Kiwi endurance driver Jono Lester has been unable to translate a front row start into victory in the 2013 12-hour Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race (MMER) at Sepang International Circuit, retiring from the race after nine hours.
Driving the PETRONAS Syntium Team SLS AMG GT3 #1, Lester was paired for the race with Mercedes-Benz AMG Brand Ambassador Bernd Schneider and regular Super Taikyu team mate Dominic Ang.
The trio completed a PST front row lockout in qualifying behind the all-German line up of Thomas Jaeger, Luca Ludwig and Lucas Wolf in #28, and led the field away at the stroke of midnight to battle through the early hours of the race and sit in third position after four hours.
Suddenly and in the space of just five laps, both PST machines were in trouble with the #28 car retiring with an engine failure, and Lester’s #1 pitting with Schneider at the wheel with a broken fan belt.
Losing 28 laps repairing the car, Lester rejoined the field in 21st place and brought the car up to 12th in his second stint, clawing back two laps on the race leading AF Corse Ferrari in the process.
Ang and Schneider further improved the position to ninth overall, before the car was retired after nine hours with an expired engine, succumbing to internal damage from the earlier fan belt incident.
Lester remained upbeat despite the disappointment of the result:
“The spirit of the PETRONAS Syntium Team shone through today and I’m proud of what the team achieved in times of such adversity,” he said.
“We had many challenges thrown at us but never gave up. We knew after the fan belt issue that we were out of contention, but with the pressure off we did our best to put on a show for the local fans with some exciting battles and fast pace in the resurgent #1 machine.”
“It would have been a close fought battle for the win, regardless. Our team mates (#28) and the Ferraris were very fast and we expected a race-long battle with them. Today wasn’t our day but we will be back even stronger in 2014.”
Elsewhere in Japan, Lester’s regular Super Taikyu SLS AMG GT3 #28 took victory in the Okayama 3 Hour Super Taikyu Endurance race, after qualifying in second position and battling through horrible weather conditions to take a hard fought victory from Nissan and the sister SLS AMG GT3 #1.
“It certainly eases the pain of the race today to know that Fariqe [Hairuman] and TK [Tatsuya Kataoka] had such a strong result in Japan. On corrected score [taking into account the ‘drop your worst round’ points format] we are now back in the lead of the Championship, which makes the prospect of Suzuka all the more exciting!”
Lester’s next outing is the penultimate round of the 2013 Super Taikyu Series at Suzuka on September 20-21. The sprint format event stages three 40-minute, single driver races in support of the World Touring Car Championship.
Lester is supported throughout the 2013 season by key partners including Vortex Racewear, Lero Global, R Redpath Limited, Opti-Flex, Fastway Couriers, Robbie Bird Wines, CRC MotorNews.co.nz, Mako Networks, iSign it, Sony New Zealand, Sony Xplod, ThrillPledge and Webdesign.
More details about Jono and his season can be found at www.jonolester.com, or by following ‘Jono Lester’ on Facebook or @jonolester on Twitter. Join the conversation using the hashtag #flyingkiwi on social media platforms.
Follow the action from your smartphone by downloading the free Jono Lester app, simply by visiting http://jonolester.appguppy.com from your iPhone or Android device.
Photo by PETRONAS Syntium Team.