The Sepang 1000 Kilometre Endurance Race 2016 (S1K) gets underway this weekend at Malaysia’s Home of Motorsports with celebrity Zizan Razak and Co providing the additional spice in what is expected to be another thrilling weekend of motorsports excitement. The excitement is further amped up this year with a record entry list of 30 cars, including a number of first-time participants.

While most of the glitz and glamour is expected to be provided by the Mayhem FX-Tune Racing Team, the real story, however, will be the fight at the front for top honours, expected to come from the usual suspects.

image 1Defending champion Honda Malaysia Racing Team (HMRT) will be gunning for their third title, former champion Kegani Racing will want another night of fame, and Sakura Tedco Racing will not want to repeat history by failing at the tail-end of this prestigious 181-lap battle.

While HMRT continues with a two-man team of Aaron Lim and Farriz Fauzy behind the steering wheel of their Honda Jazz, Kegani Racing Team, which will be powered by a fully-tested Suzuki Swift, is running a three-man team of Kenny Lee, Nick Mah and Australian Chris O’Shannesy – who won the title with Kenny in 2010.

Two-time S1K winner Proton R3 Motorsports will not be coming in their full outfit and have opted to channel their support to the glamorous Mayhem FX-Tune Racing Team including seconding team leader and former champion Tengku Djan Ley Tengku Mahaleel as part of a four-person driver team.

While the experienced Keifli Othman will be a driving partner who is second to none, Zizan and lady driver Faye Kusairi – who are brilliantly lighting up this year’s event with their participation – could likely be the team’s weak link in their pursuit of glory in their number #45 Proton Suprima S.

With the race expected to run for about nine hours and a significant part of the strenuous battle proceeding at night under limited floodlights, driving experience around the challenging 5.543km, 15-turn Formula 1 track will be vital in pushing the race cars to the limit.

image 3On that note, the second Proton Suprima S prepared by Proton R3 Motorsports, driven by the highly experienced trio of Douglas Khoo, Peter Cardosa and Admi Shahrul Ahmad Safian for Team Viper Niza Racing will be a stronger contender in challenging the race favourites, led by Sakura Tedco Racing on paper.

Featuring two of the hottest drivers in this year’s Malaysia Championship Series – Malaysian Mark Darwin and Indonesian Fitra Eri, the team will also be boosted by the performance of their Proton Prevé machine, which has won all the races for this year’s Malaysian Touring Car (MTC) class so far.

Darwin, winner of the MCS Touring Production class last year, has been in unbeatable form in the Proton Prevé after returning to the MTC class, which he won with Eri in 2014 to end Proton R3 Motorsports’ dominance in the category.

Commenting on the race this weekend, Eri said: “Sincerely, I feel a little bit strange, racing the S1K in the middle of the season, but naturally, I am really excited about it. It is exciting going back to the 1.6L car, which I was using when I started my racing career here. It will be great especially teaming up with Mark Darwin – one of the best, if not the best Malaysian driver, with Team Sakura Tedco Racing. We have a strong advantage as the car has been fully tested by Mark in the MCS,” said Eri, who is currently ruling the MCS’s Touring Production Championship by winning all the races.

Despite his optimism, the experienced racing driver was quick to express a note of caution ahead of the competition. “1,000km is a really long race, so strategy will be really important. We will definitely optimise all our experience to achieve our target of winning the S1K this year. Hopefully, our Proton Prevé will stay out of trouble. We aim for an incident-free run and perfect strategy,” Eri said.

image 4Commenting on the announcement of Yokohama as the Official Tyre partner for the S1K, Eri shared, “The tyre regulation change this year will mix the teams’ strength on the field, as shown in the previous MTC race.” In the S1K, the teams will have the Advan Fleva as their tyres for the battle.

Qualifying for the S1K is scheduled for Friday, 2 September, with all drivers required to clock their fastest time for a combined average fastest time, to decide grid positions for the real battle on Saturday. The race will be flagged off at 1230pm on Saturday, 3 September.

This year, the S1K experience has been further opened to a wider audience with its inclusion in Tourism Selangor’s Day Out activity that seeks to raise awareness on weekend activities within the state. Up to 60 participants including bloggers, media, influencers, guests and staff of Tourism Selangor will participate in the half-day activity on 3 September, which includes a behind the scene circuit tour during the S1K and go-karting at the circuit.

Ben Potter

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