Jono LesterJono Lester has finished in second overall in the 2012 Super Taikyu Endurance Series after another strong showing at the final round of the championship, held at the Autopolis circuit.

In Super Taikyu’s first visit to Autopolis the challenging 4.7km circuit took some adjusting to for the #28 PETRONAS Syntium Team Mercedes- Benz SLS AMG, with the team looking to repeat their race winning performance from Suzuka at the penultimate round.

Despite lacking outright pace in practice, key setup changes overnight allowed Lester and double Super GT500 Champion Masataka Yanagida to take their third pole position of the season in a close fought qualifying session with their team mates and entries from Nissan and Ferrari.

The scheduled three hour race on Sunday was under threat as Sunday dawned with low hanging fog and patches of heavy rain, forcing a late start to the race and the shortening of its overall distance to two hours.

Starting under safety car, it quickly became clear that these slow circulation laps would be the status quo for the majority of the race, and many cars drastically adjusted their driver change and pit stop strategies to suit.

For Lester, a driver change from the race lead after 30 minutes – still under safety car since the race start – handed the wheel to Melvin Moh who negotiated the torrid conditions before handing back to Lester with 50 minutes remaining.

Rejoining at the tail of the field, Lester had two laps ‘under green’ to charge through the field, passing cars at every opportunity to bring himself within sight of the race leaders.

Any chance of challenging for victory, however, was halted when a red flag declared the race with 30 minutes remaining, leaving a dejected Car #28 in 4th place.

“It’s a disappointing way to end the season here in Japan, especially after such a strong qualifying performance,” Lester commented.

“It was clear in the short amount of green flag running that we had, that Melvin demonstrated the wet weather potential of our #28 machine.

“Today had the makings of being a winning day for us once again, but the weather was out of our control and after such tragedy at Suzuka [where a fellow competitor lost his life in an accident] it was probably the right decision to call it off early.”

Fourth position was still enough to comfortably secure Lester second overall in his debut season racing in Japan; a result that he looks to build on in 2013.

“The opportunity given to me by dwA Motorsport this year has been life changing. I’ve grown as a driver and extended my skill set considerably, and had the chance to sample a new culture and work with some great people.

“If we return for 2013, I know we have the package to be champions.”

Lester now returns to New Zealand for the dual finales of the V8 SuperTourers and the South Island Endurance Series, both held at Ruapuna on November 23-24.

Jono Lester is supported in the 2012 Super Taikyu Endurance Series by dwA Motorsports, Opti-Flex, R Redpath Limited, Trinity Media Group, CRC motornews.co.nz, Mako Networks, Vortex Racewear, iSign it, ThrillCapital, Sony New Zealand and Webdesign.

Photo by PETRONAS Syntium Team.