It was the last 20 minutes of the race and the Audi R8 LMS (Car #1) was looking good to seal the win for the 2011 Merdeka Millenium Endurance Race (MMER) when disaster struck.
A punctured left rear tyre forced the race leader into the pits for a tyre change, costing them the win as Team Petronas Syntium in the Mercedes SLS GT3 (Car #15) overtook them for a hard-fought victory of 321 laps in 12 hours.
At the wheel of the ill-fated R8 LMS are former winners of the world’s most prestigious endurance race, Le Mans 24 Hours, Frank Biela, Marco Werner and Marcel Fassler.
Last year, Biela and Werner together with former Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion Darryl O’Young raced to second place in the 2010 MMER with the Audi R8 LMS.
Having qualified in third, they were running second until lap 262, when the other Mercedes SLS GT3 (Car #28) of Team Petronas Syntium ran into mechanical problems and had a lengthy pit stop which lost them the lead held for 10 hours of the 12-hour race.
There are three Audi R8 LMS cars on the grid of this year’s MMER – two fielded by Audi Sport Team WRT submitted by the Belgian Audi Club as part of a factory-supported Audi customer sport programme and the third, an independent entry by Hong Kong-based Absolute Racing team.
The other two Audi cars finished 6th and 12th out of the 46-car field.
“We kept our promise: Audi had vowed to return stronger to compete for the championship at MMER. It was very close to the end but still a job well done,” said Mr Reinhold Carl, managing director for Audi Singapore.
Singaporean team ST Powered performed excellently, winning the Touring Production category with their Honda Civic FD2R driven by Singaporeans Desmond Soh, Teh Kian Boon and Aloysius Lek.
“It was a tough match for us as we were fighting with Malaysian team Type R Racing and were just one lap ahead of them. It’s a great feeling to be on the top of the podium and I would like to thank all our supporters,” said Mr Aloysius Lek, 21, the youngest driver of the team and also his first time racing at the MMER.
Of the 46 cars on the grid, 17 were Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup cars which ran a separate category of its own.
Other Singaporeans who competed at this year’s MMER include Ringo Chong and Yuey Tan in the Scirocco R-Cup class and Denis Lian in the Sports Production class.
While Mr Chong’s team did well to come in third in class, Mr Lian’s Lotus 2-11 failed to finish the race.
At the 2010 MMER, Mr Lian’s team unfortunately had their Lotus caught fire in the pits during refuelling, forcing regulations for this year’s MMER to be a lot stricter.