Six young racers between the ages of 14 and 20 will make their saloon car racing debut in Season 4 of the Toyota Vios Challenge after successfully graduating as pioneers of the Gazoo Racing Young Talent Development Program. Established by UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd, the Gazoo Racing Young Talent Development Program is aimed at nurturing young Malaysian racing talent who are transitioning from the sport of karting and sim-racing to saloon car racing.
The first of its kind to be introduced by any Malaysian automotive company, the program scouted and drafted six young racers (based on their karting and sim-racing accomplishments with the rookies subsequently undergoing both on and off the track training under the stewardship and guidance of experienced instructors.
The six young racers are, sim racers Mika Hakimi, 17 years old and Naquib Azlan, 20 years old; and karters Amer Harris, 17 years old; Jwan Hii, 18 years old; Putera Adam, 14 years old; and Troy Eimann, 16 years old.
“The goal was to not only provide these young racers with a stepping stone into saloon car racing but to ensure that the they are able to make this transition while retaining the level of competitiveness they have each demonstrated in their various fields,” said UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd Deputy Chairman and Gazoo Racing Malaysia’s Chief Motorsport Officer Akio Takeyama.
“The Gazoo Racing philosophy embodies Toyota’s mission to build better products via its involvement in motorsports as much as it places an equal importance on developing its people. This program embraces the same spirit, in this context nurturing potential talent, and at the same time was designed to give Malaysian motorsports a further boost.”
Racers drafted into this programme were put through intensive training both on and off the track under the close guidance of instructors at the Gazoo Racing School and were required to satisfy a number of criteria before being certified competent to race. Instructors included ex-Formula 1 driver Alex Yoong, Malaysia’s drift king and also two-time Toyota Vios Champion Tengku Djan Ley, experienced touring car drives Mark Darwin and Adam Khalid, and the youngest ever Toyota Vios Challenge champion Hayden Haikal. The program also exposed the young racers to all areas critical to making individual a professional driver and included a strict fitness regime, mental skills and being taught in areas of communications, public relations, sponsorship and marketing among others.
The young racers must also fulfill conditions for the issuance of a national competition license (circuit racing) by Malaysia’s motor-racing governing body the Motorsports Association of Malaysia (MAM).
“One of the principal achievements in three seasons of the Toyota Vios Challenge has been its ability to not only attract young racers but giving them an equal opportunity to excel competing alongside more experienced racers,” said Takeyama.
“We noticed a stream of young drivers making their way into the series. Affordability and cost of participation and its one-make race format gave young drivers as well as newcomers a fair and level playing field in terms of racing as they compete against more experienced drivers. This and the combination of racing in a super competitive environment provided racers with an accelerated learning curve.”
The success of the series in nurturing young talent Takeyama said, was underlined with the crowning of 16-year-old Hayden Haikal as the Sporting Class champion in Season 3 and another teenage driver, 18-year-old Bradley Benedict Anthony clinching second place overall in what was only his first year of saloon car racing, both of whom were karters making the transition up to saloon car racing.
“Moving forward, the Toyota Vios Challenge will continue to build on competitive driving with Gazoo Racing expanding its involvement in Malaysian motorsports, including providing a platform for young drivers who are moving up to the higher levels of motor-racing.”
For UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd President Ravindran K., Gazoo Racing and Toyota’s growing presence in Malaysian motorsports has collaboratively helped to develop both the sport and brand as more dynamic, vibrant, emotive and exhilarating entities.
“The commitment from the onset had been to establish an even bigger footprint in Malaysian motorsports and to be in the position to give Malaysian motorsports a further boost. In three seasons we have been able to make an impactful difference by establishing a series that ran on purpose-built street tracks instead of at traditional racing circuits. That successfully attracted not only first time competitors but also amateur and professional racers to the series. We even succeeded in grooming a number of local celebrities who have gone on to becoming competitive racers. With Season 4, we intend to take this one step further by providing young racers with a gateway into the higher levels of motor-racing.”