Asia LeMans Finale : Homecoming

“Hujan batu di negeri sendiri, hujan emas di negeri orang; lebih baik di negeri sendiri”

When it was first announced that SIC, under its own talent development program, was set to sponsor our 3 young drivers – Afiq Yazid, Jazeman Jaafar and Weiron Tan to race in Asian Le Mans series, we couldn’t be more excited! For the past few rounds of international-grade racing series, we’ve had the privilege of watching and covering through our lenses, a combo that we have always dreamt to have; an all-Malaysian team racing in the prestigious race series. Despite the racing team not being Malaysian, putting the trio together to make an all-Malaysian driver line up is a good start into one day achieving that dream.

We have been following the racing careers of these 3 drivers (especially Afiq Yazid), and we are confident that they are capable of bringing and upholding our nation’s name to a higher degree in global motorsport arena. Between them, numerous podiums have been scored in multiple international racing series all over the world, although only Weiron Tan have had a brief experience with LMP3 cars in previous seasons. For Afiq especially, the Buriram round was his first outing with the car and against all odds, the team brought home the pole and crossing the finishing line after 4 gruesome hours of endurance racing.

Despite the sweet experience at Buriram, it never took away the trio’s focus as the Sepang round would be more challenging for a number of reasons. Firstly, Sepang is their home turf, and naturally people would expect them to succeed, and having to defend the title, no less than 100% effort and focus were to be given in all their might. Secondly, the LMP3 chassis that the team is running is a complete stranger to Sepang, hence they are at a disadvantage in terms of technical data to achieve the perfect setup. And lastly, the team endured the uncertainty of tyre compound issue that prevented them from having a smooth session all day on Saturday.

Free practice 1 and 2 saw the team’s struggle to return with that perfect run when two of their tyres delaminated for unknown reason in 2 different sessions. The long break between FP2 and Qualifying gave the team enough time to rectify the issue… or so they thought. Much to their surprise and disappointment, the tyre delaminated once again causing them to pit-in early and unwillingly repositioned the team to P4 on the grid for the race. Word from the team’s sister car, Car #8 revealed that they had the same problem and soon enough, another car from another team reported to have the same problem as well. Quick investigation was called and it was decided that the culprit of the problem was the tyre after all. The compound was too soft and not ideal for Sepang’s demanding heat and layout; so a ruling was made allowing every team to run tyres from Buriram round. By the end of that Saturday, not a single smile was spotted in the team’s pit as everyone was so bummed up with the results. The last minute ruling, which came with an unscheduled allocation of 45 minutes tyre test on Sunday really turned the atmosphere around when Jazeman clocked-in the second fastest time in LMP2 category.

12:30PM, Sunday – the car rolled out to the grid in presence of the Johor Royal entourage, delivering a much needed moral boost for the drivers, especially Jazeman, whom was set to drive first and setting the pace for the team. As soon as the light goes off, car #7 sprinted off from P4 and by the first corner, Jazeman had already set the car to P2 right behind their sister car. It didn’t take long for him to pass and lead the race with comfortable margin of 9 seconds towards the end of the first hour of the race.

Just when the team thought they could have a pleasant pit stop margin, safety car was called out on track slowing down the race pace and allowing other cars to close the gap down to 1sec when the safety car went back in. Afiq’s stint didn’t kick-off too convincingly when he accidentally slipped some wheel spin off the pits and landed the team a 10-sec penalty, further slowing down the team’s pace. Afiq’s aggressive driving however recovered their position and podium was in sight for the trio, leaving an easy drive to the finish line for Weiron’s stint. When its time for Weiron to take charge, car #33 was leading comfortably followed by car #8 and he is in 3rd. Another safety car outing gave Weiron some window to catch up to the race leader and as soon as it went back in, the race leader, car #33 spun at T9 giving way to car #8 and #7 to pass with ease. At this moment, everyone was hoping nothing else could go wrong and it would be another sweet experience for the team if car #8 and #7 finishes P1 and P2 but clearly, it would be a fairy tale ending for all.

With just 14 minutes left on the clock, Weiron pitted in and the car suddenly shut off on its own. By now, any normal guy would have just thrown some punches on the wall and call it quits, but not this team’s engineers. The car was jacked and pushed in the garage and every resources available were focused in getting the engine to crank alive again and to ensure that #7 crossed that finishing line. To be honest, at that moment, no one would have hoped for the car to score any podium anymore when in every passing minute, other rivals lapped the car continuously. Thus, the main goal quickly shifted to geting the car to finish the race instead. Halfway through the race leader’s final lap, the crews pushed the car out again and Weiron cranked it a few times before it finally alive and blasted to finish the race. Surely this isn’t how the team imagined they would finish the season but thats the brutal reality of an endurance race, or any race for that matter. We were gutted that they didn’t get the results they were hoping for but we are still proud and happy for our other national heros Nabil Jeffry in car #33 for finishing 3rd in LMP2 class and Alif Hamdan for winning the GT Cup category.

In conjunction with Sepang International Circuit and final round of the Asian Le Mans series, the #NoEqualTeam and TGTR joint forces and executed a little event called Homecoming ’18, in support of our national heroes racing in the series. This of course includes Alif Hamdan in GT Cup category, Mitch Gilbert in GT category, Dominic Ang and Douglas Khoo in LMP3 category and Nabil Jeffry in LMP2 category. Traditionally, this kind of series doesn’t get much exposure from our local crowds but through our brief effort, we hope to bring some lights into this series and to our drivers especially. We will always support our racers no matter what series and categories they are racing in. Our national heroes, our pride.

Full Gallery : Asia LeMans Finale

#NoEqual #LayanEverything #SepangHomecoming