Partnering Japan GT driver Hiroki Katoh and youngster Farriz Fauzy, their victory was made even more sensational as th e unmodified 2000cc Honda Civic I-Vtec and fully prepared by a Malaysian team upstaged the cars in the open class including a couple of Porsche GT3 Cup machines and a Lamborghini Murceilago R-GT in the 12-hour race.
Happy, the Johor-born Eddie, who is a salesman by profession, said that his mission in racing is still far from fulfilled until he made a mark in the international scene. “Hopefully, this win at the MME would open new doors for me especially an opportunity to race in Japan,” said the 31-year old father of two, who admits that he was a late starter in the profession.
With four last-minute withdrawals, a total of 73 cars competed in the fifth edition of the Merdeka Millennium Endurance Race, which was flagged off by Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy at 10am yesterday (Saturday, August 28, 2004).
Apart from the best Malaysian drivers, the 12-hour endurance race also attracted top drivers from Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Germany and Australia including those who had experienced competing in the Japan GT Championship, Formula Nippon, Formula Asia, Formula BMW Asia and Formula 2000.
“It has always been my dream to compete in the international championships overseas since I started racing 11 years ago. With limited budget, it has always been hard for me,” said Eddie, who said that they were not supposed to win the overall title. “With the Lamborghini around, I must say that we were lucky to win. The Lamborghini was simply no match for any of us. But, as a race driver, I always believe that anything is possible in racing. Especially, the possibility of winning,” said Eddie.
Driving the superfast 550bhp Murceilago and a solid line-up of Genji Hashimoto, Charles Kwan and Norman Simon, the Lamborghini was overwhelming favourites to cruise for the overall title. After the seventh hour, they were leading by 20 laps over the second-placed Eddie and the Honda Malaysia Racing Team. In the 180th lap, the rear differential arm, which connects the gearbox and the wheels axel broke. “It was unfortunate; but in motor racing such things do happen,” said Hashimoto, adding that the affected mechanical parts and technical data on the race would be sent to Lamborghini in Germany for analysis.
It was for a straight three consecutive years that Hashimoto and his Amprex Motorsports Team had failed to finish the 12-hour Merdeka Millennium Endurance Race while leading and with the comfort of a huge gap over their rivals. For three-time winner Tommy Lee, the 2004 event provided a pleasant ending as compared to his nightmarish 2003 race though it was not as fantastic as in 2000, 2001 and 2002 that he had hoped for. Tommy and his Japanese partners Kunimitsu Takahashi and Hidetoshi Mitsusada finished third overall and also third in Class A for the unmodified cars over 1900cc in the second Honda Malaysia Racing machine. “Obviously, I am happy with the success of the Honda Malaysia Racing Team especially to win the overall title. The Merdeka Millennium Endurance race is all about team effort and the team had performed splendidly,” said Tommy.
“But, at least it is far better than last year when I had to run around the track for fuel. Then, the team also had a blown up tyre and finally to cap a truly miserable day, our gearbox broke and out we go,” said Tommy. Obviously, they all agreed that anything can happen in motor racing especially in a 12-hour Merdeka Millennium Endurance race.