The trio of teammates and friends – Taj Izrin Aiman Taj Madira, Mior Muhammad Hafiz, and Muhammad
Iqbal Ahmad Suji, locked out the podium positions at the grand final of the Toyota GR Velocity Esports Championship. The trio won almost RM40,000 in cash prizes in what is regarded as the most lucrative virtual racing championship in Malaysia. Besides receiving the prize money, they have booked spots to represent Malaysia at the GR Supra GT Cup Asia 2020 regional esports competition organised by Toyota Motor Asia Pacific (TMAP).
The Toyota GR Velocity Esports Championship grand final brought together an elite group of 20 online racers who competed in a semi-final on Saturday (26 September 2020), with the 10 fastest drivers advancing to the grand final on Sunday (27 September). The championship utilised Thrustmaster simulators and Sony Playstation’s Gran Turismo Sport platform.
This final round of the championship was held at the UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd (UMWT) headquarters in Shah Alam. Due to current restrictions, fans and spectators could only follow the racing online. Maybe it is a sign that the Toyota GR Velocity Esports Championship is popular because it got over one million online views over that weekend.
On that weekend, Taj Izrin Aiman was victorious in Race 1 driving a GR Supra RZ at the Autodrome Lago Maggiore circuit in Italy. He was ahead of Mior Muhammad and Rio Pandukusuma in second and third respectively in the 15-lap race. Then in Race 2 at the Autopolis Racing Course in Japan, Moo Shuan Jinq took the chequered flag ahead of Mior Muhammad in the 18-lap race in a FT-1 Vision Gran Turismo. Taj Izrin Aiman finished third.
It was back to Europe for Race 3 at Circuit de la Sarthe in France, where Muhammad Iqbal drove the TS050 Hybrid sports car to victory, ahead of Mior Muhammad and Ariff Roslan.
By the end of the three races, the overall championship was down to three potential winners – Mior Muhammad leading with 54 points, followed by Taj Izrin Aiman at 50, and Muhammad Iqbal with 45 points. In the fourth and final 18-lap race at the famous 13.6 km Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, Taj Izrin Aiman however, stamped his authority by leading the race from start to finish in a Toyota-powered Dallara Super Formula SF19. He built an unassailable lead of nine seconds ahead of Arif Roslan and Rio Pandukusuma who finished second and third respectively. Low Wooi Kit crossed the finish line in fourth, followed by Muhammad Iqbal and Mior Muhammad, who finished more than 35 seconds behind the race winner and essentially bidding farewell to his hopes of winning the overall championship.
“Virtual racing is an entirely different discipline. It requires a lot of practice and seat time. Just like real racing requires you set-up a vehicle, in virtual racing you have to adapt to the steering and pedal techniques, and at the same time you have to adopt a strategy and manage your tyre wear as well as fuel during a race,” said 22-year-old Taj Izrin Aiman who is an avid motorsports enthusiast and is only into his first year of competitive virtual racing. Clinching the overall Toyota GAZOO RACING Velocity Esports Championship is also his first major title in virtual racing. “We (along with Mior Muhammad and Muhammad Iqbal) practiced everyday leading up to the championship, putting in three to four hours on the simulator competing against one another.”
For Mior Muhammad, it was his third successive time participating in the Toyota GAZOO RACING Esports Championship in his four years of competitive virtual racing. He finished second in 2018 and was placed fourth last year.
“The feeling of driving a real race car is entirely different due to the g-forces, braking and steering feel, but the techniques on a simulator can greatly assist a driver immensely on a track,” said the 32-year-old who was also the E-Racing Grand Prix champion in 2019 which led him to being given the opportunity to test a single seater car at Sepang International Circuit. “To be a successful virtual racer you have to be serious, committed and never ever give up. Not every individual has the financial capability to go racing and virtual racing at least gives you that opportunity to feel what it’s like.”
That sentiment is also shared by 22-year-old Muhammad Iqbal who is studying to become a doctor and is into his second year of virtual racing. “Virtual racing is the next best alternative for me at this point in time considering I cannot yet afford to go racing in a circuit. Until such a time that I am able to do this, I can replicate the experience of racing and hone the skills required to become a competitive driver,” he said.
At the event, there was also a special 17-lap exhibition race involving celebrities competing in the Toyota Vios Challenge. Musician Shawn Lee proved that he was indeed a force to be reckoned with both on and off the racing circuit. Lee, a two-time champion in the Promotional Class of the Toyota Vios Challenge, led the virtual 17-lap race at the 4.5 km Fuji International Speedway from start to finish, to win ahead of GAZOO RACING Malaysia’s Chief Motorsports Officer Akio Takeyama, and celebrity gamer Daddy Hood.
Piloting a Toyota GR Supra Racing RZ race car, singer Wany Hasrita finished fourth, followed by another celebrity gamer Soloz, and singer Khai Bahar in sixth. Meanwhile, comedian Nabil Ahmad crossed the finish line in seventh, followed by a third celebrity gamer Penjahat and singer Nabila Razali.
“Competing in Toyota GAZOO RACING Velocity Esports Championship is an excellent warm-up for us in preparation for Season 4 of the Toyota Vios Challenge. I can’t wait to get back into racing,” said Nabil.
The Toyota GAZOO RACING Velocity Esports Championship kicked off with a series of four qualifying rounds in September with some 720 online racers taking part. The championship offered more than RM70,000 in prize monies, making it the biggest and most lucrative virtual racing competition in Malaysia.
“Judging from the level of competition we have seen over the weekend, the driving standards and the technical knowledge competitors bring to virtual racing today are very high, They (the competitors) are very serious about what they do, and despite never having experienced real racing, the degree of race craft, the strategies they adopt, discipline and familiarization as well as adaptability to the different types of vehicles and tracks they are exposed to is simply phenomenal,” GAZOO RACING Malaysia’s Chief Motorsports Officer Akio Takeyama
“Virtual racing is indeed becoming an important bridge to real racing, and this is also an area we at Toyota are investing in with the start of our GAZOO RACING Young Talent Development Program which will not only provide young karters, but also virtual racers, with the opportunity to transition into real world saloon car racing.”
President of UMW Toyota Motor Sdn. Bhd. Mr. Ravindran K. also underlined that virtual racing will be another strong pillar for Toyota to bring motorsports to the masses. First held in 2018, the Toyota GAZOO RACING Velocity Esports Championship makes UMWT the first, and still the only, car company to be associated with the fast-growing E-sports motor-racing activities in Malaysia.
“Moving forward, the GAZOO RACING brand will continue to spearhead and expand Toyota’s presence in Malaysian motorsports with a number of new initiatives to be rolled out soon,” said Ravindran.
This he added, will include continuity of the Toyota Vios Challenge racing series and the Toyota GAZOO RACING Velocity Esports Championship, the roll out of a new range of race-bred and race-inspired GAZOO RACING-badged vehicles, and the expansion of specialty showrooms in the form of GAZOO RACING Garages for the benefit of customers.
Toyota GAZOO RACING Velocity Esports Championship Overall Results
- Taj Izrin Aiman Taj Madira (Go on to regional competition)
- Mior Muhammad Hafiz (Go on to regional competition)
- Muhammad Iqbal Ahmad Suji (Go on to regional competition)
- Ariff Roslan
- Low Wooi Kit
- Rio Pandukusuma
- Moo Shuaan Jinq
- Mohammad Afif Suhaimi
- Chong Kai Chang
- Chau Jenn Yeh