It was a huge disappointment for the Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race (MMER) defending champions PETRONAS Syntium Team when both their Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 cars #1 and #28 had to retire early from the 12-hour race.
MALAYSIA MERDEKA ENDURANCE RACE 2013
SEPANG INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT
CAR TROUBLES RUIN PETRONAS SYNTIUM TEAM’S MMER QUEST
• The PETRONAS Syntium Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 car #28 started on pole.
• Car #28 encountered a blown engine and retired after 101 laps.
• Sister car #1 faced a string of problems, starting with a fan belt failure that led to further internal damage
• Both cars had to unfortunately call it a day and retire early from the 12-hour race
Malaysia, 1 September 2013 – It was a huge disappointment for the Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race (MMER) defending champions PETRONAS Syntium Team when both their Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 cars #1 and #28 had to retire early from the 12-hour race. Car #28 started from pole position and was chasing the race leader quite comfortably, up to P2 at one point. However, disaster struck and they had to retire from the race after the engine blew. Also having its fair share of trouble, car #1 overstayed in the pits and later retired due to engine problems too.
The weekend started out well when both PETRONAS Syntium SLS AMG GT3 cars qualified on the front row. The average lap time of 2:03.184 minutes by German drivers Thomas Jager, Luca Ludwig and Lucas Wolf put them on pole, ahead of their sister car #1’s 2:03.428 minutes in P2, driven by Mercedes-Benz AMG Brand Ambassador Bernd Schneider, Jono Lester and Dominic Ang.
Flagging off at midnight, the Craft Racing AMR Aston Martin #007 got to a quick start ahead of both the gullwing cars, with Jager in car #28 and Schneider in car #1. A little mistake from Schneider saw him spin off the track and drop to P5, but he managed to move up to P4 by the end of his stint. Then an oversight from the crew resulted in Schneider shooting past the designated pit box, causing him to lose precious time. Taking over the wheel next, Lester had to serve a drive-through penalty incurred by Schneider for overtaking under the yellow flag.
Ludwig was driving the second stint after Jager and got the car #28 up to P2, behind the Aston #007. By the time the second pit stops were completed, Wolf was still running in P2 with car #28 and Ang in P4 with car #1, before bringing it one up to P3. Disaster then struck the team after the third pit stop when Jager and Schneider were back at the wheel.
Car #28 suddenly stopped between Turns 8 and 9 after running 101 timed laps, leaving everyone bewildered. It was brought back to the pits later, after discovery of a blown engine and hence early retirement of the race. Shortly after car #28 started falling down the order, car #1 was rolled into the pits for repair work due to a fan belt failure. After spending an hour in the pits, Lester took the car back out in P21, to try and close as much of the 27-lap gap to the race leader as possible.
Working his way up to P12, Lester handed the car over to Ang and subsequently Schneider, before Lester took over the driving duties again. Lester had to serve another drive-through penalty for Schneider’s overtaking under the yellow flag, but kept it running in P9. Then misfortune struck again as the car #1 suffered further internal damage. 218 laps down with just two hours to go to the end of the race, and the car was done and dusted.
Dato’ David Wong, team principal of PETRONAS Syntium Team said, "Indeed, we came into this weekend with high hopes of achieving a hat trick with the SLS AMG GT3. Unfortunately, we ran into problems with both cars and we could not make it to the finish line, let alone the podium. Nonetheless, the team has tried its best efforts to keep running to the end and this time our best wasn’t enough. I would like to thank the entire team and all their hard work. Right now we will concentrate our focus back on the Super Taikyu Series where we are aiming for our sixth consecutive title.”
After the Okayama race today, the team races at Suzuka next month on 21 – 22 September.
SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES
BERND SCHNEIDER / No. 1
We were really unlucky and it is very disappointing. We drove hard but when the belt in the engine broke, the race was already over then, as we wouldn’t have gotten in the Top 5. We then drove hard to finish the race and that didn’t work out. It’s quite a shame as normally the reliability of Mercedes-Benz is very high. It is quite unusual that both our cars on the grid died. But it can happen and this is what we learnt this weekend.
JONO LESTER / No. 1
The race today was a challenge from the start with some early problems in the pits; however, we remained on the lead lap and were chasing down the leader quite comfortably. It was a shock to lose our car #28 and even more of a shock for us to drop out so soon after. This is PETRONAS’ home event and we worked together as a team to charge on and make up ground. I’m proud of what the team achieved today. Our retirement was a huge disappointment and we will come back stronger for MMER 2014, hopefully.
DOMINIC ANG / No. 1
I am feeling disappointed that we couldn’t score our hat trick and get a 1-2 finish for the team today. From the first stint we already lost time during the pit stop and then we had the drive-through penalty. We managed to catch up, then the fan belt broke and that cost us an hour in the pits and almost 30 laps behind the leader. So, we just aimed to finish the race, but the engine gave way and that was the end. It is now time to focus back on the Super Taikyu Series.
DATO’ DAVID WONG / TEAM PRINCIPAL
Indeed, we came into this weekend with high hopes of achieving a hat trick with the SLS AMG GT3. Unfortunately, we ran into problems with both cars and we could not make it to the finish line, let alone the podium. Nonetheless, the team has tried its best efforts to keep running to the end and this time our best wasn’t enough. I would like to thank the entire team and all their hard work. Right now we will concentrate our focus back on the Super Taikyu Series where we are aiming for our sixth consecutive title.