Close quarters racing was at its best in the Toyota Vios Challenge, as competitors in the Promotional, Sporting and Super Sporting classes demonstrated a high degree of class and professionalism to end the first day of racing at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS) in Selangor.
The competition, which is part of Round 2 of the TOYOTA GAZOO RACING Festival, was fierce in all three-categories with drivers taking on the newly-resurfaced 1.99km street circuit which featured 17 extremely challenging corners with varying track conditions consisting of both uphill and downhill stretches.
Television host and presenter Nabil Ahmad was in commanding form in race 1 of the Promotional class when he drove to his first race win of the season, finishing the 18-lap race almost two seconds ahead of actress Diana Danielle followed by singer Aiman Tino in third place.
Nabil had qualified on pole position after setting a blistering time of 1 min:29.278 and capitalized on his front row start to lead into the first corner.
“The plan from the start was to not allow Diana to overtake, and she was fiercely competitive. It was pure luck if you ask me because my rims broke but it did not puncture the tyre and I was able to pace myself to the chequered flag,” said the Astro Gegar Vaganza host.
Diana meanwhile, was in top form all throughout the practice session on Friday and qualified second fastest.
“The condition of the track is so much better now compared to when we raced here during the first season and that raised my confidence level a lot. I know Nabil is very passionate about racing, he loves speed and racing, and the opportunity to go head on with him in the race is a real challenge for me,” said Diana.
“I had a very strong intuition that Aiman would somehow be up there at front and true enough, this ‘Speedy Gonzales’ climbed into third despite starting from seventh position on the grid and that just piled on the pressure even more. At the end of the day, my female spirit came out because Nabil was ahead of me and Aiman was behind – I basically didn’t want to be bullied this time.”
Aiman was however, the biggest surprise of the day when he muscled his way to overtake four cars at the start to climb from seventh on the grid to third place by the time he reached the first corner.
“I did my best to chase Diana and Nabil at the front but midway through the race I began experiencing severe understeer and from then on it was more of conserving the tyres and focusing on finishing the race,” said the 20-year-old.
Completing the top five were Akim Ahmad and UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd Deputy Chairman Akio Takeyama, while Khai Bahar, Janna Nick and Nabila Razali crossed the line in sixth, seventh and eighth position respectively.
Singer and recently-crowned Anugerah Bintang Popular winner Wany Hasrita retired from the race in lap 7 after being pushed into the wall.
In the Sporting Class, Kenneth Koh too made a brilliant start from second place on the grid to win race 1 ahead of pole position man Brendon Lim and Dato’ Ken Foo who clinched third position.
Koh took advantage of Lim’s poor start to lead the race from start to finish in what was essentially a “three-car train” to the finish and enroute to his first race win of the season.
“We got a new set-up for the car this weekend and it performed very well,” said Koh. “At the end of the day it was all about a balance of driving sensibly, not being foolish that would force me into an error, and saving the tyres.”
For Lim, forgetting to switch off the air-conditioning had cost him dearly.
“I had a good start but somehow it was not good enough…I believe the air-conditioning was on during the start and that caused the loss of a bit of horsepower. MAEPS however, is a very interesting track and throughout the race, the conditions keep changing and you have to find ways to adapt to go even faster. Although I managed to stay close to Koh, I had to look after my front left tyre, making sure that it cooled down enough before I pushed but unfortunately, by the time I did this, Koh was also increasing his pace at the front. Towards the end of the race it was more about running away from Foo who was behind me,” said Lim.
Foo who came in third, just a second behind, ran a generally trouble-free race despite having to recover from a nudge he received from behind on the second lap.
“At the beginning of the race I was concentrating too much on the driver behind me than I was on the two frontrunners. Eventually, I told myself, just forget about the back and just concentrate on the front. It was a good race that I really enjoyed,” said Foo who also drove to his first podium finish of the season.
That nudge, came from 14-year-old Hayden Haikal who started from fourth place on the grid and had driven a remarkable race in hot pursuit of the top three drivers while at the same time, having to fend off celebrity Mohd Shukri Yahaya who was practically “glued” to the rear bumper of his Toyota Vios. Mohd Shukri eventually succeeded in passing Hayden for fourth place one lap before the end of the race.
“With a new team of mechanics, we initially took a bit of time to find the best set-up for the car this weekend and we were fortunate to have been able to qualify fifth. I made a good start and tried to stay with the leading pack of drivers but they were extremely competitive drivers,” said Mohd Shukri.
“The goal for tomorrow’s race 2 will be to keep my cool and hopefully finish the race with valuable points.”
SUPER SPORTING CLASS
Pole position man Boy Wong kept his cool to drive a composed race from start to finish and fight off stiff competition from series leader William Ho in the Super Sporting class, completing his race with a time of 26 minutes:14.296 seconds. The gap was just over half a second when both drivers crossed the finish line, with Brendan Paul Anthony claiming third position a further six seconds adrift.
“The car was very good this first race and I would like to thank my team for the support in helping to find a good set-up to tackle this extremely challenging track,” said Wong.
For second place winner Ho who has since scored three podium finishes in three races (he finished first and second in Kuala Terengganu in August), conceding victory for valuable points consolidates his position in the overall point standings.
“I consider myself lucky…Returning to MAEPS for a second season, many of the drivers are already familiar with the track and the type of set-up the car requires and this is proven with Wong setting a new track record. I tried not to make any mistake during the race because my focus is now on getting as many points as possible to help my championship hopes,” said the Kegani Racing Team driver.
Brendon Paul meanwhile, is happy with third place although he could not make the most of starting from the front row of the grid in second position.
“I had too much wheel spin and that caused a very bad start. It’s something very new for me (competing in the Super Sporting class after winning last year’s Sporting class) because I am up against more experienced drivers now, said Brendon who drives for Team Dream Chaser.
The two-day Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival showcases a multitude of activities from the preview and public test drive of the all-new Toyota Rush, a 1.5-litre compact sports utility vehicle (SUV), test drives of existing model line-up, promotions and celebrity performances to thrilling race action on a purpose-built 1.99km street circuit by racers competing in the Promotional, Sporting and Super Sporting classes respectively.
Action at the two-day Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival and Toyota Vios Challenge continues tomorrow (SUNDAY, 21 October 2018) with race 2 of the Promotional, Sporting and Super Sporting classes on track and activities on the Festival grounds for spectators that include;
● A concert by the Toyota Gazoo Racing celebrities,
● Promotional activities,
● Superfans Signing Session (a chance to mingle with the celebrity drivers),
● Appearance by Baby Shark mascot,
● Display and sales of merchandise booths,
● Stage games,
● Gathering of car clubs,
● Simulator racing challenge,
● Drift performance by Toyo Tyres
● Lucky draw.