The Toyota Gazoom Racing (TGR) Racing Festival and Round 3 of the Toyota Vios Challenge is set to rock Penang this weekend (23 – 24 February 2019). The two-day festival will be held once again at Stadium Batu Kawan in Seberang Perai, Penang.
The festival will be the site of an auto carnival with Toyota vehicles (like the new Vios and Camry) available for viewing and test drives, as well as a gathering of Toyota car clubs and car enthusiasts. As usual, there will be fun and games for the whole family as the festival includes a mini concert, food trucks as well as celebrity appearances.
And then there is of course the street racing action around the 1.56 km circuit at the stadium. This street circuit will feature 11 corners and 6 straights, and will see some 40 drivers competing in the Promotional, Sporting and Super Sporting classes for celebrities, amateurs and professionals respectively.
The Promotional Class includes celebrities like Diana Danielle, Janna Nick, Nabil Ahmad, Khai Bahar, Akim Ahmad, Mohd Shukri Yahaya, Shawn Lee, Wany Hasrita, Nabila Razali and Aiman Tino, who will be in action both on the track and on stage.
“The atmosphere in Penang over a race weekend is phenomenal going by the overwhelming reception we received when we first embarked on the TGR Racing Festival here in 2017, and it gives Toyota great pleasure to return to Stadium Batu Kawan with an even more exciting line-up of activities for fans,” said UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd Pesident, Mr Ravindran K.
“As we come to the halfway point of Season 2, the TGR Racing Festival and Toyota Vios Challenge have had an enormous impact in terms of allowing the masses to better understand, see and experience for themselves the renewed image and philosophy of the brand moving forward… It’s All About the Drive,” he added.
Akim Ahmad may be new to the Vios Challenge but the singer already has three podium finishes in four races (there are two races per round). His race record thus far is one race victory, two 2nd place finishes, and a 4th place, and currently leads in the overall standings. Akim has been one of the most consistent drivers in the Promotional Class for celebrities despite keeping a rather low profile every race weekend.
Returning celebrity racers Diana Danielle and Janna Nick finished 4th and 5th at Batu Kawan in Season 1. Diana already has one race win under her belt this season and together with Akim, will be joined by celebrity presenter Nabil Ahmad and singer Aiman Tino who also have one race victory each to their credit.
“With 4 more races remaining in the season, it’s anyone’s championship to be fair. I prefer not to think about it too much and just focus on one race at a time. In a street race where the competition is so close from start to finish, just being able to complete every race is already challenging and a strong achievement for me,” said Akim.
Meanwhile, looking for their first podium finish this season will be singers Nabila Razali, Wany Hasrita and Khai Bahar, as well as UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd Deputy Chairman, Mr. Akio Takeyama.
Also returning to the Vios Challenge but in a different category is celebrity beatboxer Shawn Lee. He has moved from the Promotional Class to the Sporting Class this season, and will be looking to repeat the double victory he achieved at Batu Kawan in Season 1.
Season 2 began strongly for Lee despite competing in a new class with a group of amateur racers instead of fellow celebrities. Lee proved his critics wrong and drove to his first-ever pole position and race victory in Race 1, and finished 7th in Race 2 in Kuala Terengganu, much to the surprise of the other competitors.
However, an early mistake during free practice in Round 2 at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS) in Selangor resulted in a severely damaged car that robbed his chances to score any points that weekend.
“That’s one costly mistake I don’t intend on repeating. It was extremely careless of me to have gone flat out the moment I exited the pit and with cold tyres, I lost traction and ended up in the wall,” said Lee who was clearly disappointed and is eagerly awaiting to get back into racing.
“The competition in the Sporting class has been extremely intense with door-to-door battles from the get go and this is precisely what fuels my passion to compete in the Toyota Vios Challenge. It has certainly been a very challenging test of nerves and my driving ability.”
Fellow celebrity Mohd Shukri Yahaya, who also earned a promotion to the Sporting Class, will also be looking to repeat last season’s commendable drive at Batu Kawan. He had finished 2nd twice in Batu Kawan and it is one of his more favoured tracks in the series.
Shukri’s Season 2 has somewhat been a roller-coaster ride, with his best result in four races so far a 4th place finish at MAEPS. “It’s been a difficult time trying to adjust to the level of competitiveness in the Sporting Class but I find my confidence growing after every race,” said the 30-year-old actor.
A clear favourite in the Sporting class and at Batu Kawan is Kulim Top Wheels driver Dato’ Ken Foo who also holds the distinction of a double race victory at the track last season.
Also expecting to continue their strong momentum in the Series will be Panglima City Racing Team’s Kenneth Koh; Team Nanoplus driver Patrick Tam; ST Wangan Racing Team’s Eric Yong; Distinctive Model’s Clement Yeo and Tedco Racing’s Brendon Lim.
Super Sporting Class
After 4 races in Season 2, the three most prominent names that continue to consistently dominate the series are undoubtedly William Ho, Boy Wong and Kenny Lee. Heading to Batu Kawan, all three drivers have one race victory to their credit, but Wong is the only driver who has consistently finished all four races so far and has scored three podium finishes in the process.
This season, Wong has one race win, one 2nd place finish, one 3rd place finish and one 4th place finish to his name and currently leads the overall point standings.
“The competition is super tough with so many big names on the grid, but my strategy from the start has always been to drive consistently and to avoid making any unnecessary mistakes. Pushing hard is one thing, but you have to do it carefully without taking too much risk,” said Wong.
Comparing the three drivers, Ho has the best finish in Batu Kawan last season where he was placed 3rd, while Wong only managed 6th, and Lee 8th.
Ho, who was crowned runner-up in the Super Sporting class last season, has so far accumulated one race win, two 2nd place finishes and one run-in with the concrete wall, while Lee has one race win under his belt, one 3rd place finish, and like Ho, also one run-in with the concrete wall.
Climbing up the ranks from Sporting to Super Sporting class is Brendan Paul Anthony who had somewhat found his form over the last two races at MAEPS to score a 2nd and 3rd place finishes.
For race fans, the two-day TGR Racing Festival will be opportunity to purchase special “race themed” merchandises and win attractive prizes in lucky draws throughout the weekend. There will also be two heavily modified Toyota 86 drift cars putting on shows courtesy of Toyo Tyres and its professional Japanese drifters.
For fitness enthusiasts, a Fun Run will take place on Sunday morning (24 February) giving running fans a rare opportunity to run inside the 1.56km Batu Kawan track. Further, there will be a Zumba session which will see the participation of a few celebrities.