Race 1 of Season 4’s Vios Challenge could not have gotten off to a more symbolic start with the running of the race to the results greatly underlining Toyota’s desire of continuously pushing the limits in so many ways.
Reviving its racing activities after a year of absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first of the two-day race weekend at the Sepang International Circuit produced a great degree of success, from Toyota’s bold decision to introduce a Rookie Class that fielded five graduates of its Gazoo Racing Young Drivers Development Program, an increase in the number and quality of racers competing, to the outstanding debut by newcomer celebrities competing in the Promotional Class of the Vios Challenge.
“This is our fourth season organizing the Vios Challenge and the Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival, and we constantly challenge ourselves to improve and push the limits not only in terms of our vehicles but also what the brand represents,” said Gazoo Racing Malaysia’s Chief Motorsport Officer Akio Takeyama.
“We are very much committed to continuing with this kind of activities moving forward and you can expect an even better performance from Toyota, our vehicles, the activities we undertake and from all the drivers who continue to support in making the Vios Challenge a huge success.”
Takeyama too, found himself on the winner’s podium after finishing second position in the battle of the celebrities in the Promotional Class where Vios Challenge debutante Zizan Razak stormed to victory in a wet race, with fellow newcomer Ahirene Ahirudin coming in third place.
Actor Shukri Yahaya had earlier shot into the lead from pole position with TV presenter Nabil Ahmad in second and Zizan in third position. An early mistake however, sent Nabil out of contention for a podium finish which paved the way for a two-car battle for the lead between
Shukri and Zizan. The latter eventually inherited the lead as early as the third lap with a brilliant overtaking move. “Because this was my first race, I was honestly just out to gain experience. The rain however, worked in my favour. I enjoy driving in the wet,” said Zizan.Starting the race from sixth position, TV presenter Ahirene kept her calm throughout the 18-lap race and benefitted from the misfortunes of Shukri, Nabil and singer-song writer Talitha Tan who started the race ahead of her.
“I want to thank Toyota for inviting me to join Season 4. I was a bit nervous before the start of the race, especially with the rain making it more difficult and challenging. I really wasn’t expecting anything and I just wanted to enjoy the race,” said Ahirene.
The lead exchanged hands four times in the 20-lap Super Sporting Class race before Gazoo Racing ambassador and Prima Pearl Auto driver Tengku Djan Ley Tengku Mahaleel overtook M7 Japan Project Team’s Syafiq Ali for the lead in the very last lap for victory. Coming in third was 16-year-old Hayden Haikal who was making his debut in the elite class of racing. The start of the race was delayed for 20 minutes due to a brief thunderstorm as the cars prepared to lineup on the starting grid, and conditions on the track precipitated for two citing laps behind the safety car for safety reasons and into a rolling start instead of a conventional start on the grid.
Laser Motor Racing’s Mark Darwin led the first two laps from pole position with Hayden and Tengku Djan hot on his heels. Hayden pushed into the lead on the third lap and led for more than 10 laps before conceding to Syafiq who later led for another five laps. With all the action up front, Tengku Djan paced himself back into contention in the very last lap.
“Instead of me paving the way, I let others do it. It was a difficult race to begin with Syafiq being super fast. Rather than trying to defend my position I decided to just follow him and understand what the front competitors were doing and observe where their strength and weaknesses were. I knew the race would be decided in the last two laps and that was when I started to push and began to make my move,” said Tengku Djan who is also Season 3’s defending Super Sporting Class champion.
In the battle of the young drivers in the Rookie Class, the top three podium positions were surprisingly dominated by two simulator racers and a single karter. The five graduates of the Gazoo Racing Young Drivers Development Program had started the race together with the elite drivers in the Super Sporting Class and made a commendable saloon car racing debut.
For Naquib Azlan, who was fastest throughout practice and qualifying, the 20-lap race could not have been a more memorable debut for the young simulator racer who was racing in a saloon car for the very first time. He finished the race ahead of karter Amer Harris and a second simulator racer Mika Hakimi.
“The weekend has gone really smoothly and we manage to achieve everything we set out to do throughout practice, qualifying and the race. I was hoping to have been able to keep up a little bit more with the Super Sporting Class drivers but the main goal was to win the Rookie Class. These guys (Super Sporting Class drivers) are really quick,” said Naquib Representing the karting fraternity, Amer was also pleasantly surprised with his result. “I had a really bad start and to be honest I wasn’t expecting to be up to speed especially in the rain. I caught up to Naquib but I later made a mistake,” said the 17-year-old.
With 19-drivers on the grid, the Sporting Class was the most highly-anticipated race, and the return of the rain made conditions even more challenging for the drivers. At the end of the 20-lap race, it was Crestmax Motorsport’s Adam Khalid who took the chequered flag ahead of Team Distinctive Model’s Clement Yeo and privateer Eric Yong, all three of whom have been podium finishers in the previous seasons.
“At the start of the race it was really tough to find the best racing line because it was dry throughout practice and qualifying and this was the first time I’ve driven the car in the wet. After dropping back a few places and managed to regain my momentum and composure and I tried to save the car for tomorrow’s race. Hopefully it will be a dry race tomorrow,” said Adam.
Yeo meanwhile, was the biggest gainer in the race having started from seventh position on the grid.
“The conditions were very slippery. Every single corner was a gamble and I believe we all struggled
for grip. I had a good and lucky start and I was fortunate to have had a clear path ahead,” said Yeo.
Round 1’s racing weekend continues with Race 2 tomorrow at the Sepang International Circuit.
RACE 1 RESULTS
1. Zizan Razak
2. Akio Takeyama
3. Ahirene Ahiruddin
SUPER SPORTING CLASS
1. Tengku Djan Ley – Prima Pearl Auto
2. Syafiq Ali – M7 Japan Project Team
3. Hayden Haikal – Speedaddix
1. Naquib Azlan
2. Amer Harris
3. Mika Hakimi
1. Adam Khalid – Crestmax Motorsport
2. Clement Yeo – Distinctive Model
3. Eric Yong