MME ENDURANCE WILL BE AN OPEN AFFAIR, SAYS TENGKU DJAN27 August 2004The 2004 Merdeka Millennium Endurance Race, which will be held at Sepang Circuit on Saturday (August 28), will be an open affair and surprises are the name of the game of motor racing, says Lotus driver Tengku Djan Ley.”

We fear nobody in this race and others would also feel the same about the other competitors. This is a 12-hour endurance race where many things can come into the picture,” said Tengku Djan , who would be spearheading the challenge of Lotus Car Owners Club Asia Pacific.

“This is a team effort where alone, I would not be a factor. We fight the battle together as a team and everybody plays a vital role. On that note, we should not be thinking too much of what the others are doing.

A total of 77 cars would be taking part in the fifth edition of the Merdeka Millennium Endurance race including six Lotus machines with Tengku Djan, former Formula Asia driver Denis Lian and 2003 Satria GTI champion Faidzil Alang driving the a specially prepared works team Lotus Exige.

“What is key would be to keep focus on what we are doing to achieve our targets for the race and every team would be driving on their own strategies and their own targets,” said Tengku Djan, who is Head of Proton Motorsports.

It would be Tengku Djan’s third participation in the MME and the previous two had not provided him with good memories. Driving a modified Proton Waja last year, Tengku Djan and his team encountered problems after problems from fuel, a blown up tyre to a broken gearbox forcing an early retirement.

Driving a 1.8 liter Exige with over 190bhp, the superlight 900-plus kilogramme machine, with aerodynamic superiority is specially developed for road racing for Lotus; which effectively puts Tengku Djan and his team as among top contenders in Class A.

“This is a totally new car and currently, there are only two units in the world and both will be here in the Merdeka Millennium Endurance this year. That alone is a major achievement for us at Lotus.

“Unlike some other competitors, our participation would not be purely on racing as this is part of a research and development programme to further build the Lotus Exige,” said Tengku Djan, adding that the other Exige would be driven by a private team from Singapore.

On paper, he said, the race would favour the Lamborghini Murceilago, which would have an experienced trio of Genji Hashimoto, Charles Kwan and Norman Simon behind the steering wheel.

With the car specially prepared for the prestigious 24-Hour Le Mans Endurance race and putting lap times some 15 seconds faster than their fastest rival, it would be a tall order for anybody else to match Lamborghini especially for the Class A Lotus Exige.

“It would be ideal to be driving an open class car with all the modifications. But, we are here to test a machine with the ultimate objective of production cars. Again, we come back to the subject of individual strategies and targets in participating in this MME,” said Tengku Djan.

The competitors would have their free practice tomorrow before going into qualifying on Friday specifically to determine their grid positions as all 77 cars have automatically qualified for the race proper.

The race, offering 12 hours of non-stop racing and plenty of pitsto action, would be held on Saturday with Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy flagging off the competitors at 10am.