After the wet conditions of Saturday’s racing, the Vios Challenge went through its second day with high temperatures and bright sunny skies at the Batu Kawan Stadium in Penang. While the dry weather meant that the drivers could push their Toyota Vios racing cars to the limits around the 1.65-km circuit, the second day of racing also saw better racing quality. Perhaps it was because the drivers, both veterans and newcomers, had begun to understand the track and had more confidence to try different strategies.
Following the ceremonial opening ceremony at noon which was watched by thousands of spectators, the 13 top-tier racing drivers in the Super Sporting Category – one of three categories in the Vios Challenge – delivered their cars took to the starting grid. On pole position was Tengku Djan of Team Maxx N Go with Dream Chaser’s Mark Darwin beside him.
With the narrowness of the track (created only for this event) making overtaking very difficult, a good start was crucial and from the time the start flag was waved, it was full throttle. Tengku Djan was quickly away with Darwin trailing as close as possible while Shafiq Ali saw the image of William Ho’s Vios filling his mirror. James Verappen, who was running in a race in 7th place with Boy Wong, clipped a wall and was an early retirement because his rim broke.
Boy then found himself locked in a keen battle with Mitchell Cheah while further back, it was Dato Mohd Nasri who was challenged by Akina Teo and Vincent Ng. The three drivers were trying to claim a secure 9th place.
Tengku Djan eventually won the 18-lap race with a gap of over 15 seconds from Darwin and Syafiq. However, the results remain provisional at the time of publication tonight while the officials are studying a ‘technical issue’.
Race 2 of the Promotional Category once again saw beatboxer Shawn Lee make his lightning start from pole and pull away from the field with Shukri Yahaya and Danny Koo in tow. The driver who starts from pole position has a great advantage and Shawn made full use of it. As all the cars’ engines produced the same power, it was not a question of being able to just accelerate harder to pass; in the Vios Challenge, it was all about tactics and driver skill.
Fattah Amin who did not finish Race 1 made a great start and was running in midfield for much of the race together with TRD Asia’s Masaaki Murata. He eventually closed in on Diana Danielle who was in 4th. He made a brave attempt to pass her on the inside of Turn 3 but the move was badly timed. His Vios clipped the rear of Diana’s car in mid-corner and the resultant move sent both their cars into the barriers and into retirement.
Shawn went on to win his second race of the weekend with Shukri Yahaya and Danny Koo completing the podium positions. Virtually all the celebrities in the race had their own following of fans cheering them on, especially Janna Nick and Diana Danielle. Even UMW Toyota Motor’s Deputy Chairman, Akio Takeyama, was cheered on by the large contingent of UMW staff who turned up for the Toyota GAZOO Racing (TGR) Racing Festival.
The racing continued with the second round of the Sporting Category. This race turned out to be one of the most thrilling of the weekend with close battles throughout the field. In fact, the drivers were so closely matched that 15 drivers were lapping within 1 second of each other.
The constant jostling for positions kept fans on the edge as the top three drivers led by Race 1 winner Ken Foo, Patrick Tam and Brendon Lim could be seen brushing each other’s paintwork on numerous occasions. It’s such close racing that the crowds love to see and that’s one of the appealing aspects of a one-make race where all the cars have similar power and there is no performance advantage.
Patrick made numerous attempts to pass Foo but his efforts were thwarted each time. With the final lap board appearing after the first car completed the 17th lap, Patrick decided he had run out of time and attempted a ‘do-or-die’ manoeuvre on the outside going into Turn 1. Being on the dirtier line, he slid wide into the barricades and that was the end of his race.
As if his crash – right in front of the grandstand – wasn’t bad enough, another Vios driven by Shanmuganathan rammed into his car as he attempted to take the turn. He had been charging down the main straight and did not see the warning flag being waved in time and could not change course as he entered the corner and saw Patrick’s car immobile.
The race finished with Kenneth Koh taking his first podium and Brendon crossing the line in third less than a second behind.
With the crowds pumped up following the Sporting Category race, there were great expectations for the final race of the weekend – the second round of the Super Sporting Category. In order to add to the challenge, the rules specified that the starting grid would be reversed so the faster drivers would not be at the front. Not only had Tengku Djan to start from 3rd position but also had a 20-kg weight added to his car for winning Race 1.
He must have thought carefully about how he would get ahead and when the flag was waved, he made a brilliant start to dive inside Mark Darwin in Turn 1 and began his pursuit of Shafiq. Shafiq saw him coming up behind and increased his pace but found it difficult to open a bigger gap.
Djan found the opportunity on Lap 3 when he rocketed out of Turn 9 to pull alongside Shafiq. Shafiq kept the inside line going into Turn 10 and when Tengku tried to turn in for the corner, they touched, sending his car into a half spin. For some drivers, that sort of thing might distract them a lot but Djan is a top drifter – the ‘Prince of Drift’ – and sliding and spinning is something he handles better than most drivers. He got the car under control, turned on the power and grabbed the lead.
From then on, Djan kept his lead all the way to the chequered flag. Shafiq was forced to retire as the damage to his car prevented him from making it to the finish line.
While the Vios Challenge was the highlight of the first TGR Racing Festival in Malaysia, the 28,000+ visitors to the event also had a chance to enjoy and watch many other activities. If you didn’t have a chance to see it, there’s another chance on November 25/26 when the next TGR Racing Festival will be held at the MAEPS site in Serdang, outside Kuala Lumpur. It will also have the Vios Challenge which is a championship event so the drivers will be looking to score more points and race harder.