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The Merdeka Millennium Endurance race of Malaysia

In late August each year in Malaysia there's a twelve-hour endurance race for cars based on production cars.  I've had the good fortune to run in the 2003 and 2004 events and am looking forwards to the 2005 event. It's run at the Sepang Formula One track, to the south of Kuala Lumpur.

The car is owned by a local Malaysian chap by the name of Kenny Lee, and he's owned the car since about 1997 odd and raced it quite successfully since then. It's an early 1990's Toyota AE-101 front wheel drive 1.6 litre Corolla. Not normally something that would be considered a performance car as such, but with some suspension mods, engine mods, and other tweaks it turns out to be a reasonably fast car.
There's four classes -
Class O - Open class, where nearly anything can be run.
Class A - Up to two litre cars, based on production cars and with rules limiting engine modifications.
Class B  - Up to 1.8 litre, as above.
Class C - Up to 1.6 litres, as above.
The AE-101 runs a 1587cc 4AG 20 valve engine so we run in Class C.

The preparation for the 2003 race went fairly well. This was the first year that proper racing slicks and so we put a fair bit ot time into testing the car with the new tyres. We tested them for temperature and wear, and found that we'd only need two sets for the rears and four sets for the fronts for the entire twelve hour race.
Kenny also built a good race engine which went very well indeed. Our best time was about two minutes forty-six seconds - 2:46 - in qualifying.

Here's the car the day before the race. These are the same pits that the Formula One cars use. The looks quite standard from the outside, but it has good suspension and excellent brakes. There's not much left in the interior apart from a driver's seat and dashboard. The plastic windows don't open and you can see the large air duct to vent air onto the driver to help keep us cool in the hot Malaysian weather.

The car was looking very strong and all three drivers were looking forwards to race day. However, the day before the race, someone swapped the car for a dud ....
The race engine blew up, so we had to swap it for a standard 4AGE, and so lost a lot of power.

The race also didn't go very well, with the car spending probably two hours or so in total in the pits getting worked on to fix problems. Electrical, fuel, mechanical ..... you name it!  But we persisted and made it to the finishing line at 10pm local.
On the left is how the cars spent far too much time during the race. :(

However, we were the very last car running!
We finished in 52nd place, out of 72 starters so even with the problems we had there was still quite a few people that were worse off that us.

A big thanks to our sponsors -
- Motul Lubricants
- Shi Sei Auto Parts
- Srineela's Restaurant
- Rooke footwear
- Mix Auto Service
... and the team of guys that worked hard to keep the car going all weekend.

We learned a great deal from the previous year so were very determined to do much better in 2004.
And we did!

The preparation was much better, due to the lessons learned from the previous year, and so the car was much more reliable both in the lead-up to the race and during the race. As you can see, the car was also painted yellow and I think it looked pretty darn good indeed. One of our major sponsors was the Malaysian-based company, Lenso Wheels and the car looked great with them on. They had the benefit of being very light as well.


Again the very good race engine blew up the day before race day, during qualifying. This was another big set-back and again another standard 20 valve blacktop 4AGE was fitted at the last minute. The photo on the left is the pits at around 9pm on Friday, only thirteen hours before the race was due to start!
The very depressed gentleman in the back of the photo is Ming, our Chief Mechanic. He the rest of the crew did an absolutely outstanding job swapping everything over in the time we had. The broken race engine is the one sitting on the ground, and it had #2 con-rod let go and parts escaped out each side of the block, one of which punctured the radiator.

With the loss of the race engine, our best lap time dropped from the sparkling 2:40 set by Kenny to 2:47 odd. We think the race engine was about 160hp and so with the standard engine we went back to about 140hp odd, a big loss. The car was also fitted this year with a 6-speed gearbox and the ratios of that gearbox are far more suited to the Sepang track.
We qualified in 25th place outright, 7th in class.
With the big loss of power, we quickly slipped back through the field ....
However, we had nothing to lose and so we drove the car harder and harder, and as other cars dropped out or had problems we gradually crept back up the ladder.
Our highest position during the race was 11th outright and 3rd in class, and although we tried very hard to at least hold that position we slipped back to 14th outright and 4th in class. Most of this was due to a headlight problem in which we lost about three laps - That was roughly how far behind 3rd place we were, so it would have been very close without that relatively minor hiccup.
We were the only 4AGE-powered car left running after the twelve hours.

There was one surprise left in the car after it crossed the finish line - Kenny was driving it, and literally halfway around the cool-down lap after crossing the finish line, one of the half-shafts that goes from the
gearbox to the front wheels came loose and the car lost all drive. Kenny was stuck, but the timing was superb.

A big thanks to our sponsors -
- Lenso Alloy Wheels
- Motul Lubricants
- Ampower Motor Sport
- Shi Sei Auto Parts
- HumanJet
- RedSun Motorsport
... and to the team of guys that worked very hard on the car.

Again our little team made the trek to Sepang in August, again with high hopes.
Part of the preparation for 2005 had the car going to and from the workshop to the track, and the easiest way to do that was to put trade plates on it and simply drive it on the road. That involved me, as I didn't have a Malaysian driver's licence the local police could take off me. So, erm, no, it wasn't exactly legal ....
It was all huge fun, up until it started raining!
So there I was, in heavy traffic in the middle of the city, racing slick tyres with very little grip in the wet, no heater or blower to clean the inside of the windscreen - I ended up taking my t-shirt off to wipe it, and crawling along in 2ng gear to avoid aquaplaning. It really was one of the very worst & most stressful drives I've ever done.
You can see what poor visibility I had!
But despite this and other problems sent to try us, we made it to the grid and this time with a good engine.
The Three Amigos! - Me, Kenny Lee, and Lim Chee Boon with our car just before the race.
The car gave us very little trouble and was very fast up until about three hours in, when something went astray in the rear suspension and the handling degraded badly, with dramatic oversteer on nearly every corner. That lost us nearly ten seconds a lap, but as time went by the handling slowly improved until we were lapping nearly as fast as before.
The next hurdle was when the fan belt let go, and when it did it damaged the brakes. Kenny dragged the car around the last bit of the lap into the pits, where it took the best part of 45 minutes to fix it. We re-entered the race near last place in class.
We all drove as hard as we could for the remaining hours, and managed to get the car up to 7th in class. Before our misfortunes, we were giving 2nd place a bit of a fright ....
Kenny brought the car home at the end of the race, and in the photo on the right some of our pit crew is there to congratulate him.
Kenny drove very well - as he always does - and we couldn't think of too much different we could have done with the preparation. But again we have learned from the race and will be better prepared for next year. We know how to make the car run very fast all day, and look forward to doing that!
A big thanks again to our sponsors -
- Lenso Alloy Wheels
- Motul Lubricants
- Ampower Motor Sport
- Shi Sei Auto Parts
- HumanJet
- RedSun Motorsport
... and to the team of guys that worked very hard on the car.


This year had us with a very strong third driver, Chris O'Shannessy, a highly successful IPRA racer,  also from Australia. I recruited Chris as we knew he's fast and with three good drivers we knew we had a pretty good chance. One change was that the race started at midnight, and finished at midday the next day. So a start in the (relative) cool of the night and finish before the hottest part of the day.
The team gained an important new sponsor, Maximus Racing from Singapore. They're a big TODA dealer in the region. They helped us a great deal to prepare the car's engine and suspension. The car also got painted up in Maximus colours, and it looked great. Kenny build yet another strong engine, and again with a little more power. We found that we could now pretty much hold our own with the VTEC Civics in a straight line. The car was also lighter than last year, so we were rather confident of good speed through out the race.
Frank O'Shannessy, Chris's father, also came over to help out and he did a sterling job. On the left is the drivers and Frank about an hour before the race start. He really helped us improve the preparation of the car, but that effect will be even greater felt in 2007. On the right is the car on the grid, just before the start, with Kenny about to get in and make the first drive. It's the hardest as the traffic is unbelieveable.
Right from the start, Kenny charged through the traffic from our qualifying position of 6th in class and put in some very quick times. After 75 minutes it was Chris's turn and he did exactly the same thing, but now we were in FIRST PLACE! Then it was my turn, and it rained ...  So on with the wets and away I went.
The car was surprisingly fast in the wet, and we were still going well up until when Kenny got back in after me and one of the wheel studs snapped. We didn't have any spare race hubs set up so we had to fit standard upright & hubs, with standard brakes. Even in the wet, the car was very poor at stopping, and we'd also lost a lot of time changing the uprights so we were a fair way back. Then a couple of hours later, I ran out of brakes and had to come back into the pits, but fortunately the crew had fixed the race hubs so they swapped then over again, and we had good brakes. On the right is the still-smoking upright that came off the car.
Another wheel stud broke a couple of hours later, but that one was changed fairly quickly.
In the last four hours of the race, we were last and had little to lose, so we charged as hard as we could. I wish we could have kept that pace throughout the race, as we lapped our entire class seven times!
We still ended up 14th in class but we now know that we really can beat the best in our class. Our preparation for the 2007 event has really taken a new direction, as we have learned a great deal and have made a lot of improvements and although the car will be faster again, it'll be behind the scenes where the greatest progress has been made.
We again hope to run the same three drivers in 2007, and our team is far better prepared for anything that the track can throw at us this time.

A big thanks again to our sponsors -
- Maximus Racing
- Motul Lubricants
- Shi Sei Auto Parts
- HumanJet
- RedSun Motorsport
... and to the team of guys that worked very hard on the car.

Here's a couple of videos I made of a test run in the car - it gets very out of shape due to old tyres - and then qualifying.

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