Posts Tagged ‘jono lester’

Postcard from Inje Speedium Korea: Creating history with PETRONAS Syntium Team


Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay Blog | Blog Post of Cheryl Tay

Going to a track for the first time is always exciting, but it’s additionally exciting (with a tinge of apprehension) when you head to a brand new circuit that has never been raced on before. I was just at the Inje Speedium circuit in South Korea over the weekend for Round 2 of the Super Taikyu Series with the PETRONAS Syntium Team.

super taikyu in korea

We nearly didn’t make it here as the race was only confirmed like a week or so before. I heard there was supposed to be a Super GT exhibition race of some sort before this Super Taikyu race but that never happened. There was so much uncertainty about whether the track would be ready in time for this Super Taikyu round.

I understand that there was an FIA track inspection done on 24 or 25 April and there was only one change needed –  for the shape of the escape zone. The second FIA track inspection was on 7 May and obviously the track must have passed because I was informed of the confirmation of the Super Taikyu race and my flights were all booked.

inje speedium track layout

As the whole Inje Auto Theme Park is a new facility, I was managing my expectations before heading over. While it wasn’t all smooth, the experience was generally alright and for a first time, I think it wasn’t too bad…

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Postcard from Super Taikyu 2013 Round 1: Sugo Snow


Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay Blog | Blog Post of Cheryl Tay

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.

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I was there for the opening round of the 2013 Super Taikyu Series and everything was going smoothly.. up until race day on Sunday.

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PETRONAS Syntium Team announces driver line-up for 2013


Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay News | Latest Industry News

HUNGRY FOR THE SIXTH CONSECUTIVE CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE

• PETRONAS Syntium Team targets to achieve their sixth overall Super Taikyu title in a row
• The PETRONAS Syntium Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 #1 will be driven by Nobuteru Taniguchi, Dominic Ang and Melvin Moh, while sister car #28 will be driven by Tatsuya Kataoka, Fariqe Hairuman and Jono Lester.
• The 2013 season of the Super Taikyu Series is planned for seven rounds from April to November.

Competition for the 2013 season of the Super Taikyu Series, Japan’s leading endurance race series, gets underway at Sportsland Sugo this weekend and the PETRONAS Syntium Team is ready to clinch their sixth consecutive championship title. The driver line-up for this year will be similar to last year’s except for a slight change – the PETRONAS Syntium SLS AMG GT3 #1 will be driven by Japanese professional Nobuteru Taniguchi with Malaysians Dominic Ang and Melvin Moh, while Japanese pro Tatsuya Kataoka, Malaysian Fariqe Hairuman and Kiwi Jono Lester will be at the helm of sister car #28. Masataka Yanagida, who has been driving for the team since its debut in the Super Taikyu Series in 2007, will be taking a leave of absence until further notice.

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Postcard from Super Taikyu 2012 Autopolis: Racing in a Cloud


Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay Blog | Blog Post of Cheryl Tay

I have shot in wet weather, but I’ve never encountered fog at a track before.

The weekend at Autopolis – that is located somewhere in the highlands – for the sixth and final round of the Super Taikyu Series felt like we were all going racing in a cloud.

The fog hung low…

… and the whole circuit was literally engulfed in a cloud.

I went out on track for the morning warm-up session, hoping to get some shots of cars emerging from the fog.

However, the conditions were too poor and the session got cancelled.

I couldn’t even see past the next pit.

There was some time to go before the race start and the pit walk for the spectators went on as scheduled.

Some of the race queens were all bundled up and posing for pictures…

…while others were busy trying to not get blown away.

There were some who were dressed per normal and I could almost hear their teeth chattering as they brave the cold with their bare skin.

A separate pit walk for kids saw some really happy little ones who were obviously bundled up snugly by their parents.

By the time race start rolled around, the weather was still not improving. From the media centre on the third level of the pit building I could not even see the opposite side of the main straight.

Finally, the race that was scheduled for 1.00 pm (local time) was postponed to 2.30pm. The initial three-hour duration of the race was also changed to two hours.

Some drivers felt that it is too dangerous for the race to go on as visibility was seriously limited, but the race went on anyway.

Race queens took their positions on the grid as the cars lined up in order of their qualifying. In pole position was the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 #28 and their Kiwi driver Jono Lester was starting for them.

Lining up behind the safety car, the race started promptly on the re-scheduled time and I rushed to the first corner to catch the start while the cars went off on their formation lap.

I arrived at the first corner quite late but I managed to find a spot in the Turn One Club of photographers thankfully.

The thing is, we could hear the cars coming but we couldn’t see them until a lot later.

In this photo above, I lightened the photo so you could see some silhouette of the cars but in reality, all we could see were the headlights. This was my spot at Turn 1 taken with my mobile phone and you faintly make out the headlights in the distance? That was how bad it was!

Hence I wonder how the cars can go racing if we can barely see them go round the corner.

The race started behind the safety car under yellow flags and it stayed with the cars lap after lap, leaving us wondering when the racing will begin.

The safety car did go in after a long while and cars started picking up speed as well as courage, but soon enough the safety car was deployed again.

The cars just went round and round the track behind the safety car again. It got a bit confusing with the positions of the cars changing while still behind the safety car, because cars were taking chances on their pit stops, not knowing when the safety car will go back in but still having to fulfill their mandatory two pit stops.

Rain started to fall as well, adding more gloom to the atmosphere.

The safety car did go back in and cars went flying (though with precaution due to the wet and fog)..

… but the safety car came back almost as quickly as it went back in. -_-”

Once again round and round behind the safety car, the race was eventually red-flagged at the 90-minute mark.

 Since that marked 75% of the race completed, points were awarded and positions were recorded.

The PETRONAS Syntium SLS AMG GT3 #1 was in second place behind Team Mach GoGoGo’s Ferrari 458 GT3 #555, while their twin SLS was in fourth behind the Threebond Nissan Technical College GT-R GT3 #24.

Although the outcome of this race did not affect the championship standings for car #1 which has already clinched the overall title after the previous round in Suzuka, the team couldn’t help feeling disappointed, especially for their sister car #28 which was hoping to translate the pole position into a win.

I was bundled up well in my battle against the wet and the fog but I’m not a fan of being wrapped in so much plastic.

The days leading up to race day was fine though – the sun shone bright and the track was bone-dry. I remember I was commenting on the blue skies!

I arrived at the track on Thursday and I followed some of the boys from PETRONAS Syntium Team on their track walk.

The four of them – from L-R: Dominic Ang, Jono Lester, Melvin Moh and Ryan Ritchie – have never driven on this track before. While they were discussing racing lines, I was checking out photo spots with Larry Chen of Speedhunters who was shooting there that weekend too.

The track at Autopolis is pretty hilly with lots of ups and downs, leaving me panting slightly at the end of the walk.

Friday was just practice, with three one-hour sessions that were shared among the three drivers per car.

The Japanese drivers of the PETRONAS Syntium Team (ie. Nobuteru Taniguchi, Masataka Yanagida and Tatsuya Kataoka) are not unfamiliar with the track so they gave more seat time to the others.

This is my second time at Autopolis but the last time I was here I didn’t explore the track, so it was starting anew for me as well. Between Larry and I, we managed to seek out some good photo points and I even got to try his crazy-heavy 400mm telephoto lens. The next few shots were taken with the 400mm, sick right?

Each time those little Toyota Yarises come round the corner, I fear for them. Thank goodness none of them rolled over.

The GT-R, which has college students as part of their crew in an interesting collaboration, was pretty competitive in practice but ran into trouble during qualifying.

Saturday’s qualifying went smoothly for the PETRONAS Syntium Team with the usual Driver A, Driver B and Driver C sessions, where the grid positions for the race were determined by the fastest combined times of Driver A and Driver B.

The PETRONAS Syntium Team’s twin SLS AMG GT3 cars qualified first and second, with Yanagida and Lester of car #28 pushing the fastest times in their respective Driver A and B sessions.

The drivers of car #28 were clearly very happy after qualifying, confident of beating car #1.

Alas, the weather worked against them and it was the car led by Taniguchi who finished ahead of the two SLSes.

Some feel that the race wasn’t much of a race, since it was mostly follow-the-safety-car.

The PETRONAS Syntium Team did not end the season how they would have liked to, but at least their goal for the year was achieved. This year’s overall Super Taikyu title makes it their fifth consecutive one. 

Done with the rubber eating for the season, see you next year Japan!

View the rest of my Super Taikyu 2012 Round 6 photos here.

Fogged Out at Autopolis for PETRONAS Syntium Team


Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay News | Latest Industry News

• 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.

QUOTES

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.

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