The Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival Vios Challenge saw its first night race for the Season 4 Round 3 running of the racing series, offering a visually distinctive finale to the latest season of the one-make competition under the lights of the Sepang International circuit over the weekend, following on from Round 2 held at the venue last month.
As before, competitors in the Vios Challenge race series were entered into three categories; Promotional for celebrities, Sporting for amateur racers, Super Sporting for elite and professional racers as well as the Rookie class for young, promising talent.
In Race 1, the action bubbled over in the Promotional Class as perennial front-runner Shukri Yahaya kept his pace up, as well as first position from the start to finish. Behind his lights-to-flag performance was a three-way battle for second place between Zizan Razak, Khai Bahar and Akio Takeyama. The first lap saw contact between Nabila Razali and Ahirine Ahirudin, dropping the duo to the back of the field.
Up in front, the trio fighting for second saw all three exchange positions, with Zizan momentarily dropping back into fourth place. Khai fell back from the pack, leaving Zizan and Takeyama to make it a two-way fight for the second step on the Promotional podium. Takeyama led this pack in P2 for five laps, though eventually had to give way to an aggressive pass by Zizan on lap 11.
Zizan was now up in second place, and though just two laps were remaining in this race he kept the pressure on Shukri, coming to within one car’s length of the leading Promotional class racer. Zizan made one more lunge on the final lap, three corners from the finish line, and emerged ahead to take the chequered flag in first place.
That P1 grab by Zizan was short-lived, however, as he was penalised for exceeding track limits, and the eventual five-second penalty saw him pushed back in the race classification to second place, awarding Race 1 of the Promotional class under Sepang lights to Shukri. Talitha Tan, Janna Nick and Wany Hasrita finished in P5, P6 and P7, while Nabila and Ahirine rounded up the class in Race 1.
The elite category that is the Super Sporting Class in the Vios Challenge saw Freddie Ang of Telagamas Toyota also capitalise on pole position to result in a race win. Mark Darwin of Laser Motor Racing took second place, while Tengku Djan Ley Tengku Mahaleel of Prima Pearl Auto completed the podium in third.
Tengku Djan made the most on-track progress, realising his P3 finish coming from 10th on the grid. His lowly starting position at the back of the field was due to a penalty sustained from an incident in qualifying.
Race winner Ang attributed his car’s performance to the relative respite from the heat of daytime running at the Sepang International Circuit, where heat-soaked tyres and brakes become less of an issue and more consistent when racing at night. Meanwhile, Tengku Djan’s podium finish means he is once again saddled with 40 kg in success ballast for the next race.
Running on track with the Super Sporting Class was the Rookie Class, this time witnessing 14-year-old Putera Adam take the race win under the lights at Sepang 1.3 seconds ahead of Jwan Hii and class championship contender Naquib Azlan. Putera led from the Rookie Class pole position at the start, with Naquib and Hii staying close in the chase while Mika Hakimi has to pit for a technical issue, dropping him into P5 behind Amer Harris.
The most populated category, the Sporting Class saw Ady Rahimy of 23 Motors have a relatively free run ahead of the chasing pack, putting in a strong drive after suffering a bad start.
An early tangle with Amirul Hakimi of Super Evergreen Motorsports saw Ady receive a post-race penalty of one position, which meant that he had to settle for a second-place classification despite finishing 12.3 seconds ahead of Bradley Benedict Anthony, who would go on to take the class win.
Behind the leading duo in this Sporting Class race was a five-way battle for the final podium place, with Mirza Syahmi Mahzan of Aylezo Motorsports holding on to third place in the face of pressure from Clement Yeo, though third place would eventually go to Dannies Ng following a closely contested challenge from Amirul as well as Shawn Lee of Laser Motor Racing. who finished P4 and P5 respectively.
Championship contender Adam Khalid of Crestmax Motorsports lost out substantially, having started out fourth battled for third, fourth and fifth. An incident on lap six however dropped Adam to P10, and this was compounded by a drive-through penalty for causing the incident which dropped him further back to 16th in the Sporting field.