his tyres had worn out. About 12 minutes before the five-hour mark, he lost control on the straight and underbraked into the hairpin, finding the back of the car in the wall. Coming into the pits a few laps later to have the damage repaired, car #28 spent another 20 minutes too long. Fariqe went back out again but in their hearts, they knew that the fight for the win was long over. 

Meanwhile, the GT-R #81 was closing in on Ang, taking the lead from him. But nearing the end of this second stint of his, Ang fought back for the lead, before passing the car over to Moh for the final stint of the seven-hour race.

Pressure was on Moh to take the chequered flag first, as he went out with a 65-second lead over the GT-R #81. That gap was increasingly getting reduced as the GT-R #81 pumped in quicker lap times than Moh. As the finish line drew near and the lead was shortened, nerve-wrecking tension ran high in the team when all of a sudden, the GT-R #81 ran into trouble in the last five minutes and had to crawl to the end. That gave Moh an easy road home for the win. 

Faced with one setback after another, car #28 simply finished the race and brought the car home safely.

Dato’ David Wong, Team Principal of PETRONAS Syntium Team, said, "This is the beauty of endurance racing. Everything and anything can happen up to the last minute. In all our years of racing, this is probably one of the closest races we have had in Japan. I’m very proud of Dominic Ang and Melvin Moh, our young drivers from Malaysia, who displayed their maturity and emerged victorious in this spectacular seven-hour race. It shows that our efforts in developing them are very successful, as we have groomed them to be able to handle the high racing standards of Japan and win.

"It was a pity that we didn’t have both our cars on the podium today, but at least we tried our best to contain the situation and we just aimed to bring the car home safely and finish the race. We go away with mixed feelings this weekend, with a hard-fought nail-biting win for car #1 and a disappointing experience for car #28. The next round will be a highly exciting one, as we make the official announcement very soon.”

The 2013 Super Taikyu season is a highly competitive one with a full grid of over 50 cars across six classes. The PETRONAS Syntium Team faces six other teams in the eight-car GT3 category. With the cancellation of the first round at Sugo, the series has been revised to six rounds, with Korea as the season opener. Thereafter, the series headed to Motegi in July, before Fuji and Okayama in August, Suzuka in September and Autopolis in November. 

The next round will be at Okayama on the weekend of 31 August – 1 September.