[UPDATE: Full race result now included.]

By the fourth hour, the grandstand is barren save for a few bored-looking souls. The racing is not coming hard and fast either. Some of the teams have already thrown in their towels; others had to take unwanted extended breaks in the pits. And one such car was HMRT’s Car 17.

It is the second time the car had to be parked inside the garage. Which is a pity because Car 17 started in fourth and had been challenging for a top-three finish. The first stop was caused by a recalcitrant starter. Now, it is the fuel line that’s losing laps for the car. To fix the car, the team has caught a couple of Freeds to harvest its parts for the stricken Jazz. After all, it is for the greater good.

At the same time, Car 26 is putting in a strong pace, lap after lap. They started seventh on the grid and now running strong in sixth. Everything is going according to plan in spite of the relentless beating by the harsh sun. The strategy now is to conserve the engine and not stress it out too much. It is going to be later, when the ambient temperature has cooled, that Car 26 will push hard once again.

Part of the strategy also involved quick pit stops. The team have trained day and night, drilled the necessary sequence until it became as natural as breathing. The team can now change drivers, swap tyres and refuel less than 43 seconds; the average time for the teams is approximately 50 seconds.

Car 17 rejoins the race somewhere long the line. And immediately let loose its speed as it overtakes one car after the other, effectively gaining back precious laps. One can only wonder the possibility of a podium if reliability was not an issue.

In the end, the podium eludes the team although having both cars crossing the chequered flag is in itself a victory. Given the circumstances, Car 17 finishes last in 20th and 41 laps down from the leader. Car 26 secures fifth spot and finishes four laps down from the leader. In total, there were 30 cars that started the Sepang 1,000 km Endurance Race, only 20 cars return home.

Tengku Ezan of Car 26 recalls the race: “It was a challenging race as it was really hot during the day and we had some issues with the brakes that slowed us down. We did make a slight mistake towards the end that cost us a bit of time, had some body damage and we dropped from fourth to fifth.”

“After testing and qualifying, we knew the car had potential to win the race. We proved that the car had pace over a long run. It is disappointing when the car had a second stint, but I guess that is racing,” says Aaron Lim of Car 17. He continued, “We have one of the fastest lap time, if not the fastest. If the problem had not happened, I think we have a good chance to win the race for sure. Our strategy was good, but then again, until we do it, it is difficult to say.”

Akkbar Danial, Team Director of Honda Malaysia Racing Team, is proud of the achievement, “This is our S1K debut race and I am very happy with the results. We managed to finish the race with both cars, and Car 26 finished fifth. It was well above our expectations.”

What is next for the team? Will they be participating in next year’s Sepang 1,000 km Endurance Race? Ezan and Aaron are looking forward to next year’s race, especially that they both understand the car and how it performs. So, a podium-finish, maybe?

As requested, here’s the full race result: