This year’s Sepang 1000km Endurance Race (S1K) was exciting, euphoric and emotional on many levels. It was my third time competing in this awesome endurance race event and was able to gain many new experiences.
Having successfully stood on the top spot of the podium to take home the championship trophy from my 2016 race (Independent Class); followed by a painful DNF from my 2018 race due to an engine failure (complete with flames and fire); this year’s 2022 race was yet another memorable one.
It was my first time racing with Team333, a privateer team consisting of veteran racer James Ling (who has been competing since the 1990s), first-timer Calvin Chan (who raced motorcycles in the 1990s), both of whom are Singaporeans, as well as fellow Hong Kong driver Kenneth Wong (who has competed in four Sepang1000km races). We were led by veteran Tony Chooi as team manager, with a support crew from renowned S&D Motorsports helmed by Harry Chai.
It was also my first time racing in a Proton Satria Neo (the only Proton competing, the oldest car on track), built by well known Johorian Ah Keong. While we knew from the beginning that it was going to be a monumental challenge against a field of newer and faster cars from Honda, Toyota and Suzuki, the Proton held up exceptionally well!
I managed to clock the fastest time for the team during both Practice and Qualifying sessions (2:49.9), securing us a spot on the 5th row of the starting grid (10th in the MTC class) (10th overall out of 68 cars).
During our team discussion after the Qualifying Session, I was nominated by the team to start the race, which was yet another new experience for me. Having competed in multiple (FIA/ASN sanctioned) rounds of the Singapore Touring Car Championship, Malaysian Championship Series, as well as the aforementioned Sepang 1000km Endurance Races, this was the first time I was starting a race from a Rolling Start procedure.
As the race was postponed from Saturday to Sunday (20th November) due to the nation’s General Elections, all teams were allocated a 30-minutes warm up session prior to the start, after the Qualifying Sessions on Friday. I was sent out into the waning thunderstorm for the final pre-race checks, ensuring that the car was performing and behaving properly.
The four of us were committed to driving two stints each, with me deployed for the 1st & 5th stints (maxing out both at 72mins/stint). Despite the early morning thunderstorm that completely drenched the circuit, by the time we formed up on the starting grid, it had died down to a light drizzle. Thankfully, the Rolling Start procedures for both classes (MTC and SP2) went off without incidents, while the circuit remained damp for most of the first hour.
I was able to maintain relatively consistent lap times & even managed to set the fastest race pace for the team (2:50.2) during my 1st stint. While we did endure quite a few incidents such as my teammates coming into contact with another car; our rear-view mirror dropping off the windscreen; spinning out into the gravel; suffering an explosive puncture; to name a few… as well as Safety Car procedures, we were able to persevere for 8hrs till the last lap.
Unfortunately for us, the engine gave way on the very FINAL lap (we were 9th in class and 34th overall), plummeting us down the standings which eventually resulted in a DNF. It was an emotional end for all of us, drivers and crew alike, considering the resources, labour and sacrifices poured into what many considers to be the ‘last time a Proton Satria Neo competes at this level of racing’. Having said that, the team was in good spirits and while we did not bring home any trophies, we brought back valuable lessons and more importantly, fantastic memories!
We learn from experience & sometimes, the more painful an experience the better the lesson. In our hearts, there are no doubts that we did our best given the circumstances. I am extremely thankful for the privilege to have been a part of Team333, thoroughly humbled by the immense efforts from my teammates and support crew; appreciative for another well organized race by the Sepang Circuit management and officials; but most importantly, grateful to my family and friends who were watching and cheering from all corners of the world!
I’ll be back! 🏁
More photos and videos below!
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