Round 2 was the most explosive Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival round to date. Not just because of the intense race drama that’d kept us all on the edge of our toes with the constant serving of nudges and crashes, but top highlights of the race weekend were definitely:
- The massive contact between Tengku Djan and William Ho at the end of Race 2. To everyone, it was like fireworks at a closing ceremony marking the end of Round 2.
- Pro class (Super Sporting) saw a reenactment of the Macau GP orgy where all cars beyond position 4 got stuck in a bottleneck
- The street circuit proved challenging to master, featuring a rally cross stage like gravel littered surface, although the circuit is mostly dominated by closed-wall tarmac sections.
- It’s quite breathtaking to experience the racecars almost launching off the ramp on the main straights and to hear the cars bottom out at the big dip after T3.
- Sporting Class competitor Shan had crashed spectacularly at practice, with his Vios taking huge impact from the concrete wall, and then bouncing a few feet off it.
- Shan managed to turn things around, got his racecar pulled and repaired overnight at a workshop, then made it in time for qualifying the next morning. It was a huge feat.
My Cup of T
This time, I was able to experience the Vios Challenge race event as a driver. Many thanks to owners of Car #38 which I had the pleasure to pilot as a temp stand in for Kenny Lee, who’ve just upped his game to international stage, and subsequently clinched a well deserved 2nd place in a touring car race in Buriram circuit, Thailand. This meant that he’s now overqualified to be racing in the National-only Vios Challenge in a way.
You’ll find my story more relevant if you only knew what went down that weekend. Let’s take you up to speed with the quick slideshow of race highlights in the video above
The MAEPS Circuit
There are 3 main classes separating teams and drivers in the Vios Challenge series. This classification is based on race experience and achievements of the individual driver.
Promotion Class – For Celebrities | Orange Numbers
Dedicated solely to the public figures and ambassadors of Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival Malaysia. We call it the celebrity class. It has been dominated by Malaysian beatboxer Shawn Lee since the season opener in August.
Sporting – For Amateurs and Rookies | Green Numbers
This is basically where all Vios Challenge drivers begin. They range from zero experience to experienced, up and coming drivers. This is where I was classified in this race event, a perfect first hand experience into the world of TGR.
Super Sporting – For outright Pros | Yellow Numbers
Yes, all renowned drivers are placed in this ultra competitive class. It is where you’ll find the biggest names in Malaysian touring car racing such as Tengku Djan Mark. Darwin, William Ho, Boy Wong and more.
It was move in day for race teams and their Vios cup Cars, to get their gear organised and crew briefed for the impending race weekend.
Just like the street circuit, these TGR pits are made of makeshift tentage erected just for the race, unlike the full featured paddocks in closed circuits like Sepang. I have to say it is damn cool to see my name banner on the pit roof.
A kind of walking exercise, but more importantly, it is the only official chance drivers get to do their track walk. Just like how one would recce a venue prior to their venture, a track walk is crucial for drivers to examine the entire 1,992M street circuit. With MAEPS being a new circuit for literally everyone, it is a walking excursion not to be missed.
We look out for:
- Vantage points for best possible corner exits
- Bumps and dips to stay away from
- Potential overtaking areas to capitalise on
- Elevation or descents to watch out for
- Track limit markings and bollards to avoid
This is the day where all official practice sessions commence for all classes. It is when the racecars are allowed on the circuit for the first time. Our day begun as early as 830 am as the race officials hold a compulsory drivers briefing.
The all important congregation of drivers prior to any sanctioned race event. Ravin, the official race director of Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival heads the briefing. Other than the standard menu of safety briefing, all drivers were informed of a couple more points to adhere or face heavy penalty, namely:
- The Bollard:
No cars should touch the orange bollards (photo above) located throughout the “rally cross” zones, an open area where the walls are replaced by painted circuit limit markings. Touch the bollard and you’ll be fined RM250, take down the bollard? that’s RM500. Yes, per bollard.
- Track Limits:
At the said open area where the walls are far apart, there are tendencies where drivers would surpass the designated road markings in an effort to gain advantage. So, no more than 2 wheels are allowed to exceed the track limits.
- No Drifting:
No intentional drifting are allowed in the Vios Challenge. A newly implemented rule that forbids the right to rotate the car via handbrake maneuver. While it is not a crime by international FIA standards, the race officials deemed it a no go in the Vios Challenge.
As I head out via the narrow pit exit, onto the the brand new MAEPS circuit, it felt like I was at the Macau GP as the walls that surround the circuit passes by. Except, the walls here in MAEPS are cold hard concrete, versus the ARMCO barriers of Macau. Also, i’d really love to see them painted black and yellow in the future, that’ll further heighten the thrill of street circuits like the original Macau or Bangsaen.
So the highlight of my first outing at the MAEPS circuit was when I realised how new all these felt:
- The irregularities of the street surface versus the smoothness in closed circuits
- Concrete block walls were intimidating
- The main straights has up and down ramp, can almost get air time there
- Braking zone for T1 was bumpy enough to activate abs
All in all, it all felt rather extreme at first try. But right after returning from the 25 minute practice session, then comparing lap times from the time sheets, it became a challenge to see who can master said circuit the soonest. With reference from prior lap times and lap times of other drivers, you can sort of gauge how much more you can and need to push to achieve desired results.
Braking at T1
I found the only way to conquer the braking zone in T1 is to avoid the outside entirely. It takes the edge off maximum braking but at the same time, shrinks the window for a perfect entry in to T1, which is not preferred. Fortunately the entry is relatively wide and with the risks of ABS kicking in reduced, It was a strategic move for my braking application and one that that i felt gave me the highest entry speed in preparation for the following almost flat out series of snaky downhill corners.
Avoiding a shunt
As practice laps upon practice laps go by, one naturally become complacent of the dangers that lurk beyond the apex. As I did, just like everyone would because as the experience increases, so does speed. We were halfway into Practice 2 and then it happened. Shan went off at T9, slamming into both the Tecpro barrier as well as the edge of the concrete wall, where the double right is. Close behind was Tan Su Teik, who barely managed to avoid plowing into Shan, had no where left to go, succumbed to kissing the wall.
Only just managed to escape the carnage ahead. An unfortunate mishap for Cars #69 and #03, see my previous video posts. But guess what, the yellow car managed to repair completely its damage overnight, with hours to spare for Qualifying the next morning. Priceless video by: Mrs @brendon.lby #toyotagazooracing #maeps #gazooracingmalaysia #vioschallenge #toyotavios #zerotohundred
Meanwhile at T6, Jackson Tan and I were mere seconds from the crash site, had zero clue as to what was to unfold in the 2 corners ahead. It was indeed almost too late by the time I go there and had to resort to drastic measures to avoid adding to the pile up. There was barely enough road to slow the car down, thankfully the additional scrub from the front tyres at full steering lock provided adequate room to escape the crash without a scratch. Jackson, who was right behind also survived the ordeal. By then, safety flags were deployed and the session was red flagged to avoid further carnage.
After the bad crash, Shan’s car was repaired overnight in record time
The moment of truth, the all important opportunity to perform the best we can to secure top spots prior to the race, especially so in a street circuit race where chances for overtaking are hard to come by. With the experience gained from 3 official practice sessions in hand, it was time to compile all the sectors of the MAEPS street circuit to set my best possible lap time. The pit crew put on a set of fresh Toyo T1R tyres and off I go.
It’d took me till the end of the 2nd lap before I had a clear run ahead as I passed Dato Ken Foo in Car #10 just after the main straight ramp. He’d generously offered me a clear passage just before T1 braking point and I took it. There was some drafting involved but judging from the footage, it doesn’t look like there was any added pace to my benefit. Nevertheless, that lap felt good and true enough I’d clock my personal best of 1:27.816 although I didn’t know how I’d fare amongst the rest at the time. In reality, I had bagged 3rd place at Qualifying.
Not wanting to come in, I decided to stay out for longer to get more driving time. Bad move. Remember the huge dip I mentioned above? I’ve been told a few cars had cracked their oil sump bottoming-out at the said dip. But having survived the ordeal for the past 50 laps at least, I didn’t think it’ll happen to me. Alas, my oil sump took a hit at lap 11 and subsequently chipped the bottom. Needless to say, there was show of smoke as the engine oil gushed out through the bottom and I was forced to return to the pits, sad and gutted. Although upon discovering I’d done okay clinching 3rd place in class, I felt contented with the results.
No Race 1
Little did everyone knew, replacing the oil sump in a Toyota Vios isn’t a straightforward process. I’d assume it was a matter of loosening the sump bolts but this was not the case. The crew had to remove a host of components, including the valve cover and driveshafts just to free the sump, which was naturally located at the bottom of the engine. Time was running out and Race 1 was only 1hr away.
Because there’s disassembling of the engine involved, it is imperative that my racecar go through a mandatory dyno test after the repair to ensure the engine wasn’t tempered in any way to gain power advantage. If I made it to dyno and pass the test, I would be able to keep my 3rd place. But by the time the crew got to mount the wheels back on, Race 1 was already 5 laps in. I’d totally miss the grid, formation lap and yes, even the dyno test. I had to sit in for Race 1 and settle for last place in Race 2 the next day.
Despite starting from the back of the grid and not being able to join Race 1, I still felt good and eager to start Race 2. It would have been otherwise if this were at home ground Sepang, but because the MAEPS arena was so extreme, it is akin to navigating through a battlefield and surviving from it. I was contented that I came this far without much fuss and my hard earned qualifying lap was the cherry on top of it all.
The Red Lights are off and Race 2 is Go, Go, Go! Capitalising on my more than decent standing start, i quickly skipped 5 places ahead. Coming down the main straight, I was side by side with Andy Teoh but had to surrender to him as the door was closing. His rear end was pretty much my permanent view throughout the next 4 laps. Despite sector 1 being my strong suit throughout all weekend, It was dead impossible to get pass Andy. He truly put on a strong defense, diligently closing any potential doors for a pass. Sure it was frustrating but more than that, it was a satisfying duel for the first 5 laps.
Andy was a fighter and If anything, I’d have to try even harder further down the race for a chance to pass. But that wasn’t going to happen as I bit the dust again at the T3 Dip. This time, it was the lift prior to the dip that had caused my driveshaft to come loose. Immediately, I experienced complete loss of power and got unintentionally bumped by Shan as a result. I managed to coast safely onto the run off zone to determine the actual problem. Upon knowing I have zero forward drive in any gear, I knew my race was over.
The Vios Challenge is not to be taken lightly. Come to think of it, after completing the series of outings at the MAEPS street circuit, it felt like I’ve survived through a battlefield. The risks are very real, one small mistake and you’re in for a date with the wall, a brush with another competitor or worse, a pile up. Damages are hardly light too, even the smallest impact could potentially break a wheel, bend a lower arm, crack a headlight or all at the same time and so on.
I have found new respect for street circuit racing, the Vios Challenge organization, fellow teams and drivers. Everything is so much more concentrated, the running schedule is packed tightly, race drama happens more frequently than any race event i’ve been to, there’s a lot more pit activity as well, with the mechanics constantly repairing something just to ensure the racecars are fit, both in and out to perform their best on the arena.
“Parc ferme is an enclosed and secure area in the paddock where the cars are weighed and any other checks deemed necessary by race officials are made.”
Each car will be deemed to be in parc ferme from the time at which it leaves the pit lane for the first time during qualifying practice until the start of the race.
Article 34.2 of the 2017 FIA Sporting Regulations
Previous Articles on Toyota Gazoo Racing Malaysia
Official Race Report by Toyota Gazoo Racing Malaysia
SATURDAY SPRINGS SURPRISES IN TOYOTA GAZOO RACING (TGR) RACING FESTIVAL
Serdang, Selangor 25, November 2017. As unpredictable as the weather was in MAEPS, Selangor where the Toyota GAZOO Racing (TGR) Racing Festival was held, the Vios Challenge practice and race sessions today yielded even more surprises as racers made the most of the wide and fast circuit design to maximize the performance of their race cars.
In the prestigious Super Sporting 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 early practice sessions but when it mattered during qualifying, he clipped the inside of Turn 1 in his pursuit of the younger Mark Darwin, destroying the front wheel and putting him out of the rest of the qualifying session.
He however managed a front-row start for the race on Sunday as he had done enough to outgun William Ho to secure his place beside Darwin who comfortably earned pole position on his third lap. “I was quite comfortable. In fact, I think I was too comfortable and tried to just stay calm and keep away from the walls. The team did a great job to give me a car that gave me a lot of confidence straight off so a big thanks to them,” said Mark Darwin who will be representing Malaysia in the up-coming Thailand Super Endurance 600 Minute race in a Toyota Altis.
In the Sporting Category, surprises continued as the Dream Chaser Team celebrated its second pole position with new-comer Brendan Paul Anthony putting his car in pole ahead of Brendon Lim of Tedco Racing in the qualifying session. Replacement driver and Editor of Zerotohundred.com Tom Goh was brought in to replace Kenny Lee whose licence was recently upgraded, preventing him from participating in the Vios Challenge. Tom rewarded the team with a brilliant third place on the grid but an unfortunate impact during a jump punctured his sump and he was unable to replace it in time for the first race later in the day.
The race saw Dreamchaser’s Brendan open a gap to his chasers namely Lim while the rest of the peloton fought for the final podium position. The pack included Patrick Tam, Ken Foo, Kenneth Koh, Frederick Soo and Jackson Tan who battled furiously by mid race. Ken made a great run out of the slow Turn 16 to pass Koh but the pair touched into Turn 1, putting Foo into a half spin. The resulting melee allowed Patrick to recover and take the final spot on the podium.
“I am very happy to win despite this being my first outing in the Vios Challenge. I am very happy to win and hope to continue the momentum in Round 2,” said Brendan who recently moved into saloon car racing from go-karting.
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.
The battles were further down the field where Fattah Amin and Danny Koo had their battle for third position while Geraldine Gan had her mirrors full of Venice Min’s No. 16 car. Diana Danielle enjoyed her battle with UMW Toyota Motor’s Deputy Chairman Akio Takeyama for 5th position but she managed to make a bold move in the back section of the circuit to claim that spot.
“It was a very exciting race and I am impressed with the level of competitiveness of all the drivers today. I am looking forward to more racing action tomorrow,” said Takeyama.
The Toyota GAZOO Racing (TGR) Racing Festival continues on Sunday with a full day of activities and sporting action. There will be a drift performance by World Champion drift drivers Masato Kawabata and Hideyuki Fujino who will be exhibiting their precision drift skills on the main circuit.
There will also be lots of celebrity appearances throughout the day so fans should not miss the opportunity to come and enjoy the day with them. Over 20 selected food trucks will be providing all the hungry visitors with an array of delectable offerings and there will be great prizes to be won including a Toyota Vios SE that is up for grabs to the lucky visitor.
Entrance is free and the activities begin at 10am and ends at 8pm. For a full listing of activities, visit the Toyota GAZOO Racing Malaysia website, fb or insta.
EXCITEMENT TILL THE VERY END IN VIOS CHALLENGE
MAEPS, Selangor, 26 November 2017 – The surprising results from Saturday’s races in the Vios Challenge carried on to Sunday’s events and heaped on the 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 at the Toyota GAZOO Racing (TGR) Racing Festival.
The first draw of the day came from the Super Sporting category where Mark Darwin who 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 sans Darwin and with Djan alone on the first row, made a clean run to pull ahead of the pack made up of William Ho, Mitchell Cheah and Ser Ming Hui. However, Djan’s bumper began to flail from the earlier collision and was pulled into the pits on lap 4 to remove the offending part, dropping him into eighth.
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 thus promoting Syafiq Ali and Boy Wong to second and third 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, 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 get moving again.
This 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.
Bad luck however struck Janna Nick, Venice Min and Geraldine Gan as they had to retire from their fine run.
In the Sporting Category, Brendan Paul was expected to go for an easy second win but he lost in his drag to the first corner to Brandon Lim and Patrick Tam who made a quick breakaway. Patrick kept the pressure on Lim and on Lap 4, he made a brave move to dive into Turn 16 and into the lead. The pair pulled clearly away and both were trying to out pace each other all the way through the race.
The battle began brewing lower down the field with Geraldine Read having a great scrap with Adzeem Eqwan, Tan Seng Lock and Tan Su Teik but it was Read who took the brunt of it and had to drop out of the battle and into the clutches of the leading duo who were lapping the field.
Patrick caught Read in the dying stages of the race and in her haste to yield to a blue flag, she came into Brandon Lim’s path thus ending his charge for the win.
The biggest excitement was for the final race of the day, the second Super Sporting Class race. Despite the delay due to torrential rain, the crowd remained to watch the race was not to be missed. The top six from the previous race were now lined up on the grid in 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 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. 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 Djan refused to yield. The pair traded paintwork up the hill and in the process, Djan suffered a puncture and had to pull out of the race. William himself suffered a slow puncture but not before he was slapped with a 15 second penalty for his move on Djan. Boy Wong who remained safe throughout the race took a well-deserved 2nd 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 Djan,” said the delighted Mitchell.
The crowd that turned up at the MAEPS leg of the TGR Racing Festival was truly rewarded with excellent racing and great entertainment from both the racing action as well as the off-track activities. It is an event not to be missed and our southern fans can look forward to the next Toyota GAZOO Racing (TGR) Racing Festival on 19th and 20th January 2018 in Johor Bahru. Stay up to date via Toyota Gazoo Racing Malaysia’s home page, Facebook and Instagram.