After its recent success in the Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race, the Petronas Syntium Team built on that momentum of success by clinching its fifth consecutive overall Super Taikyu championship.
The Petronas Syntium Team's Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 #1 sealed the championship at Suzuka Circuit with a first-place finish in Race 1 and second place in Race 2. The unique format of two one-hour sprint races meant adopting slightly different strategies than usual, but the Petronas Syntium Team managed to claim victory in both races, with the SLS AMG GT3 #1 winning Race 1 and sister car SLS AMG GT3 #28 winning Race 2, their first win of the season.
Powering to their second pole position of the year, the SLS AMG GT3 #28 combo of Tatsuya Kataoka, Jono Lester and Melvin Moh were determined to get a win for their car after coming close to it in previous rounds. Driver line-up for the SLS AMG GT3 #1 was Nobuteru Taniguchi and Dominic Ang for Race 1 and Taniguchi with Fariqe Hairuman for Race 2. In the SLS AMG GT #28, Lester was paired with Kataoka for Race 1 and then with Moh for Race 2.
A post-qualifying three-grid penalty was handed to Lester due to a controversial incident involving another car when he was straightening the SLS AMG GT3 #28 after spinning. That demoted the SLS AMG GT3 #28 to P4 for the starting grid of Race 1, though they retained their pole position for Race 2. That put the SLS AMG GT3 #1 in P1 for Race 1, where Taniguchi quickly pulled away from the start. Lester made it to P2 by the first corner, but was later given a drive-through penalty for a jump start.
Taniguchi was still in the lead at the end of his 20-minute stint when he passed the car over to Ang. However, just as Ang exited the pits, a string of crashes that simultaneously occurred elsewhere on the track brought the yellow flag and the safety car out. Almost immediately, the race was red-flagged and later declared prematurely. Lester was dealt another penalty for passing under the yellow flag, pushing the SLS AMG GT3 #28 down to third place.
Putting that behind them, Lester and Moh were more motivated to take the chequered flag for Race 2. Starting in pole, Lester started well and managed to keep Taniguchi off, until the latter had to hand over the car to Fariqe. Having built a good enough gap from the rest of the field, Moh exited the pits in front of the Threebond Nissan Technical College GT-R GT3 #24 and Fariqe to keep the lead. There, he comfortably maintained it to cross the finish line first.Petronas Syntium Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 28 scores their first win of the season
Commenting on the race, Lester said, "The monkey's off the back! I am elated to take my first victory for the Petronas Syntium Team. After a tough morning, we fought back valiantly and showed our true pace in car #28. It's nice to be finally rewarded for the efforts of the drivers and their crew. I made a clean start this time and I was very conscious of all of the yellow flag zones (to avoid another penalty). I had a good battle with (Nobuteru) Taniguchi and had no real trouble staying in the lead; I just ran a consistent line. Our strategy was to give (Melvin) Moh the best car possible with fresh tyres when he took over for the final third of the race. This proved crucial to extending our lead on car #1 in the closing stages and we are glad we got our first win of the season for this car in Super Taikyu."
Dato' David Wong, team principal of Petronas Syntium Team, added, "Although this weekend's races were short, there was a lot of drama. The most important thing to do is to remain calm and just focus on what's ahead. It was a challenging morning for our SLS AMG GT3 #28 with the penalties but they put Race 1 behind them and drove their hearts out to get that race win they have been wanting. They achieved their goal and our team also inked another milestone with our fifth consecutive Super Taikyu title for our SLS AMG GT3 #1, with one more round to go next month. The Petronas Syntium Team is made of champions and they deserve every bit of it."
Super Taikyu, the professional six-round Japanese endurance race series, will end at Autopolis on 10 — 11 November so stay tuned for more updates!