The Toyota GAZOO Racing Festival is back, along with the Vios Challenge, after a break of about 7 months due to the restrictions in place. Round 2 starts this weekend (23 – 24 October 2021) at the Sepang International Circuit. However, due to safety protocols, the racing will go on without the physical presence of spectators.
It has been challenging for this 4th season of the festival (and the Vios Challenge), having endured numerous challenges off the track – the start was delayed by almost a year due to the pandemic in 2020, which was then followed by a second disruption that caused a 7-month break after the completion of Round 1 in March 2021. However, this won’t stop the competitive attitude of the racers who are set to provide plenty of action on the track.
Round 1 brought out the best in the racers, with some going on to stamp an early dominance in the opening 2 races of the season. Several of the newcomers have also demonstrated talent that has all the makings of future champions.
The Vios Challenge consists of 4 classes of racing i.e. the Rookie Class featuring 5 graduates of the GAZOO Racing Young Talent Development Program who are stepping up from karting and simulator to racing in a saloon car for their very first time; the Promotional Class which will field 10 local celebrities; the Sporting Class for amateur drivers; and the Super Sporting Class for Malaysia’s elite and professional drivers.
The battle of the rookies is currently being led by Naquib Azlan, whose transition from simulator racing to real racing has had little impact on his dominance on the racing track. Naquib won the first 2 races of the season. Hot on his tail are the likes of teenagers Amer Harris and Mika Hakimi, who are both 17. Also racing in this class are 18-year-old Jwan Hii and 14-year-old Putera Adam.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Super Sporting Class which continues to display the dominance of professional driver and GAZOO Racing Ambassador, Tengku Djan Ley Tengku Mahaleel who made a clean sweep in the 2 season-opening races. Other strong contenders include last season’s runner-up Mark Darwin, last season’s second runner-up Freddie Ang, and accomplished veterans such as Boy Wong, William Ho, Kenny Lee, Keifli Othman, Syafiq Ali and former Sporting Class champion Brendan Paul Anthony. Also competing in this class is teenager Hayden Haikal who was last year’s Sporting Class champion.
An individual who has been equally dominant in the season opener is actor Zizan Razak who like Tengku Djan and Naquib Azlan, also joins Round 2 with a perfect 2-race victory in Round 1 despite being in his first-ever season of the Vios Challenge. Others competing in the Promotional Class include actor Shukri Yahaya, actress Janna Nick, presenter Nabil Ahmad and singers Wany Hasrita, Nabila Razali and Khai Bahar. They will be joined by singer/song writer Talitha Tan and television personality Ahirene Ahirudin.
Meanwhile, the Sporting Class remains a category that is still too close to call with Adam Khalid and Haji Sutan Mustaffa Salihin each with 1 race victory under their belt. The class will field a total of 19 competitive drivers gunning for the chance of being crowned the new champion in Season 4.
“We are extremely grateful that the season can continue, and I am sure that all the racers are eager to get back into action. I do not foresee the long break having an adverse impact on their performance, instead like Round 1, the competition will be even stiffer and closer all the way to the chequered flag,” said GAZOO Racing Malaysia’s Chief Motorsport Officer Akio Takeyama.