18 November 2021 –
With the overall championship too close to call, Season 4’s TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Festival and Vios Challenge finale is gearing up to be nothing short of a nail biting race weekend this Saturday and Sunday (20-21 Nov) at the Sepang International Circuit as the series “goes dark” in its first ever night trace weekend!
With no clear favourites after two rounds or four races, there are no less than five contenders that have a shot of becoming the overall champion in each of the four classes of racing being contested which includes the Super Sporting Class for elite and professional drivers; the Sporting Class for amateur gentlemen racers; the Promotional Class for local celebrities; and the Rookie Class for young drivers.
“Season 4 will be remembered as one of the most challenging due to the pandemic, and this may to some extent, have had an impact on the performances of teams and drivers. Immediately after Round 1 in February, the country was forced into a movement control order (MCO) which lasted for eight months, resulting in Round 2 only being able to resume last month (October) and now the finale this weekend,” said UMW Toyota Motor President Ravindran K.
“At the other end of the spectrum, it has also paved the way for even closer competition. No single driver has an unassailable advantage and the champions will have to be decided in the final round. This is a task made even more challenging for the drivers it is the first ever night race for the Vios Challenge!”
Ravindran also thanked the Government, the Ministry of Youth & Sports, the Motorsports Association of Malaysia(MAM) and the Sepang International Circuit for facilitating the reopening of motorsports and putting in place strict measures to prevent any further outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, UMW Toyota Motor has also implemented additional safety measures which include continuing to restrict the race to only critical personnel and guests, and instead broadcasting the weekend’s activities live online for race fans.
“UMW Toyota Motor is committed to the series and we are extremely pleased to be able to conclude the Season amidst these challenging times. The success of the Vios Challenge has largely been fuelled by the support of the participating teams and drivers as well as all race fans, and I would like to convey our utmost appreciation for making it the best and most well accepted racing series in Malaysia.”
With 55 points to his tally, M7 Japan Project Team’s Syafiq Ali finds himself in the best possible position to win this season’s overall Super Sporting Class championship.
“Four points is never a comfortable margin to lead a championship, especially when it will all be decided in the last two races of the season. Anyone in the top five is more than capable of winning the overall championship – that’s just how close it is this season,” said Syafiq who despite having only one race win to his credit this season, has been the more consistent driver with three podium finishes in four races.
After a subdued start to the year, Syafiq redeemed himself with a third place finish and a race win in Round 2 to consolidate his position at the top of the championship standings, just four points ahead of two-time Super Sporting Class champion and race favourite Tengku Djan Ley Tengku Mahaleel. Tengku Djan Ley began the season strong with back to back race wins in Round 1 but endured an unexpectedly challenging second round missing out on a podium finish in both races.
Also in the running for the championship are Laser Motor Racing’s Mark Darwin with 41 points and two points behind him the teenager Hayden Haikal representing SpeedAddix. The dark horse capable of spoiling the victory party for the top four front runners however, is 23 Motors driver Mitchell Cheah who despite being a newcomer to the series drove to a dominant debut in Round 2 with a race victory and a second place finish in the two races. He is currently fifth in the standings with 37 points.
In the Sporting Class, Crestmax Motorsport’s Adam Khalid leads the overall championship with 53 points, 10 points ahead of privateer Eric Yong on 43. In third is Clement Yeo with 36 points followed closely by Haji Sutan Mustaffa Salihin with 33 points, and Aylezo Motorsport’s Mirza Syahmi Mahzan just 1 point adrift with 32 points.
Mathematically, all five drivers still have shot at becoming Season 4’s Sporting Class champion. With two race victories and a third place finish under his belt, Adam will be going out with all guns blazing.
“While it is great to be leading the championship, it will be a mistake to take things for granted when you’re in the company of the most determined racers on the grid. Qualifying well will be critical to give me a great boost in confidence leading up to the race,” said Adam.
In Race 2 of Round 2 held last month, the rain had proven to be the x-factor he needed when he stormed from 15th position on the starting grid to win the 20-lap race.
With two race wins each, actors Zizan Razak and Shukri Yahaya are currently only separated by a single point as the two go head-to-head in the final two races of the season for the chance of being crowned the overall champion of the Promotional Class.
Zizan had taken the first two race victories in Round 1 while Shukri fought back valiantly to win the following two races in Round 2.
“I have to go for the championship win this time. I need to prove to myself that I can do it,” said Shukri who faces the tremendous pressure of being the most senior competitor in the Vios Challenge having competed in all four seasons, and finishing second in the Promotional Class twice.
Lying third with 41 points is singer Khai Bahar, followed by TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Malaysia Chief Motorsports Officer Akio Takeyama on 39, and television host Nabil Ahmad in fifth a further one point behind.
The battle of the Rookies has so far been dominated by simulator racer Naquib Azlan who has amassed three race victories from the four races to build a commanding lead with 74 points in the overall championship.
Second with 59 points is 17-year-old Amer Harris, followed closely by another simulator racer Mika Hakimi on 54 points, while in fourth and fifth are Jwan Hii and Putera Adam with 35 and 20 points respectively.
“The Rookie Class has been the most highly anticipated this season given their reputation as newcomers in racing but all five drivers have produced some surprising results which underlines the credibility and success of the GAZOO Racing Young Talent Development Program,” said TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Malaysia Chief Motorsports Officer Akio Takeyama.
TGR in Sepang 1000KM Race (S1K)
Meanwhile, within days of this weekend’s Vios Challenge finale, Toyota GAZOO Racing Malaysia will also be joining the Sepang 1000KM race. This will include fielding two cars in the MTC Production Class and SP2 production class, in addition to concurrently running the very first Vios Enduro Cup for privateers and dealer teams competing in the SP2 Production Class.
Fighting for outright victory in the MTC Production class will be the trio of Tengku Djan Ley who is also GAZOO Racing Malaysia’s Ambassador, Rookie Class driver Naquib and Takeyama. The SP2 Production Class will see Rookie Class drivers Jwan and Mika partnering our very own Promotional Class driver and actor Zizan Razak.
The Vios Enduro Cup offers a first prize of RM10,000.00 to the privateer and dealers teams, while the second and third place winners stand to win RM8,000.00 and RM6,000.00 respectively. A cash prize of RM4,000.00 and RM2,000.00 awaits the fourth and fifth place finishers.
The 1000km race is expected to take nine hours covering 181 laps of the Sepang International Circuit.
“This will be a great way of completing this year’s racing calendar. Of course, winning the MTC Production Class will certainly be the icing on the cake! We will certainly be gunning for the overall victory but we will be equally happy to finish competitively at the very top,” said Takeyama.
“Joining a prestigious national series event like the S1K is also the start of extending TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Malaysia’s presence in Malaysian motorsports.”
In 11 years that the race has been held since 2009 to 2019, Toyota has won the race twice with private entries behind the wheel of an AE86 in 2010 and a Corolla Altis in 2011.
All the action of Round 3’s Vios Challenge finale will be broadcast live on the UMW Toyota Motor (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd website at www.toyota.com.my, and on the Toyota Malaysia and TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Malaysia Facebook pages. For more information, kindly log on to www.toyota.com.my.