It felt like Christmas came too early (or refuses to leave) at Sugo two Sundays ago when sudden snowfall caused a cancellation of the race.
I was there for the opening round of the 2013 Super Taikyu Series and everything was going smoothly.. up until race day on Sunday.
I arrived in Sendai on Thursday morning and we headed straight to the track – it was cold but there was no sign of winter.
Attached to the PETRONAS Syntium Team for the season, I will be following them to every round so you can look forward to updates from me about their pair of Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 gullwing cars!
This is the second year that they will be using the SLS AMG GT3 cars for the full season, after making the debut in 2011 at the 12-hour Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race (MMER).
There are no new drivers to the team this year and the line-up for the cars is:
Driving the PETRONAS Syntium SLS AMG GT3 #1 are Nobuteru Taniguchi (Japan), Dominic Ang (Malaysia) and Melvin Moh (Malaysia). Taniguchi has been driving for the team since 2008 and have been part of the winning formula for the five-time overall Super Taikyu title.
Dominic only joined the team in 2011 and has been driving alongside Taniguchi, also clinching the overall Super Taikyu title and the MMER win for 2011 and 2012.
Melvin first drove for the team in 2010, when they were still using the BMW Z4M coupe. He was brought back to the team last year, but was driving the sister car. Both Dominic and Melvin are products of the PETRONAS Formula eXperience (PFX) programme – PETRONAS’ youth motorsport development programme that has since been stopped.
In the sister car #28, Tatsuya Kataoka (Japan), Fariqe Hairuman (Malaysia) and Jono Lester (New Zealand) will be at the wheel. Like Taniguchi, Kataoka has been driving for this team since 2008.
Fariqe is the longest-serving driver for the PETRONAS Syntium Team, having joined them since the late 1990s. He was talent spotted by team owner Dato’ David Wong and have been driving in different series for the team.
Jono only joined the team last year and despite being new to the car and the team, he got up to speed pretty quickly and hence was retained for the 2013 season.
For the last five years, the PETRONAS Syntium Team has been strong, winning the overall title consecutively for five years.
All eyes were on the defending champions when they went out for practice and qualifying at Sugo.
Facing increased competition from a bigger grid, the PETRONAS Syntium SLS AMG GT3 twins qualified for the second row – car #28 was to start in P3 and car #1 in P4 – behind the Nissan GT-R GT3 cars.
There was no big cause for worry as the race was scheduled for a three-hour format and many things could happen.
The team was confident that they would be able to challenge the GT-Rs for the win.
Alas, snow had to fall on race day and there was no way any racing could have taken place at Sugo under those conditions.
This picture above looks like it came out of some winter wonderland and not the track at Sugo with 45 cars anxiously hoping to go racing!
At 11 o’clock, the race organisers made it clear that there will be no racing, so teams started to pack up.
It was hugely disappointing because I was looking forward to seeing how the SLS AMG GT3 cars would stack up against the GT-R GT3 cars in the race!
With the cancellation of the first round, the series will be revised to six rounds, with the next round for Korea at the end of May still in talks. Thereafter, the series heads to Motegi in July, Fuji and Okayama in August, Suzuka in September and Autopolis in November.
View the rest of my Super Taikyu 2013 Round 1: Sugo photos here.