3 August 2018 – Round 1 of the second season of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival got off to a dramatic start with an equal amount of surprises and disappointments on track for the celebrity, amateur and professional drivers competing in the Toyota Vios Challenge.
While some performed unexpectedly well, others had to concede to the challenges of driving on the 1.65km street circuit built against the backdrop of the Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium in Kuala Terengganu.
Actress Diana Danielle raced to victory from pole position in the opening race of Season 2 of the Toyota Vios Challenge, finishing the race in commanding style, 2.4 seconds ahead of fellow celebrities Akim Ahmad who crossed the finish line in second spot and Janna Nick in third place.
“My instructor once said to me that when you’re in a situation such as today (leading the race), you try to get as far away as you can from the car behind and that was precisely what I did,” said the actress who set a scorching pace around the 1.65km track amidst an-incident packed 22-lap race.
“With the safety car coming out halfway into the race that of course puts all my hard work to waste, but that’s part and parcel of what to expect in racing and I just had to get myself together, stay focus and do it all over again. To be honest, I was able to take full advantage of the many incidents that occurred behind me.”
In what was his first ever race, Series newcomer and singer Akim Ahmad kept his cool to take advantage of the incidents unfolding ahead of the field to move his way up to second position despite qualifying seventh.
“I’d really like to thank my driving coach for my performance today. It was something really unexpected and came as a surprise to me (the podium finish), but I just made sure I hit the racing lines where I’m suppose to and kept a consistent pace throughout the race.”
Meanwhile, for third place winner Janna Nick, being on the podium was extremely sweet considering she had been penalized during qualifying which forced her to start from ninth position.
“To be frank, I was very sad and disappointed to have been penalized but halfway into the race, I was screaming all the way as I passed the other drivers (especially Nabil) who were involved in the incidents ahead of the race,” said Janna.
Although he qualified second on the grid and a clear favourite judging from his pace, television host Nabil Ahmad’s race came to an end in the 17th lap when he hit the wall, ironically just after the safety car exited the track due to an earlier incident involving singer Aiman Tino who was also forced into retirement.
“For a moment, I thought that was my chance (when the safety came out) to get ahead of Diana but I pushed too hard, lost grip and went straight into the wall.”
Fourth position went to UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd Deputy Chairman Akio Takeyama while in fifth was singer and YouTube sensation Wany Hasrita.
Celebrity Shawn Lee drove to an outstanding and unexpected first race of the season to claim both pole position and his first race victory after being promoted from the Promotional to the Sporting Class. Finishing in second position was last season’s runner-up Brendon Lim, followed by Kenneth Koh in third.
“I was nervous because it was my first race in the Sporting Class, but I managed to use all of last season’s experience to keep my cool and just drove consistently to the finish,” said Shawn.
For Tedco Racing’s Brendon, the race was a delicate balance between pushing hard and staying away from the concrete barriers.
“I was pushing all the way with a lot of close calls with the walls.”
For Kenneth Koh, third place was a consolation and strong result especially after a very nervous start.
“It was a very nervous first lap and I made a few mistakes. Over the laps, even the rear view mirror inside the car disappeared,” said the Panglima City Racing Team driver who finished 20 seconds adrift of the race winner.
Meanwhile, actor Mohd Shukri Yahaya’s equally stunning drive to qualifying second on the grid came to a premature end just four corners into the first lap.
“I was just too fast coming into the corner, hit the wall and the next thing I knew one of the tyres blew out forcing me into pit,” said Mohd Shukri who was only able to rejoin the race two laps down and crossed the line in 16th and last position.
In fourth position was Ken Foo while fifth overall was Eric Yong.
SUPER SPORTING CLASS
In what was an extremely close race, William Ho, Boy Wong and Kenny Lee finished within a second of each other in a closely-contested battle.
Kenny had claimed pole position for the race but it was his team mate William who made the better start from second on the grid to lead the 22-lap race from start to finish.
“I had a great start and tried to not make any mistakes along the way. I needed to be consistent because the concrete barriers are very unforgiving if you make a mistake,” said William.
As Kenny chased down William with the hope of regaining the lead, he was momentarily distracted by an issue concerning the overhead starting lights. Slowing down in uncertainty, ST Wangan Racing Team’s Boy Wong surged past Kenny for second position.
“The start wasn’t as good as I expected. William had a better launch and before the first corner he was already alongside me and had the inner line into the corner. I tried to catch up but he (William) is not an easy person to catch,” said Kenny.
Finishing fourth was Keifli Othman driving for Laser Motor Racing while rounding up the top five was Mark Darwin of Dream Chaser.
The second and final day of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival and Toyota Vios Challenge kicks off from 9am tomorrow (Saturday 4, August 2018) and entrance is free! A myriad of activities await spectators and fans that include an elaborate display and test drive of Toyota’s fleet of new vehicles, stage games, promotional activities, lucky draws and a Superfans Signing Session for a chance to mingle with the celebrity drivers.