An iron-man effort by Niccolo Canepa carried the #7 YART Yamaha to victory in a rain-shortened inaugural Sepang 8 Hours, round two of the FIM Endurance World Championship.

MotoGP star Franco Morbidelli, local hero Hafizh Syahrin and WorldSBK ace Michael van der Mark began the race from pole position for the home Yamaha Sepang team, courtesy of a hot lap by the Italian on Thursday.

But their victory hopes came to an early end when the Dutchman was hit by the TSR Honda of Mike di Meglio as they battled for the lead.

"I don’t know what to say," commented van der Mark. "It was a stupid move. It's an endurance race, I don’t know why he was in such a rush [to pass]."

"He went wide, I tried to pass. He saw me, but closed [the line] and touched my front wheel," explained di Meglio.

The race had been due to start at 1pm but soaking conditions delayed the action until 3pm, when riders took to the track behind a Safety Car.

It soon proved unsafe, prompting the race to be 'suspended' and riders sent back to the pits. "I've been racing for 25 years and I've never been on a track that wet," said James Ellison.

While the Sepang circuit is renowned for brief-but-heavy downpours, the heavy rain kept falling for hour after hour.

Conditions finally improved enough for a second race start, again behind a Safety Car, at 6pm.

This time the car pulled in after several laps, releasing van der Mark into an early lead, although Mike di Meglio then surprised by catching and passing the Dutchman.

van der Mark shadowed his opponent before pulling alongside, only for disaster to strike (at 6:30pm) when di Meglio collided with van der Mark after the Dutchman bobbled slightly on entry to the final hairpin.

Both riders went down, with the #21 being pitched into a spectacular highside.

di Meglio quickly re-mounted and regained the lead, while van der Mark got his damaged Yamaha (prepared by YART and fitted with Bridgestone tyres) back to the pits.

van der Mark later re-joined 3 laps down in 44th place, meaning the team's victory hopes were over before Morbidelli and Syahrin had chance to complete a race lap.

Nonetheless, the Sepang squad fought all the way up to seventh by the finish, Morbidelli setting the fastest lap of the race on his EWC debut to further underline what might have been.

The #5 TSR Honda kept the lead until di Meglio fell for a second time just before 8pm, handing the advantage to the YART Yamaha of former MotoGP rider Canepa, who rode all of the race for the #7 squad.

"I had an early problem and did one hour without electronics - no traction control or quickshift - before I could reset the bike!" Canepa revealed. "Then every time I stopped in the pits the team manager asked me if I wanted to continue, so I said 'OK'!"

After starring with second place in qualifying, Moto2's Somkiat Chantra celebrated a runner-up finish as part of Honda Asia. Third place went to the #37 BMW Endurance team. 

With the original 9pm finish still being honoured, the racing action was cut from 8 to 3 Hours, although official timing counted from the first Safety Car start for a total of almost 6 hours.

The final two hours of the race took place on a slowly drying track, under floodlights.

Syahrin is taking part in Sunday's FIA WTCR races at Sepang, while Morbidelli will return to Malaysian for the start of 2020 MotoGP testing in February.

CLICK HERE for the full race results...