The 2021 Sepang 1000KM is truly one for the books. After the 2020 edition was cancelled due to the pandemic, the much-awaited local endurance race returns with drama that you will only see in the movies. And after countless battles, intense moments and heartbreaks, it was the privateer #7 Suzuki Swift of Mohd Nasri Bin Md Said, Leona Chin Lywei, Tham Yik Choon and Akina Teo who stood among the rest and took the win in this iconic endurance race.
39 Cars Aiming for the Top Spot
But the journey to the podium was nothing straight forward as it was filled with challenges both on and off the track for the competitors. After the Friday qualifying session had set the grid, the field of 39 cars got a great getaway on 11am Saturday to start the 2021 Sepang 1000KM.
The #100 Hi-Rev Dream Chaser of Mitchell Cheah and Brendan Anthony started from pole and got a great start. However, this was not a one horse race as outfits like Wing Hin Motorsport was present in full force to claim the top spots as well.
The #39 Toyota Yaris driven by Hayden Haikal-Timothy Yeo, #38 Vios of Boy Wong-Dannies Ng and the #37 Vios of Tengku Djan-Naquib Azlan-Akio Takeyama were always within the top 5 positions, shuffling positions throughout the race within the first few hours. Also involved in the scrap for the top was the #15 Honda Jazz, as well as the #7 Suzuki Swift.
While there were no clear leaders in the early stages of the race, we started to see those with better pace and strategy keeping a longer hold on the lead 150 laps in. The #100 Swift was still the race leader, but not completely safe from the #37 Vios who was trailing not far behind. The #39 Yaris was running in third place, and an SP2 of #98 managed to slip in between the M-Production cars to be in fourth.
With 26 laps to go, the #37 Vios still had the fighting chance to chase down the leader and possibly take home the win – that was until disaster struck. As Akio was negotiating Turn 13, the wheel nuts of the front left tire just sheared off, sending the tire flying across the track, and the Vios stranded at Turn 14. Despite showing promising pace, the #37 Vios’ Sepang 1000KM outing was brought to a disappointing end.
Dashed Dreams for Dream Chaser
But the drama was far from over as this time, it was the turn for the race leader to swallow the bitter pill. It could have been a fairy tale ending for the #100 Swift to lead the race from start to finish but after 170 laps of racing, smoke started coming out from the car. This had forced them to pit and rectify the issue, but unfortunately, the car just had enough. On Lap 176, the gearbox just gave up on the main straight, signalling the end of the #100 S1K bid.
With two of the main rivals out of the race, all Hayden and Timothy needed to do now was to bring the car across the finish line and take the win. Since the nearest rival was four laps behind, it was an easy cruise to the finish line for the duo as they take the checkered flag, marking the end of the Sepang 1000KM endurance race!
Having started in from 8th on the grid, the #7 Swift spent most of the race just outside the podium spot. However, by staying out of trouble and keeping a consistent pace, they were able to perform a clean race to bring home a satisfying second place finish. Also benefitting from the rivals’ retirement coupled with their clean drive was the #15 Jazz of Yee Kok Jun-Mah Siew Chean-Foo Yung Chieh-Aaron Lim Say Joon who finished in third place.
The Stock Production category had their own mix of drama as well, where class leader #98 Jazz of Eddie Lew and William Ho suffered a heartbreaking suspension failure with only four laps left in the race. The #339 Jazz of Lai Wee Sing and Damien Wong then took the lead and was crowned as the class winner.
It was a joyful moment for R Engineering as well where sister car #25 of Putera Adam and Chiow Teck Song took second place, followed by #46 Jazz of Baron Sim, Pee Sau Fan, and Ian Wong Jien Sern in third.
In the Vios Enduro Cup, Aylezo Motorsports performed an impressive feat where their #97 and #95 Vios secured a 1-2 finish. By keeping their cars factory standard for reliability, avoiding any mistakes, and focusing on consistency, the trio of Zen Low, Mirza Syahmi and Aiman Haziq completed 166 laps to take the win. The #95 of Dato Danny Yip, Kenneth Teh and Chang Choon Ming finished two laps behind.
“The end result speaks for itself. We have zero penalty, zero track infringement, zero mechanical issues and drivers delivered 99% consistency plus of course some good luck and it all turn up smooth and well for our team to finished P1 and P2,” said Zen.
The #23 23 Motors Vios of Al-Farouk and Abdull Miqail took third place and the fourth place finish went to the #18 Toyotsu Racing of Liew Jo Choon and Tan Chan Wei.
Considering how challenging the race was, it was an emotional moment for Zizan Razak as his #36 Vios finished fifth in class. He shared the race seat with the talented TGR Rookies of Jwan Hii and Mika Hakimi.
End of the race, or was it?
With the wave of the checkered flag, winners announced, and trophies handed out, most of us thought that the Sepang 1000KM was a wrap. But to those tuning into the live stream, a whiff of another drama was in the air where the commentator mentioned that car #39, which was the race winner, was being investigated by race control under total driving time with the decision to be made after the race by the stewards.
This definitely sounded like trouble and it was the hope of everyone in Wing Hin that they would be able to keep the win. Unfortunately for #39, their title as the 2021 Sepang 1000KM champions did not stay for long as the worst case scenario had came true.
Due to a breech in the total driving time, car #39 was slapped with a penalty based on Article 18.4 and Article 16.13. This had taken out 5 laps + 55 seconds from their total race time which had totalled down to 176 laps, demoting them to fourth overall, and third in M-Production.
Article 18.4 – If a drive-through cannot be affected when the race is nearing the end, a 1-minute penalty will be added to the overall time achieved by the team
Article 16.13 – If the stop/go penalty cannot be imposed during the race, the time will be added to the overall time of the team.
This means that with 178 laps completed, the title of the 2021 Sepang 1000KM champion effectively went to the privateer entry of #7 Suzuki Swift. Also being promoted to second place in the classification was the #15 Tedco Racing Jazz, and finishing third overall was the S-Production car of #339 R Engineering HMRT Honda Jazz.
“Thanks to the fellow sponsors and the team for the arrangements of S1K. We are happy that we won the race. The dramatic race. Lots of challenges from it, and surely we will cherish this moment,” said Leona Chin.
The S-Production champion, Lai Wee Sing and Calvin Wong commented, “We did a pretty well overall race, and we won the race with the luck was on our side. Overall, the team did a good job to keep all the strategy happen.”