The Petronas Syntium Team Mercedes SLS GT3, driven by Nobuteru Taniguchi, Masataka Yanagida and Dominic Ang, has won the 2011 Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race (MMER). The sister Gullwing of Tatsuya Kataoka, Fariqe Hairuman and Bernd Schneider finished third. The Mercs sandwiched the Audi R8 trio featuring Le Mans champ Marcel Fassler, Frank Biela and Marco Werner.

Starting from second on the grid during the flag off at noon, Taniguchi/Yanagida/Ang (car 15) has been second best to Kataoka/Hairuman/Schneider (car 28) who started from pole and set the pace with a healthy gap for the first 10 hours. Then disaster struck. With two hours to go on lap 261, the No.28 had a mechanical problem shortly after a routine stop, forcing Schneider to return to the pits.

The Belgian Audi Club’s R8 then took the lead, before SLS No.15 woke up from their slumber to gradually inch their way from fourth position (where they were for most of the race) to second, before stealing the lead at the death. Their cause was also helped when a problem with the Audi forced an unscheduled stop. It was another almost unbelievable scenario for Biela and Werner, who again finished as bridesmaids after suffering disappointment at the hands of Arrows Racing last year.

Taniguchi/Yanagida/Ang stopped the clock at 12:01:57.624 followed by Audi with 12:03:08.113. Both did a record 321 laps, beating the previous record by a whopping six laps. Kataoka/Hairuman/Schneider finished the race six laps behind in 12:02:22.211. The latter eventually claimed third from a Ferrari in the 11th hour after a lengthy time in the pits.

“I am absolutely delighted with this result! It was overall an exciting race with a lot of action on track and a good clean battle with the other competitors. It was also a very closely fought race, one of the closest in many years! For us, this was especially a memorable win, as the team have spent the last 15 months getting this project off the ground,” said David Wong, Team Principal of Petronas Syntium Team.

“We had to two cars for this year’s challenge and the No.28 car was the clear favourite. They were really quick all weekend and had a very good strategy. For the No.15 car our strategy was not to push until the final two hours. We wanted to try to manage the car, protect all the different parts – the drivetrain, transmission and tyres, for example. In the end, the strategy did pay off and I am really happy that we won today,” said Japanese driver Nobuteru Taniguchi.

Click to enlarge results

Petronas’ win was their first GT Class and overall title win since 2009 when Kataoka, M.Orido and Johan Adzmi endured 306 laps of Sepang.

In the Sports Production class, Adrian D’ Silva, Mohd Fahrizal Hasan and Ian Ross Geekie emerged victorious and were seventh overall after completing 277 laps, while ST Powered led by Teh Kian Boon, Aloysius Lek and Desmond Soh romped to victory in the Touring Production doing 274 laps. Their Civic FD2-R was eighth overall.