Kiwi endurance driver Jono Lester has narrowly missed out on winning the 2013 Super Taikyu Series by just 6.5 points, after a podium finish at the final round of the Championship at Autopolis, Japan.
Needing a race win to secure his maiden title victory, 23-year old Takapuna resident Lester was confident of his chances alongside Super GT Champion Tatsuya Kataoka (JAP) and Fariqe Hairuman (MAL) in the PETRONAS Syntium Team Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 #28.
Practice and qualifying were held in beautiful autumn conditions at the mountainous Fukuoka circuit, which is situated high above sea level on Kyushu Island.
Securing third on the grid in qualifying, it was clear of the strength of the Nissan GT-R contingent who locked out the front row of the grid.
Alongside Lester in fourth were his title rivals and team mates Dominic Ang and Melvin Moh in the sister Team PST machine, with strong performances also from Audi, Porsche and BMW close in behind.
In a case of déjà vu, the team awoke to heavy rain and thick, low hanging fog on Sunday, much like in 2012 where the final round of the championship was abandoned due to dangerous weather.
Despite delays, the race was reduced to two hours and eventually got underway behind the safety car. Strategy saw Kataoka and Hairuman both pit immediately, meaning Lester would complete the race ‘solo’ in the horrid conditions.
When green flag running commenced, it became clear of the strength of the Nissan GT-Rs who galloped away at the head of the field. Lester was left to hold down the final podium spot, and finished in third position.
With car #1 finishing in fifth, the title was secured by just 6.5 points over the #28 of Lester, Kataoka and Hairuman.
“It hurts to come this close and fall short, but we didn’t deserve to win the race today,” Lester admitted.
“The Nissans didn’t put a foot wrong. Their pace was incredible and they were deserved victors. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved this season despite a few hiccups at Motegi and Fuji. In hindsight, those two mechanical incidents cost us dearly.”
In an impressive record in Japan’s Super Taikyu Series, the PETRONAS Syntium Team wrapped up their sixth consecutive championship at Autopolis and another 1-2 for good measure.
“It really is an impressive feat for the team to have achieved such a run of success, and every member of the team can be proud of playing a part in it.
“Dato’ David Wong has been a visionary of Asian motor racing with an unparalleled record and he in particular should be proud. I thank him for the opportunities he’s presented me and look forward to many more successful seasons together.”
Jono Lester would like to extend a special thank you to his key partners for their support in 2013, 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.
With the 2013 season now drawing to a close, Lester is looking ahead to next year with an exciting calendar of motor racing planned.
More details about Jono and his career can be found at www.jonolester.com, or by following ‘Jono Lester’ on Facebook, @jonolester on Twitter and @jono_lester on Instagram. 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.