The Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival’s Day 2 Vios Challenge gave Toyota fans yet another great show of motor racing, with many unexpected results and different people on the podium. The Vios Challenge Championship is wide open with two more race events to go.
All the three categories were closely contested, with battles being fought throughout the running order, with neither quarter being asked for nor given. The fact that the cars’ specifications are closely governed makes the racing that much closer. Watching the races from various vantage spots along the ‘street’ circuit at MAEPS in Serdang, I could see that the competition was real. There were three categories, the Promotional Category, made up of celebrities and Mr Akio Takeyama, Vice President of UMW Toyota Motor, the Sporting Category, made up of first-year racers or first timers, and the Super Sporting Category, made up of drivers who have prior experience in racing. The separation by categories makes each category an even playing field, which makes for very close racing.
In the first race, the Super Sporting Category, Race 1, Mark Darwin was the favourite to win from pole position. However, at the start of the race, a mishap sidelined Mark. Going into Turn 1, Mark was keeping a tight line into Turn 1 with Tengku Djan tucked in closely behind – the two made contact when Mark Darwin braked and Djan didn’t. Mark Darwin hit the wall on the right hand side, and bounced off, the force of the impact carrying him across to the left of the track and into the wall at Turn 1 – a chain reaction followed which also forced Akina Teo out of the race.
The yellow flags came out, followed by the red flag signifying the stoppage of the race to allow the tow trucks to tow out the broken cars and for the marshals to clear up the debris, after which the race was re-started with eight cars running out of the original eleven starters.
For the re-start, Tengku Djan in Car No 12 was first into Turn 1, but was hit in the rear by Car No 39, driven by William Ho. The hit was very costly to Djan, as it loosened up his rear bumper, and the damage gradually got worse. Djan had to go into the pits to have it removed – from a good six second lead, Djan dropped down to last position, but managed to claw his way back to fifth position at the end of the race.
William Ho then had to face a charging Mitchell Cheah who smelled the opportunity to take the win and muscled his way past William on the next lap. The move broke Ho’s side skirt, forcing him to pit to remove the part.
Ser Ming Hui took advantage of the melee to inherit the lead which he held to the chequered flag. Mitchell was handed a 15 second penalty for jumping the start thus promoting Syafiq Ali and Boy Wong to second and third respectively.
In the Promotional Class, Shawn Lee had been expected to make a clean sweep of his wins once again in Race 2 but to the surprise of his rivals, made a rare mistake of spinning in the fast Turn 6 on the opening lap. The spin left him pointing the wrong way on the track and he had to let all his rivals pass before he could get moving again.
This promoted Shukri Yahaya to the lead with Danny Koo in second place. Diana Danielle who had been clocking respectable times managed to secure the third spot, managing to be the first lady to stand on the podium in the Vios Challenge.
Bad luck however struck Janna Nick, Venice Min and Geraldine Gan as they had to retire from their fine run.
In the Sporting Category, Brendan Paul Anthony was expected to go for an easy second win but he lost in his drag to the first corner to Brandon Lim and Patrick Tam who both made a quick breakaway. Patrick kept the pressure on Lim and on Lap 4, he made a brave move to dive into Turn 16 and into the lead. The pair pulled clearly away from the rest of the pack, and both were trying to outpace each other all the way through the race.
Patrick lapped Read in the dying stages of the race and in her haste to yield to a blue flag, she came into Brandon Lim’s path thus ending his charge for the win.
The biggest excitement was for the final race of the day, the second Super Sporting Class race. Despite a half hour delay due to torrential rain, the crowd remained to watch the race – this was a race not to be missed. The top six from the previous race were now lined up on the grid in reverse order. By token of his fifth position in Race 1, Djan once again found himself on the front row beside the young Mitchell Cheah who finished sixth. As the track remained sodden, the race began in earnest after the convoy followed the Toyota Camry safety car for the initial three laps.
Tengku Djan was gunning hard but the young Mitchell of the Dream Chaser Team had none of it. He was a picture of calm despite Djan’s incessant attempts at passing.
Lap 9 saw Djan tap the Dream Chaser Team’s car, sending Mitchell wide. Despite that, Mitchell managed to recover his Vios and did not lose his first spot. Djan continued to relentlessly pursue Mitchell but as the pair continued to tangle, William Ho slowly crept up on the duo from his lowly 7th position.
William Ho found his opening and made a daring dive into the tight Turn 16 on lap 12 but Djan refused to yield. The pair traded paintwork up the hill and in the process, Djan suffered a puncture and had to pull out of the race. William himself suffered a slow puncture but not before he was slapped with a 15 second penalty for his move on Djan. Boy Wong who remained safe throughout the race took a well-deserved 2nd ahead while William managed to limp home into third despite the penalty and puncture.
“It was quite a stressful first few laps with Djan behind me. All I had on my mind was to go in the corner slow and come out faster to stay in front of Djan,” said the delighted Mitchell.
The crowd that turned up at the MAEPS leg of the TGR Racing Festival was truly rewarded with excellent racing and great entertainment from both the racing action as well as the off-track activities. It is an event not to be missed and our southern fans can look forward to the next Toyota GAZOO Racing (TGR) Racing Festival on 19th and 20th January 2018 in Johor Bahru.
See you at the next Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival – stay tuned!