Merdeka Millenium Endurance Race

Battle hots up for the Merdeka Endurance Race. Two-time winner Tommy Lee is rejoining the Petronas EON Racing Team (PERT) for the 2002 Merdeka Millennium Endurance as the former TVR Motorsports driver targets a sensational hattrick in the ...

Battle hots up for the Merdeka Endurance Race.

Two-time winner Tommy Lee is rejoining the Petronas EON Racing Team (PERT) for the 2002 Merdeka Millennium Endurance as the former TVR Motorsports driver targets a sensational hattrick in the 12-hour endurance race at Sepang Circuit.

That mission, however, will be a mountainous task and Tommy, a regular figure at Malaysia's races, was the first to admit especially with the new entry of top racers in the region. Among those joining the race this year are Japan GT drivers Genji Hashimoto and Charles Kwan and the veteran Albert Poon.

"It is going to be very, very tough this year," said Tommy, who won the inaugural Silverstone Merdeka Millennium Endurance race with PERT; partnering Malaysia's top rally driver Karamjit Singh and Jimmy Low.

Tommy continues his winning form with Jeffrey Wong and Admi Shahrul in the following year in a TVR Chimaera as PERT's dream to defend their title shattered into pieces when their car's turbo system blew in the first lap.

"Like everybody else on the grid, the mission will be to win. I will give my very best for the team and hopefully, we will win again," said Tommy when met at the drivers' briefing at Sepang Circuit yesterday.

Introduced at the turn of the new millennium, the event is organized by Sepang International Circuit to mark Merdeka Day celebrations and as efforts to further develop motorsports in Malaysia.

Flagged off minutes after midnight, drivers - three to a team - take turns to complete a grueling 12-hour non-stop race on 31st August to cover the most number of laps around Sepang Circuit.

While Tommy had confirmed that he would be driving the modified Proton Waja in the Open class, his teammates have yet to be named. A second PERT car would be driven by Jimmy, Eric Yeo and another driver to be named later.

Of a total 60 entries that had registered so far for the 2002 event, eight are in the Group O class, which is opened to any sports and saloon car with free modifications.

The 2002 Merdeka Millennium Endurance race will be the first participation of Albert Poon, the veteran Hong Kong driver who first raced in this region at the Singapore GP in a Lotus 23B in 1961.

Albert had raced in Singapore and Malaysia ever since at Johor Circuit in Pasir Gudang and the Shah Alam Batu Tiga Circuit and is still very active despite already being in his sixties.

Partnering Neville McKay and Jose Catita in a Mallock, Albert will be competing in the Group A, which is opened to any production sports car of any capacity and any saloon cars above 1900cc.

Defending champions, Team Tag Heuer TVR Malaysia, had confirmed three entries, but has yet to name their drivers though Jeffrey and Admi are expected to feature in their first car.

Production saloon cars between 1601cc and 1900cc will be grouped under Class B while Class C will feature any model production cars between 1501cc and 1600cc.

Leading the Group B will be the partnership of Jerry Ng, Kok Pak Chiang and Lim Ee Chek, who are seasoned circuit racers and competitors at Sepang's Malaysian Super Series 2002 in the Supersixteen Championship.

With already 26 cars registered in the Class C, the group should see an open affair especially with last year's winners - Firhat Mokhzani, Eddie Liew and Ng Kok Chin opting to race in a Lotus Elise in the Open category this year.

At the briefing yesterday, the participants agreed on a new ruling that any driver can only drive a maximum of two hours per session and a limit of five hours for the whole race. The regulations also required a driver to rest two-thirds of the driving time before be allowed driving again.

"This means that if a driver drives at 1am, he must comes in before 3am. And, if he drives for a full two hours, he can only comes into the track after 4.20am as he needs to rest for a least 80 minutes," said Jeff Amin, the clerk of the course for the 2002 Merdeka Millennium Endurance race.

Unlike the previous two events, the 2002 Merdeka Millennium Endurance race is incorporated under the Merdeka Motorsports Carnival, which will also feature a Go-Kart carnival, a 4x4 Carnival and Malaysia's first ever night motocross challenge at the Sepang Motocross Circuit.

Priced at RM20, tickets for the 2002 Merdeka Millennium Endurance race are already on sale at the circuit. Tickets can also be purchased by calling the TICKET HOTLINE 03-8526 2222 or by e-mail at ticket@malaysiangp.com.my.

-mme-

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About this article
Series Road racing
Drivers Tommy Lee , Karamjit Singh , Genji Hashimoto , Charles Kwan