Written by speedfight   
Monday, 02 August 2010 21:11
With two former LeMans winner in their team, it comes as no surprise that the Audi Race Experience Team Joest is the crowd favourite in the 2010 Merdeka Millennium Endurance Race (MMER).


But the team can expect stiff resistance from their rivals, and perhaps even face an upset this weekend.

Kencana Racing Team owner and 2007 overall champion Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir is delighted with the high-profile team’s entry in the MMER; but sportingly cautioned them that other teams will be equally prepared and raring to win the challenging endurance race.

“I think this is the first time that a factory works team is taking part in the MMER.  This is something that we should be proud of as we can learn from how an established team presents itself for the race.

“As we all know, Team Joest ran the LeMans- winning LMP1 cars this year. Having said that, I doubt that any of the other teams, especially those competing in the GT class, will be any less prepared. The 2007, 2008 and 2009 overall champions are back on the grid this year, and I don’t think the Audi team will have it easy,” said Mokhzani.

Apart from a full works team, the Audi Race Experience Team Joest will also be powered by the driving brilliance and experience of former winners of the Le Mans race, Frank Biela and Marco Werner. The participation of former Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion Daryl O’ Young, who will be the third driver for the team, completes the powerful triumvirate.

Other top racing names that would be competing in this year’s race include Peter Kox, Christopher Haase, Richard Lietz, Craig Baird, Matthew Marsh, Dominik Farnbacher, Tatsuya Kataoka, Nobuteru Taniguchi and Masataka Yanagida.

“I feel proud that such established racers are taking part in the MMER, as it shows that the race can attract the big names,” Mokhzani said, adding that a total of 36 cars have registered for this year’s race, a list which includes top Malaysian teams and drivers.

“I welcome them to the grid of the MMER 2010. I’m sure they will find themselves in a very competitive race as some of the drivers and tech teams supporting the other cars are people they are familiar with and have raced against. And I do hope that they will share with the motor sports community just how competitive the MMER is,” he added.

The list of Malaysian participants in the MMER this year reads a little like the who’s who of the Malaysian motorsports, with the participation of former F1 driver Alex Yoong, the current Lotus F1 Racing test driver Fairuz Fauzy, Meritus team owner Firhat Mokhzani, GT3 Asia driver Tunku Hammam Sulong, Eddie Lew, Wong Yew Choong, Keifli Othman, Rizal Ashram Ramli, Farriz Fauzy and former equestrian champion Ashraff Dewal.

“The MMER allows local and regional race drivers to pit themselves against some of the world’s best drivers, to see where we stand and also to learn from the experience. And it makes victory all the sweeter!”  said Mokhzani.

A regular at the MMER, Mokhzani won the overall title in 2007 in a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR; partnering Sven Herberger and Lars Erik Nielsen. The team finished second in the following year, losing to the Porsche Club Singapore trio, Mok Weng Sun, Nicholas Davidson and Daryl O’Young.

Last year, the PETRONAS Syntium Racing Team scored a sensational 1-2 finish with the triumvirate of Tatsuya Kataoka, Manubu Orido and Malaysian youngster Johan Adzmi in a BMW Z4M Coupe.

Introduced at the turn of the millennium as part of the National Day celebrations, the 2010 MMER race will be showcasing a different kind of competition with the introduction of three new classes – the GT class, the Sports Production class and Touring Production class.

The 2010 race will be reverting to its original midnight start; finishing 12 hours later on Sunday afternoon, August 8.  The Official Free Practice will be held on Thursday and the Qualifying round will be held on Friday.

As chairman of the circuit, Mokhzani said that he was proud of the MMER’s development and progress over the last decade.

“Having the likes of the Audi factory team, the Porsche RSRs, the Lambo Gallardos, Mosler, Aston Martins, and many more, some piloted by LeMans winners right here in SIC is great.

“We’ve seen some of the world’s best teams racing against our own drivers and we did not come away lacking. After 10 years, the MMER has become a serious race for serious teams and drivers,” he said.

“I can remember the first few MMERs, when teams were not organized, indistinguishable from each other as they had no team uniform. They were smoking cigarettes while repairing engines, and so many other strange things.

“Look at where they are now. They stand proud to be part of a team, racing for honours in whatever class they participate in, attracting sponsors and fans, and knowing that when they win the MMER, they can hold their heads up high and be counted as some of the best race car drivers around.

“SIC will continue to ensure the MMER develops into a bigger and tougher race. That’s why the regulations are streamlined according to FIA GT regulations and other regulations that are widely adhered to. This allows more teams to use the cars they already have to race in the MMER.

“Although we are a long way from being LeMans or the Nurburgring 24 hours, we are establishing ourselves as the premier endurance race in Asia. And that means that winning the MMER is nothing less than a proud victory for the team that stands on the top step of the podium,” he added.

As a competitor, Mokhzani also expressed his delight that the race was returning to its traditional midnight start.

“I think it’s great. There are always pros and cons to starting either at midnight or midday. Starting at midnight gives drivers at least seven hours of cool driving so it’s physically less taxing.

“But you need to be sharper and more alert as the shadows and glare can play tricks on you. The cooler air also gives the engines a little more boost so you will see the cars zipping by much faster,” he said.

Asked on his own Kencana Racing Team mission, Mokhzani said: “Our mission, just like everybody else’s mission, is to win. We’ve been racing in the MMER for many years and have tasted outright victory once and been on the podium two other times.

“The team is ready to take on all the challengers and I’m sure we will have a great race ahead,” said Mokhzani, who would again be partnering Herberger with Dominik Farnbacher as the third driver