Fast friends: How this S’pore team of amateur racers does a 1,000km endurance race
Save for seven professional mechanics, the long-time friends are amateurs with a dream to race. Most of them are Singaporeans.
In the past 12 months, they diligently travelled nearly every month to the track in Sepang, Selangor, to gear up for the gruelling race on Nov 25.
The annual event is open to cars below 1,600cc, with teams racing to complete 1,000km – more than 180 laps – within nine hours.
The rules allow two to four drivers per car. Each driving stint is limited to 75 minutes before a compulsory driver change.
Refuelling team member Ong Wei Han, 37, said: “I volunteered because I just want to see my friends win the race. We do not have many other opportunities to meet and do things together.”
This is the second year that Mr Ong, a bicycle mechanic by profession, is volunteering. Like the others in the pit crew, he paid his own way to be at the Sepang race.
Of the three cars entered by the team, No. 667 (below) – a Suzuki Swift Sport – was expected to put in the strongest performance. It was a proven machine, having taken third position in its class at last year’s event. The other two cars, both Honda Jazzes, made their race debuts in 2023.
While the grid is made up of cars from amateur teams, there are also more professional outfits in the touring car class – the fastest category on track, which allows the most extensive modifications. During qualifying, such cars were able to cover the 5.5km circuit in under 2min 35sec, nearly 10sec ahead of those in the lower categories.
Teams are mostly Malaysian, but drivers also hail from Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Taiwan.
Race flag off was at 12.20pm under a sky that soon turned overcast.
Barely an hour later, the Suzuki Swift Sport – driven by the first of its four drivers, Malaysian Lawrence Lim Wei Jie, 38 – started showing signs of trouble.
By the time the second driver, Mark Ong, 43, got behind the wheel, the Suzuki was losing power and struggling to keep up. The Singaporean stockbroker, pulled into the pits as the engine was clearly overheating.
The race was suspended due to heavy rain.
With the No. 667 Suzuki in the garage, the crew, led by Chester Chua, 44, went about pulling out its engine.
Unfortunately, just as the Swift was ready to rejoin the race, the race official disqualified the car. The replacement engine had not been checked before the event started, which was against the rules.
No. 667 was out – one of 19 that eventually failed to complete the race.
“Well, that’s racing,” said a dejected Chua.
Hondas No. 89 and No. 67 fared better, finishing 14th and 15th out of 27 entries in the class for standard production cars.
The overall winner of the event was the Toyota Yaris entered by Wing Hin Motorsports, a Toyota dealer and the distributor of Toyota Racing Development parts in Malaysia.
Tan Wei Ming, 50, one of Team 667’s four drivers in car No. 89, said: “The real heroes are the mechanics and the pit crew who ensure that the car last the distance… The camaraderie in our team alone would make me keen to do it again in 2024”.