29 November 2021 –
In what was an incredibly suspense-filled and dramatic 2021 edition of the Sepang 1000km Endurance Race, Toyota drove to a huge psychological win with the Yaris hot-hatch to claim third position in class and fourth overall in the prestigious event on its debut in racing trim.
It was a baptism by fire for the Yaris on all accounts – it was the first time the car was being tested in racing, and it was also its maiden appearance in the nine-hour race which was held over a grueling 181 laps around the 5.534km Sepang International Circuit.
Competing in the elite MTC Production Class, the Yaris, driven by the pair of 16-year-old Hayden Haikal and 24-year-old Timothy Yeo, had taken the chequered flag three laps clear of its nearest rival before a post-race penalty reclassified the duo to third position.
Three Toyotas occupied the top five front positions on the starting grid for the race. The number #39 Yaris had been the highest placed Toyota on the starting grid qualifying second with a time of 2 min: 38.932 seconds. They were followed by Wing Hin Motorsports team mates and the pair of Boy Wong and Dannies Ng in the number #38 Vios, with the trio of Tengku Djan Ley Tengku Mahaleel, Naquib Azlan and Akio Takeyama from TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Malaysia in car number #37 fifth fastest. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Malaysia fielded a second entry led by a trio comprising of celebrity Zizan Razak, and young drivers Jwan Hii and Mika Hakimi in the SP2 Production Class in car number #36 who despite qualifying 30th , went on to finish 20th in class and fifth in the inaugural running of the Vios Enduro Cup.
With three Toyotas in contention for the overall victory, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Malaysia’s number #37 Vios, the number #39 Yaris and the number #38 Vios exerting their dominance from the beginning to the final hours of the race, no one would’ve expected a huge turn of events that was to unfold in the closing laps.
Four cars traded places for the lead throughout the race. The number #38 Vios’ hopes of a podium finish was essentially erased due to technical issues, forcing it to rejoin six laps down but still managing to finish fourth in overall and in Class. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Malaysia’s number #37 meanwhile, was well poised for victory until 26 laps to the finish when the front left wheel was ripped away dropping the team to 11th in Class. Their misfortune left the race for the taking of car number #100 driven by Mitchell Cheah and Brendan Paul Anthony but their hopes of a victory too came to a crushing end when mechanical problems 10 laps to the finish put them into retirement.
As all this unfolded, the charging #39 Yaris kept piling on the pressure and clocking consistent lap times right up to the chequered flag.
“The Yaris performed impeccably, not putting a foot wrong! This is a huge testament to the car’s performance and reliability under extreme conditions, and to finish on the podium in the prestigious S1K race on its debut is without a doubt an amazing result,” said Takeyama, who is also GAZOO Racing Malaysia’s Chief Motorsports Officer.
“We would like to have won and seen two or all three cars on the podium but unfortunately in racing, nothing is ever certain until you cross the finish line and this is a disappointment we will have to graciously accept despite running very competitively until the final hours. The S1K is a challenging test of nerves not only on the reliability and durability of the car, but also the physical and mental strength of the competing teams and drivers. I would like to underline my highest appreciation to all the team members, drivers, officials and supporters of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Malaysia. Thank you for your continued support. As a team, we have proven to ourselves that we are competitive and this setback has certainly fuelled our desire to come back and be even stronger next year.”
The Yaris’ third place finish however, was made that much sweeter with one of the drivers (Hayden) being a competitor and the youngest ever champion in Toyota’s Vios Challenge racing series. In fact, eight of the drivers in the top four cars in contention for the race win are competitors from the series.
“The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Festival and Vios Challenge will next year enter its fifth successive season and we hope that it has not only made a huge impact towards enhancing the profile of Malaysian motorsports by bringing it to the masses, but also in creating a strong foundation for the development of existing, new and especially young drivers. We are committed in making an impactful contribution to Malaysian motorsports and this is an initiative we intend to continue to expand on moving forward,” said Takeyama.
For Hayden and Yeo, the end result was a combination of a competitive car, superb strategy employed by the team, and the unwillingness to give up right to the end.
“The car was reliable, competitive, we knew we had a good package going into the race, and we were pacing ourselves to make sure we not only started strongly but were able to successfully get it to the finish. The penalty was unfortunate but justly imposed, and a third placing is equally something to celebrate especially when we did it in a brand new car that has never been tested in these conditions,” said Hayden.
In the inaugural Vios Enduro Cup, Aylezo Motorsports’ trio Mirza Syahmi Mahzan, Zen Low and Aiman Haziq completed 166 laps enroute to bagging a cash prize of RM10,000. It was a 1-2 victory for Aylezo with Dato’ Danny Yip, Kenneth Teh and Chang Choon Ming placed second. In third spot was 23 Motors’ Al- Farouk and Abdull Miqail, followed by Toyotsu Racing’s Liew Jo Choon, Tan Chan Wei in fourth.
A total of 10 Toyota cars took to the track for the S1K race which attracted 38 teams, with three cars competing in the MTC Production Class and the remaining seven vying for positions in the SP2 Production Class and the inaugural running of the Vios Enduro Cup.