A1 Team Malaysia team members returned to the Sepang race track last weekend, using the A1GP season break to keep in race trim, in a test of stamina and reliability. The tenth running of the Merdeka Millennium Endurance 12 hour race was the racing challenge taken on and it proved to be both hard work and very rewarding for the team members.

A1 Team Malaysia was represented in the cockpit by Aaron Lim driving for the Honda Malaysia Racing Team (HMRT), alongside former data engineer for Malaysia's A1GP team, Reuben Wong.

Key A1 Team Malaysia crew members joined the Cartrade team fielding a Lotus 2 Eleven in the event, with Tengku Djan Ley taking on the role of Team Manager, Shanker Ramachandran leading the crew as Chief Mechanic, Hairul Ezwan assisting as No.2 Mechanic and Azrai Razuan supporting as PR co-ordinator.

A healthy inter-team rivalry resulted from Tomy Mathen George's involvement with the No.77 Aston Martin Racing entry. The A1 Team Malaysia mechanic took on the Chief Mechanic role for this team.

In addition to the team members working throughout the weekend, Fairuz Fauzy was on hand to give his support to all the A1 Team Malaysia members taking part in the event, along with Jack Cunningham, Chief Executive and Owen Leed, Commercial Director.

A1 Team Malaysia mechanics Ramachandran and Ezwan had been seconded to race car preparation company, Proton R3, to ready the Lotus 2 Eleven entered by Cartrade Abt Motorsport. Tengku Djan Ley led the assault with a trio of driving brothers, Helmi Ilyas, Adam Ilyas and Fahmi Ilyas taking turns behind the wheel for the event.

Fahmi Ilyas has a connection to A1 Team Malaysia, as the young driver is coached and managed by Aaron Lim when Aaron is not taken up with A1GP driving duties.

The rival Empire Motorsport Lotus 2 Eleven also had a link with the A1GP team, with three TOC students who had helped the team at the A1GP Malaysia event in Sepang last year being involved with this team's entry.

The Cartrade Lotus 2 Eleven entry ran into problems early in the race weekend with an engine problem in practice which demanded an engine change. Ramachandran and Ezwan had to work throughout the night to complete the task, and their efforts were rewarded with third fastest qualifying lap in their class, 14th overall of the 43 car grid.

The team's problems returned during the race, with a mix of technical issues which lost them time and added to the challenge of the endurance event. However, the team battled through the challenges to secure fourth place in class at the chequered flag, behind the No.77 Aston Martin with the pit crew led by A1 Team Malaysia's Mathen George.

The overall winner of the 2009 Merdeka Millennium Endurance race was the Petronas Syntium Team's BMW Z4. The A1 Team Malaysia crew members were able to celebrate this rival's success with another 'family' link, as Ezwan's younger brother, Johan, was one of the three winning drivers.

Jack Cunningham, Chief Executive, A1 Team Malaysia said of the team members' weekend efforts, "It was very gratifying to walk down the pit lane at Sepang and see so many of our team members participating in the Merdeka Millennium Endurance 12 hr race. Their experience with our team has placed them in high demand to work with other top teams and it is hugely beneficial for us to have our staff keeping race fit and putting their skills into practice while we are between A1GP seasons."

The Merdeka Millennium Endurance 12 hour race is held each year, usually in late August in conjunction with Malaysia's Independence Day (Merdeka) celebrations on 31st August. This year it was held earlier in the month out of respect for Ramadan which begins on or around 22 August 2009 this year.

A1 Team Malaysia crew members will soon be regrouping to resume their A1GP duties and preparing for the fifth season of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport.

-credit: malaysia