The Honda Malaysia Racing Team (HMRT) recently officially announced its participation in the 2012 Sepang 1000km Endurance Race (S1K), which will be held at the Sepang International Circuit from 6th till 8th December 2012.
After a hiatus of more than a year, this year will see the return of HMRT in the motorsports scene with two specially prepped Honda Jazz. During an exclusive interview with selected motoring media at Honda Malaysia's office in PJ, the team also announced its line-up of five drivers; Tengku Ezan Ley, Mohd Henzee Hamzah, Farris Fauzy, Aaron Lim and Eddie Lew.
The last time we saw HMRT competing in local motorsports with its Honda Civic Type-R was in 2010 during the Merdeka Millennium Endurance Race (MME) when the team won the Touring Production Class and was placed eighth overall. This year, the team has decided to enter the race with a Honda Jazz because the Honda Civic Type-R was discontinued and the Jazz has a lower cubic-capacity which is in-line with the requirement for the S1K race.
To compete in the S1K, both Honda Jazz have been modified with the latest technology in engine and suspension engineering, backed by tuning company MUGEN. To comply with the regulations, the 1.5-litre engine has been upgraded to 1.6-litre and the ECU has been remapped to get the car ready for the rigours of racing. At the time of writing, 20 extra horsepower has been added from the original 118bhp and racing suspension has been fitted for better handling.
The gear-ratios have also been brought closer to suit the characteristics of the Sepang track and this year, the team are using a one-make tyre and they have done extensive spring testing and adjustment to suit the tyres and make to make sure the balance is 50:50.
In terms of preparation for the upcoming race, the team has done some intensive training. This involved tyre changing, time keeping and refuelling, just to name a few. The Jazz has gone through some testing too. According to one of the HMRT drivers, during testing with the actual race-car, the Jazz was very nimble and very easy around corners, but needed more improvement in certain areas. "In terms of overall feel, I am very confident and happy with the result of the shakedown despite being the first time," said Tengku Ezan Ley, one of the HMRT drivers during the interview. "I think we did a high number of laps in the car and it lasted too, with no major issues," he added.
Endurance racing isn't just about testing the durability of the cars but also the endurance of the participants, especially the drivers. Lack of stamina could affect their consistency of timing and concentration hence the drivers underwent some intensive training such going to the gym, swimming and watching their diet to gain stamina for the race.
When asked about their target for the upcoming race, the team responded that after the modifications they have done with the Jazz, they noticed a lot of improvement and are very confident to win the title again. However besides targeting to win the race, HMRT's objective is to foster a greater team spirit and motivation among HMSB's associates to support the local motorsport scene and to initiate growth for local Motorsports talents.