Medini City, Iskandar Puteri, 19 January 2018 – The faster and wider circuit in Medini City meant that opening day of the Toyota GAZOO Racing (TGR) Racing Festival was filled with thrills and excitement with plenty of action in all three classes of the Vios Challenge.
The 7-turn 1.9km circuit run in an anti-clockwise direction featured widths of up to three lanes in many sections of the track, giving the drivers lots of room to build up their speed and to make passing moves.
The opening race of the day featured the Sporting Class and saw the young Brendan Anthony of Dream Chaser Team who took his debut win in MAEPS last January, qualify in pole position.
When the lights went out for the start of the race, it was a long drag down the front straight. Brendan tried covering the inside line but Patrick Tham from Team Nanoplus made a great start from the fourth row to charge for the inside line. However, under hard braking for Turn 1 Patrick went deep, tapping Brendan and pushing him into the outside wall. In the melee, Dato Ken Foo who came in on the blind side sent Patrick into the inside wall, bringing out the red flag.
The cars then formed the grid for a re-start sans Patrick and Clement whose car suffered damage and had to call to the pits. Brendan tried to cover the inside line on the re-start but feeling that his car was not tracking straight after the incident, he hit the brakes early, allowing Wong Chin Eeg into the lead from the outside.
Kenneth Koh who started 4th made a brave dive on the inside of Dato Ken Foo into Turn 4 but he clipped the inside and caused his front bumper to flail. Thankfully, it remained attached and the stewards deemed his car fit to continue.
Brendan meanwhile dropped to sixth but as his confidence began returning, he began picking off the competition in the following laps until Lap 5 when the safety car came on to the circuit after Goh Eng Peng made a rare mistake and hit the Turn 1 wall.
After 3 laps, the safety car peeled into the pits and with the drafting and momentum built up thanks to the long front straight, Kenneth made a brilliant charge to take 2nd from Brendon Lim. A recovering Brandon then passed his namesake in brilliant style on Lap 10 and began to chase down Kenneth. By Lap 13, he was on the tail of Koh’s Panglima City race car.
Kenneth kept his cool to protect his line. This allowed Chin Eeg to run away at the front. However, on the final lap, Chin Eeg lost concentration and outbraked himself in Turn 4. As he recovered, the pair showed up and they went into the tight Turn 5 hairpin together. The trio then made a desperate drag to the finish line three abreast but it was Chin Eeg who works as a Service Manager for Toyota’s Heiwa Auto Gallery in Tebrau Johor who took his maiden win ahead of Brendan who managed to pip Kenneth to the line.
In the Promotional Class, it appeared to be status quo with Shawn Lee, Shukri Yahaya and Danny Koo starting the race in that order but it was Diana Danielle who made a brilliant start and made it past Danny while Shukri went in pursuit of Shawn.
Rain began to fall in some parts of the circuit and this made the corners unpredictable. Danny tried to regain his place on the podium but going into the hairpin, he braked a tad too late and caused Diana to spin out. The damage was enough to make her retire from the race.
Meanwhile, Janna Nick was in great form and she passed Fattah to claim third, he highest position so far. Unbeknownst to them, Danny Koo who was ahead was slapped with a drive through penalty for his incident with Diana but as he missed the window to pull in for the penalty, he would be excluded from the race results.
This left Janna to fight for her first podium opportunity but with the rain getting heavier in some parts of the track, Janna made a mistake 2 laps from the finish, touching a wall and causing a slow puncture. Fattah then took a popular podium finish with Shukri and Shawn on the top steps.
The premier Super Sporting class promised to be explosive and it certainly lived up to its billing. Early favourites Mark Darwin and Mitchell Cheah had to skip the official drivers’ briefing and practice on Thursday as they had to attend a driver selection programme in Sepang.
This meant that not only were they seeing the circuit for the first time during qualifying, they were penalized and dropped to the tail of the field. The looming clouds meant that rainmeister William Ho who was on pole could look forward to running away with the race.
While the pack made it through Turn 1 safely, Tengku Djan who started in Row 2 in his Team Nanoplus car tangled with Kenny Lee in the fast Turn 2. Djan went sideways and speared Akina Teo’s Mudah Racing car, sending his car into the barrier, blocking off the circuit. Darwin was another victim of the crash and he once again retired from the race.
The safety car was immediately deployed but as the skies opened up with a torrential downpour, the field was bunched behind the safety car for 11 laps before the race director deemed the conditions safe for racing.
On lap 12, the field was allowed to go racing but with rain continuing to fall, the drivers took minimal risk and everyone maintained their positions to fight another day. With the 30-minute race duration run, the chequered flag appeared on Lap 16 with William Ho winning the race with Boy Wong and Syafiq Ali rounding up the podium.
A reverse grid of the top six for Race 2 means that the excitement continues with Keifli Othman starting from Pole position with Tengku Djan beside him. With the weather expected to be hot and sunny on Saturday, the quality of racing is expected to yield even greater excitement.