Members of A1 Team Malaysia turned their hands from single seater A1GP racing to a saloon car endurance event at the Sepang International Circuit last weekend. Tengku Djan Ley, our very own Deputy Technical Director and Team Manager for the Proton factory-backed R3 team enlisted the help of Aaron Lim, Shanker Ramachandran and Hairul Ezwan for the inaugural Sepang 1000 km.

The event began last Monday with practice sessions for the race. Lim was one of three drivers sharing the No.12 Proton Satria Neo 1.6 litre, with Faidzil Alang, a regular Proton development driver, and Hafizy Hafiz, an endurance race specialist. The early sessions gave the team the time to set the car up for the race and to make the necessary preparations for a long distance race lasting nine hours.

Ramachandran and Ezwan, alongside a crew of Proton endurance specialist race mechanics, worked tirelessly through the week to ready the car for the tough challenge. In the qualifying sessions each of the drivers was given the opportunity to put in a quick lap and all three posted strong times comfortably within the top ten.

The race day began smoothly with the No.12 car lined up on the grid for the race, and the team having high expectations for success. However, after only 15 laps had been completed there was disaster, with the Proton Satrio Neo being struck with a technical issue that sidelined it out on the track. With the team unable to retrieve their car, it was an early end to the race for the No.12 entry.

Lim said of the unexpected retirement, "We thought we'd be taking the fight to the Honda's, as the Proton engine is so durable, but we didn't get that chance. I didn't get in the car in the race, which was a shame. The team worked so hard all week and were flat out preparing for this race, yet we didn't get many laps in before dropping out, so it was very disappointing for everyone."

The A1 Team Malaysia mechanics were drafted in to help out the crew on the sister car in the team, the No.11 Proton Gen 2 model. This car fared better in the tough conditions of the Sepang 1000 km, running well throughout the race, and finishing on the podium in its class, with a second place, and taking fourth position overall.

Lim said of A1 Team Malaysia's efforts, "Shanker and Wan worked extremely hard for this race, with Tengku Djan leading with his professional manner, and we all gelled well with the other crew members, so there was the level of teamwork that we have seen regularly at the A1GP races around the world. It was a very enjoyable weekend overall, although for me, obviously it was tinged with disappointment that I wasn't able to race."

Lim will take on an even longer endurance challenge in early August 2009, competing in the MME 12 hour race at Sepang International Circuit.

-credit: malaysia