For the annual MSF Merdeka Enduro this year, Malaysia Speed Festival (MSF) will be partnering with Sepang Circuit (SIC) to run a best of Malaysian four-wheel motorsports two-day racing event on August 29 and 30, making it the biggest four-wheel racing event the country has ever seen.

Historically, the Merdeka Race in Sepang Circuit was originally begun by Proton as the Proton Merdeka 300 KM race. It was first run in 1998 and featured categories suited to the then-popular Proton Putra, Satria and Wira. The race was won by Keifli Othman and Zureen Zulkifli in their Team Genesis World Proton Putra.

Sadly, the 1999 edition of the race was mired in controversy when the electronic timing system failed, with the official results not being able to be tabulated – the results have not been released to this very day. Incidentally, yours truly started his saloon car racing career with Keifli’s reigning team that year, partnering his brother Alfie Othman and taking pole position in Class B, so to have no results is such a shame.

From that initial step, SIC then took the initiative and successfully launched the first ever Merdeka Millennium 12-hour Endurance (MME) race, which ran successfully in 2000 with the late Jimmy Low, Tommy Lee and rally-driver Karamjit Singh in the Petronas EON Racing Team (PERT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution taking overall honours, beating 70 cars to be the first to hold aloft the MME Trophy.

Tommy Lee would go on to win the MME three-times on the trot in 2000, 2001, and 2002, making him not only the most successful racing driver ever in the MME, but the first and only hattrick winner. The first and only team to win the MME back-to-back was Proton R3 Motorsports in 2005 and 2006, led by Tengku Djan Ley.

It must be said that to win the MME – not once but twice in a row – is a huge achievement due to the sheer planning, effort and concentration involved, and it takes complete commitment and understanding from the team to run as a well-oiled machine. These were the hey-days of the MME, when there would be crowds in the grandstands for the race flag-off at midnight, with Datuk Siti Nurhaliza belting out our beloved national anthem.

Unfortunately, the direction of the MME changed in 2009 with the introduction of a spin-off endurance race for smaller capacity vehicles, the Sepang 1000 KM race. The MME was skewed to be the arena of GT cars only, which led to a smaller grid of cars and depleted spectators, eventually becoming the playground of wealthy gentleman racers who were disconnected from the masses of local motorsports fans.

The MME then tied with the Stephane Ratel Organisation (SRO) in 2014 and was renamed the Sepang 12 Hours race, and was moved to the year end – in December – for 2015. Eventually, the event died due to lack of entries, the last race being in 2016. By then it was sadly was just a blot of the big, colourful annual racing event that it used to be.

From 2018, MSF moved its annual Enduro round to Merdeka weekend, reviving the tradition of the Merdeka race as a longer, endurance-type event. It was also the first official race to be run at night under the then-newly-installed floodlights at Sepang Circuit.

Over 200 cars participated in the MSF Merdeka Enduro 2018, and an entertaining race it was – the home-grown two litre turbocharged 4WD Proton Satria of Team Fatboy Racing taking the fight against the powerful Mitsubishi Evo 9 of Team World Pump Racing Thailand Corredor. The battle was tough, but at the flag it was the Honda Civic EK9-K2.4 of Team Evotec Empire-M, with drivers Shazull Hisham and Hafiz Bachok, that took the win.

For 2020, the Merdeka Race is showing signs of becoming the great Malaysian endurance race that it once was, with MSF teaming up with SIC and adding Sepang Circuit’s Malaysia Championship Series (MCS) to the race program. This will result in a two-day race weekend packed with a total of six endurance-type races across multiple category types. An estimated total of 250 cars are set to take part, creating Malaysia’s biggest four-wheel racing event.

Current Covid-19 pandemic conditions and the overriding recovery movement control order (RMCO) means that the event will be held behind closed doors, with no spectators permitted. However, you will be able to catch the excitement live, as the races will be broadcast in real-time on the Facebook pages of both MSF and that of Sepang Circuit, with a delayed telecast on Astro Arena 801/802HD the following week.