Young Drivers Impress In Round 1 Of GR Vios Challenge Season 6

Young Drivers Impress In Round 1 Of GR Vios Challenge Season 6

The first round of the GR Vios Challenge Season 6 last weekend provided loads of action and close fights. More so with the young drivers who impressed with their talent and showing their potential to dominate this one-make racing series. In a weekend fraught with racing incidents and penalties, it also provided some with back-to back visits to the podium. The 2-day race weekend saw over 3.5 million viewers tuning into the live streams. This season features a line-up of 5 new celebrity racers, 6 new rookie drivers, and a total of 45 cars.

Toyota GAZOO Racing_Vios Challenge_Rookie_Ariff Azmi“Motorsports has not only had a very profound impact on the brand but we are extremely happy that we have been able to make a meaningful contribution to its development, namely with the emergence of young drivers,” said UMW Toyota Motor President Datuk Ravindran K. “At the start of this 6th season of racing, you can already see a very large pool of young drivers beginning to exert their dominance especially in the Super Sporting and Sporting Classes for professionals and amateur racers respectively. This is a very positive development for the sport.”

The evolution of these young drivers has come at a very rapid pace, more so over the past 3 years, due to the GR Vios Challenge’s unique format of a one-make race which levels the playing field between the experienced and newer drivers. Being amongst more accomplished racers has enabled the younger protégés to hone their driving skills and race craft at an accelerated pace.

Prima Pearl TD Racing’s Mitchell Cheah made the most of a reverse grid format in Race 2 on Sunday, which placed him at the front of the grid to lead the 20-lap race in the Super Sporting Class from start to finish. Cheah finished 0.4 seconds ahead of Laser Motor Racing’s Putera Adam. Coming in 3rd was Axle Sports’ and defending Super Sporting Class overall champion, Hayden Haikal.Toyota GAZOO Racing Festival_GR Vios Challenge_Super Sporting_Mitchell Cheah_Hayden Haikal

Putera however, was subsequently handed a penalty dropping him to 5th. This promoted Hayden to 2nd spot and Prima Pearl TD Racing’s Tengku Djan Ley into 3rd. Winning Race 2 makes up for the disappointment Cheah endured in Saturday’s Race 1 when a 10-second post-race penalty stripped him of a race win which pushed him down to 6th.

Toyota_GAZOO Racing_Vios Challenge_Super Sporting Class_Mitchell Cheah_Prima Pearl TD Racing“It’s good to be back on the podium again. Technically I won both races but the penalty cost me the win in Race 1. Race 2 was tougher than I had expected because the younger drivers are very fast,” said the 25-year-old Cheah. “I had to manage an understeer towards the end of the race and had to do whatever I could to protect my position.”

Meanwhile, in the Rookie Class, Ariff Azmi clinched victory in Race 2 ahead of Nazmir Azlan and Iman Danish respectively. “Yesterday I was leading but halfway through the race I suffered an ABS failure which pushed me down to 6th and that wasn’t the result I was hoping for especially after claiming pole position,” said the 16-year-old.Toyota_GAZOO Racing_Vios Challenge_2023_Rookie Class

“The transition from karting to saloon car racing has been challenging but with a lot of help I’ve received via the GR Young Talent Development Program and from so many people on the grid it’s been really good. It eased me into the car a lot better instead of just being thrown into a race without any development program. I have to thank Toyota for this opportunity they have given to develop drivers like us,” said the 2019 Rotax Max Malaysia junior champion.

Gazoo Racing Young Talent Development Program_Toyota Vios ChallengeThe GAZOO Racing Young Talent Development Program was first started in 2020 and is designed to promote young drivers up the motorsports ladder. It has so far successfully produced 12 very talented young racers between the ages of 14 and 20, making their transition from the sport of karting and simulator racing to saloon car racing.

With the overall Rookie Class championship being won by simulator racers in the previous 2 seasons, Ariff also appears confident of becoming the first karter to win the title in 2023. “I’m used to racing and I hope that my experience in karting is going to help me have an edge over the simulator racers. This doesn’t put any amount of pressure on me. I’ll just keep cool and get the job done!”

For simulator racers Nazmir and Iman, it was their 2nd visit to the podium in 2 races. Nazmir finished 3rd in Race 1 while Iman won the opening Rookie Class race. “Race 2 was a rollercoaster ride. I got collected in an accident but I still managed to carry on. Overall, it was fun,” said 16-year-old racing driver and simulator racer Iman.Toyota_GAZOO Racing_Vios Challenge_Iman Danish_Rookie

In the Sporting Class, Race Rally KL’s Mohd Syafiq Samsudin made the best of a front row start to lead the race and build a healthy 1.7 seconds over Crestmax Motorsport’s Bradley Benedict Anthony in first lap. A safety car on Lap 2 however, quickly erased his hard work, and despite pulling away to establish a 0.8 second lead when the race restarted 3 laps later, he was served a drive through penalty for a false start.

The turn of events essentially led to a showdown between Bradley and Season 5’s Rookie Class champion Nabil Azlan for the lead. Halfway through the 20-lap race, Bradley inched ahead with a gap of 1.3 seconds ahead of Nabil, with 23 Motors’ Abdul Miqail in tow for 3rd a further 2 seconds behind.

Toyota_GAZOO Racing_Sporting Class_Bradley Benedict Anthony_Crestmax MotorsportsIt was a straight fight to the finish but in the end, Bradley took the chequered flag 0.7 seconds in front of Nabil with Abdul Miqail claiming 3rd. “I was being pressured all the way from the start to the chequered flag. I saw Abdul Miqail really pushing. He started 9th on the grid but midway through the race he was already fighting for 2nd position,” said Bradley. “I just did my best to maintain my tyres to ensure I retained the level of grip needed to get me to the finish.”

Toyota_GAZOO Racing_Vios Challenge_Zizan RazakAs the race commentators correctly put it, Race 2 of the Promotional Class was still a “Zizan-Shukri Show”, essentially being a repeat of Race 1’s result with actors Zizan Razak and Shukri Yahaya finishing in the top 2 positions with just 0.3 seconds separating them. GR Vios Challenge newcomer Ezzrin Loy meanwhile, finished 3rd in the 18-lap race, 13.3 seconds behind, but still successfully securing his 2nd straight podium finish in 2 races.

“I expect this duel on the track to continue throughout the season. I have to admit that Zizan is a better driver. It is difficult for me to not only overtake him but to also get away from him when I am in the lead. Unlike Zizan, my only exposure to motorsports has been confined to competing in 6 seasons of the GR Vios Challenge,” said Shukri, who is also a former Promotional Class overall champion. “What I can say however, is that the experience gained on the track has helped to enormously develop me into a better, more capable and confident driver, especially when I am on the road and I would like to thank Toyota for this giving me this opportunity.”

Meanwhile, actor and host Ezzrin who is also an avid motorcycle enthusiast, said the experience of racing a saloon car has been an eye opener. “Both driving and riding on the track is challenging, but what is important is to have a strong foundation. Personally, I would say racing a car is more challenging but if I keep focusing on making progress, I hope to continue being on the podium for the remaining four races,” he said.

The GR Vios Challenge action will continue with Round 2 at the Sepang International Circuit between 2 – 4 June 2023.

For more information, visit the UMW Toyota Motor (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd website at and the Toyota Malaysia and Toyota Gazoo Racing Malaysia Facebook pages.


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