• PETRONAS Syntium Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 #28 secured their third pole postion of the season.
• Ghastly weather conditions plagued the race, causing a delay and a shortened race.
• Pit stop gamble for both cars lacked that stroke of luck for the race that was mostly under safety car deployment.
• #1 finished second and #28 in fourth.
• #1 won the overall Super Taikyu 2012 championship at the previous round.
Falling prey to a sudden downturn in weather conditions, PETRONAS Syntium Team and the rest of the teams in the Super Taikyu Series had to face thick fog and slight rain in the last round of the season. Held in the highlands of Autopolis, it was a gloomy day for the 35-car grid which was hoping to finish the season on a high. The bad weather persisted throughout the day, first causing the morning warm-up session to be cancelled, then delaying the race start and shortening the race. The PETRONAS Syntium SLS AMG GT3 #28 was gunning for a win after taking their third pole position of the year. Unfortunately, they failed to capitalise on that after their pit stop strategy lacked that stroke of luck and had to settle for fourth place. Sister car #1 was second. Nonetheless, the season was a successful one for the PETRONAS Syntium Team with car #1 clinching the overall Super Taikyu championship at the previous round and car #28 coming in overall second.
Bright and sunny on Friday and Saturday, the SLS AMG GT3 #28 qualified on pole and car #1 in second. True to the forecast, the weather took a drastic turn for the worst. The morning warm-up session was cancelled due to the thick fog and its resulting limited visibility. Increasing in intensity, the fog caused the race start to be delayed for an hour and a half. Changing to a two-hour format instead of the initial three-hour race, the field started with the safety car under yellow flags. Starting for car #28 was Lester, while Fariqe Hairuman started for car #1.
Under unfavourable weather conditions, race circumstances were unpredictable and a little messy, with teams not knowing when the safety car period would end or when the race might be halted, hence having to constantly change their strategies of pit stops and driver changes to fulfill the two mandatory pit stops.
Car #1 decided to make a pit stop immediately after the start and Fariqe pitted for a driver change, handing the wheel over to Nobuteru Taniguchi. Taniguchi was working to overtake the race leader during his 40-minute drive but his efforts were limited by the safety car. Dominic Ang took over from Taniguchi, only to run into a safety car period again. He barely had any proper racing laps, when the safety car was deployed yet again, followed shortly by the red flag.
Meanwhile, Lester passed over car #28 to Melvin Moh after 30 minutes into the race and still under the first safety car period. Moh also encountered the safety car during his stint, but managed to get some laps under the green flag. Lester then got back into the car and was eager to hunt to the race leader, only to be stopped by the last safety car deployment and the subsequent red flag near the 90-minute mark.
Causing confusion in the pits, the race was unlike the norm, first starting behind the safety car then plagued with another two safety car periods and pockets of rain amid the relentless low hanging fog. Needing a stroke of luck for the win, the pit stop gamble paid off for Team Mach GoGoGo’s Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 which won the race.
Jono Lester, the team’s rookie Kiwi driver, could not hide his disappointment, after harvesting high hopes and confidence for a win in the car #28 this weekend with the quick pace they showed they were capable of. He said, “It is a very disappointing way to end my debut season in Japan. Nobody can control the weather, however the circumstances of starting the race and declaring the results in such a messy, disorganised manner was puzzling for the whole field. I believe our SLS AMG GT3 #28 could have won the race today, thus I’m disappointed. Nevertheless, I would like to extend a huge thank you to Dato’ David Wong for giving me this opportunity this year.”
Dato’ David Wong, team principal of PETRONAS Syntium Team, said, “Firstly, we would like to extend our regret for the fans who came all the way to Autopolis, having to experience such bad weather conditions today. Although we did not end the season the way we hoped we would – with six wins of six rounds – it’s been a great season and we achieved our goal of taking the title a fifth consecutive time. I am proud of my team and would like to thank each and every one of them for playing their part in helping us reach our target.”
The Super Taikyu Series was held over six rounds this year, covering circuits in Fuji, Motegi, Sugo, Okayama, Suzuka and Autopolis. Teams had an option to choose between the Okayama round or the 12-hour Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race at Sepang International Circuit. Winning every round except the second race of the fifth round and this final round, car #1 of Taniguchi, Fariqe and Ang secured the team’s fifth Super Taikyu title in a row at Round 5, before the end of the season.
NOBUTERU TANIGUCHI / No. 1
We knew that the race was starting under the safety car, so we decided to do a pit stop immediately after the opening lap to change driver from Fariqe (Hairuman) to me. We thought it was a good strategy. I drove the maximum time (40 minutes) during my stint but we couldn’t get a good time because the safety car came out again, so we lost the change to overtake the Ferrari. Luck just ran out for us today. We really wanted to win this last round of the season, what a pity.
DOMINIC ANG / No. 1
It’s a bit disappointing and not a very good way to end the season. I didn’t get to drive much in this last race of the series as most of it was spent with the safety car. It’s the worst conditions I have ever driven in, with the weather that kept on changing. It spoilt the race; I was looking forward to a solid three hours of racing today.
FARIQE HAIRUMAN / No. 1
I only did one lap for the race, having started the race and then pitting in immediately. I like driving in the rain, so it’s a pity that I didn’t get to drive more. I want to thank Dato’ David Wong for the opportunity to drive for this team, and also Niklas Thomassen and Andy Poon for guiding me on my journey.
JONO LESTER / No. 28
It is a very disappointing way to end my debut season in Japan. Nobody can control the weather, however the circumstances of starting the race and declaring the results in such a messy, disorganised manner was puzzling for the whole field. I believe our SLS AMG GT3 #28 could have won the race today, thus I’m disappointed. I would like to extend a huge thank you to Dato’ David Wong for giving me this opportunity this year.
MASATAKA YANAGIDA / No. 28
The race had many safety car periods and we thought we would let (Jono) Lester go out for a second time instead of me driving. I suppose that was a better strategy for our car #28. Of course, having taken pole position, I am disappointed that we did not win but that’s racing. Despite facing such tough conditions, both young drivers did their best and their performance was good. They have improved a lot throughout the season and I’m very pleased with their progress.
MELVIN MOH / No. 28
For a start, the conditions were too dangerous to even start the race but we started under the safety car anyway. After about half an hour the team decided to put me into the car and after one lap under safety car, the race restarted. It was quite difficult to overtake and visibility was quite bad. The timings weren’t too bad compared to the front runners despite being stuck in traffic. Then the safety car came out again and after a few laps the team put (Jono) Lester back in to finish the race. Unfortunately with the two mandatory pit stops, we lost out to the other cars due to timing of our pit stops. It wasn’t the best way to finish the season but the last three races were very good for me and I’ve improved a lot as a driver.
TATSUYA KATAOKA / No. 28 ADVISOR
With such difficult conditions, nobody knows exactly what the right way to win is. I believe that (Jono) Lester had the speed, but unfortunately the race was caught under the safety car for a long time and we could not do anything. We could not race at our real speeds and could not give a proper performance, so the final result is not all that important. I am just happy that (Jono) Lester and (Melvin) Moh improved a lot, that’s enough!
DATO’ DAVID WONG / TEAM PRINCIPAL
Firstly, we would like to extend our regret for the fans who came all the way to Autopolis, having to experience such bad weather conditions today. Although we did not end the season the way we hoped we would – with six wins of six rounds – it’s been a great season and we achieved our goal of taking the title a fifth consecutive time. I am proud of my team and would like to thank each and every one of them for playing their part in helping us reach our target.