AFTER an exciting opening event in Batu Kawan, Penang, the Toyota GAZOO Racing (TGR) festival arrived at the Malaysia Agro Exhibition Park Serdang (MAEPS) over the weekend.
This was the second of four races for this season’s Vios Challange, which was also the feature event for the TGR. The Vios Challenge is a one-make race featuring 30 identical Toyota Vios racing cars.
Despite heavy downpours on both days, the TGR festival managed to attract more than 20,000 visitors. Entrance was free and there were activities, such as the Toyota stunt show, drift exhibitions, food trucks, pit lane walk, stage shows, games and celebrity meet-and-greet sessions specially cater for the public.
The Vios Challenge had three categories - the Sporting Class, Promotional Class and Super Sporting class. The Sporting Class was where most racers competed, Promotional Class was where eight celebrities took part, while the Super Sporting class was where top racers like Tengku Djan Tengku Mahaleel and Mark Darwin were racing.
On Saturday, the Dream Chaser Team celebrated their second pole position with new-comer Brendan Paul Anthony after he qualified ahead of Brendon Lim of Tedco Racing, while replacement driver and Zerotohundred.com editor Tom Goh secured the third position in the Sporting Class category.
Goh who qualified third place on the grid was unable to participate in Race 1 due to an unfortunate impact during a jump, which punctured his oil sump - the team couldn’t fix it in time.
The Sporting Class’s race 1 saw Dreamchaser’s Brendan take control of the race from the start, followed by Lim, while the rest of the drivers fought furiously for the final podium position.
At mid race, Ken Foo made a great run out of the slow Turn 16 to pass Kenneth Koh but the pair touched into Turn 1 which pushed Foo’s car into a half spin. The incident allowed Patrick Tam to take advantage and secure the final podium position.
In the Promotional Class, beatboxer Shawn Lee, who had taken charge in qualifying, led the pack away on a damp circuit thanks to his quickest qualifying time despite carrying a 40kg ballast for winning in Batu Kawan.
Shukri Yahaya was breathing down Shawn’s neck from his second position for the first half of the race, but Shawn managed to widen the gap between him and Shukri to seal his third successive win.
In the prestigious Super Sporting Class category, championship leader and Prince of Drift Tengku Djan was expected to have an easy weekend as he had topped the time sheets in all of the practice sessions.
However, during qualifying, he accidentally clipped the inside of Turn 1 while in pursuit of the younger Mark Darwin, which destroyed the front wheel and put him out of the rest of the qualifying session.
In spite of that, Tengku Djan managed a front-row start for Race 1 on Sunday as he had done enough to outgun William Ho and secured his place beside Darwin who comfortably earned the pole position.
The surprising results from Saturday’s qualifying and races in the Vios Challenge carried on to Sunday’s events with an added element of excitement to the plot.
All three classes of racing yielded plenty of oohs and aahs from the crowds who were riveted to the action of the day’s events.
The first draw of the day came from the Super Sporting Class category’s Race 1, where Mark Darwin made a great start from pole and moved over to defend his position. However, he had closed the door well into Tengku Djan and the pair contacted, sending Darwin into the outside wall and forcing him into retirement. The race had to be restarted without Darwin.
During the restart, Tengku Djan who is on the first row, made a clean run to pull ahead of the pack. However, his bumper began to flail from the earlier collision and he was pulled into the pits on Lap 4 to remove it, which brought him down to the eighth position.
William Ho then had to face a charging Mitchell Cheah who sniffed the opportunity to take the win and muscled his way past William on the next lap. The move broke Ho’s side skirt, forcing him to pit to remove the part.
Ser Ming Hui took advantage of the melee to inherit the lead which he held to the chequered flag. Mitchell was handed a 15-second penalty for jumping the start, which promoted Syafiq Ali and Boy Wong to second and third place, respectively.
In the Promotional Class, Shawn Lee had been expected to make a clean sweep of his wins once again in Race 2, but to the surprise of his rivals, he made a rare mistake in the fast Turn 6 on the opening lap. The spin left him pointing the wrong way on the track and he had to let all his rivals pass before he could rejoin the race.
That promoted Shukri Yahaya to the lead with Danny Koo in second place. Diana Danielle who had been clocking respectable times managed to secure the third spot, managing to be the first lady to stand on the podium in the Vios Challenge.
As for the Sporting Class category, Brendan Paul Anthony was expected to go for an easy second win in the Sporting Class’s Race 2, but he lost in his drag to the first corner to Brandon Lim and Patrick Tam who made a quick breakaway.
Tam kept the pressure on Lim and on Lap 4, he made a brave move to dive into Turn 16 and the lead. The pair pulled clearly away and both were trying to outpace each other all the way through the race.
The biggest excitement was for the final race of the day, the second Super Sporting Class. Despite the delay due to torrential rains, the crowd stayed put to watch the race. The top six from the previous race were now lined up on the grid in a reversed order. By token of his fifth position in Race 1, Djan once again found himself on the front row beside the young Mitchell Cheah who finished sixth.
As the track remained sodden, the race began in earnest after the convoy followed the Toyota Camry safety car for the initial three laps.
Tengku Djan was gunning hard but the young Mitchell of the Dream Chaser Team had none of it. He was a picture of calm despite Tengku Djan’s incessant attempts at passing. Lap 9 saw Djan tap the Dream Chaser Team’s car, sending Mitchell wide. Despite that, Mitchell managed to recover his Vios and did not lose his first spot. Tengku Djan continued to relentlessly pursue Mitchell but as the pair continued to tangle, William Ho slowly crept up on the duo from his lowly 7th position.
William Ho found his opening and made a daring dive into the tight Turn 16 on lap 12 but Tengku Djan refused to yield. The pair traded paintwork up the hill and, in the process, caused Tengku Djan to suffer a puncture and had to pull out of the race.
Concurrently, William himself suffered a slow puncture but not before he was slapped with a 15-second penalty for his move on Tengku Djan. Boy Wong who remained safe throughout the race took a well-deserved second ahead while William managed to limp home into third despite the penalty and puncture.
“It was quite a stressful first few laps with Djan behind me. All I had on my mind was to go in the corner slow and come out faster to stay in front of him,” said the delighted Mitchell.
The crowd that turned up at the MAEPS leg of the TGR festival was rewarded with excellent racing and great entertainment from both the racing action as well as the off-track activities.
This showed that anything could happen in the fun and exciting Vios Challenge. The third stage of TGR will be held on the January 19 and 20 in Johor Baru.
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