Toyota Gazoo Racing Vios Challenge Season 3, Round 3 – drama and close racing at Batu Kawan Stadium

The third season of the Toyota Vios Challenge returned to the Batu Kawan Stadium in Penang for the third round, which was certainly not short of excitement across the three classes. Race 1 on Saturday saw Tengku Djan Ley, Hayden Haikal and Shawn Lee of the Super Sporting, Sporting and Promotional classes respectively take race wins in their classes for a further boost in their championship standings.

The first race of the day began with pole position claimed by Tengku Djan Ley racing under the 23 Motors banner, who was the only entrant to clock under the 1 minute 15 second mark with a lap time of 1:14.698 along the 1,692 m-long circuit. Next in on the grid was Kenny Lee in P2 for Kegani Racing with a time of 1:15.018, followed by Mark Darwin of Laser Motor Racing with a lap time of 1:15.215 for P3 on the grid.

It was a display of precision from Djan in the #23 car, who extracted a gap of 2.3 seconds clear from second-placed Lee, who was pushing at least as hard to stay in contention. Perhaps pushing a little too hard, as his race came to an end as he clipped the inside wall at Turn 2 on Lap 9, bringing out the safety car.

Circulating under yellow flag, Djan’s lead evaporated while Lee’s retirement from the first race of the weekend promoted Mark Darwin and Brendan Paul Anthony into second and third places. Once racing resumed, Djan held position, and thus a commanding lights-to-flag victory in Race 1 resulted for the #23 car.

The top three in qualifying for the Sporting class consisted of pole-sitter Mirza Syahmi Mahzan in the #97 car of Aylezo Motorsports with a time of 1:15.902, followed by Hayden Haikal in P2, in the #81 car of S&D Motorsports with a time of 1:15.925. Third on the Sporting class grid for the weekend’s first race was Adam Khalid in the #28 car of Crestmax Motorsports with a time of 1:16.201.

Mirza made a solid start from P1 as the opening four laps of the 22-lap race saw a close-fought battle for the lead between Mirza and Hayden, though the unforgiving nature of the street-style circuit with concrete barriers claimed its next victim as a mistake from Mirza resulted in the end of his race.

Hayden inherited the race lead in the #97 car, and went to extend his lead from Kenneth Koh in the #77 car of Panglima Motorsports by as much as eight seconds. Meanwhile, Adam Khalid rounded up the podium placings in third following a less-than perfect start which handed track position to Koh.

Wrapping up the first day’s racing was the Promotional class, which saw Shawn Lee take pole position in the #6 car with a lap time of 1:17.111. Lee was trailed by Nabil Ahmad in the #83 car in P2, with a lap time of 1:17.660, followed by Shukri Yahaya in P3 in the #24 car with a lap time of 1:11.715.

Race 1 of the Promotional class for this round started under the safety car due to rain, which looked to promise even more excitement with the additional weather element. Lee gradually widened up the margin between himself and the #83 car in the wet conditions, though Nabil would promptly close the gap again the track surface dried out in the closing stages of the race.

The top three starters of the Promotional class finished in the same order, as Shawn Lee held position for the race win on Saturday, while Nabil Ahmad and Shukri Yahaya held station to finish in second and third places, respectively.

Race 2 on Sunday commenced once again with the Super Sporting class, with a reverse grid for the first six finishers on Race 1 the day before and thus placing Freddie Ang in the #3 car of Telagamas Toyota on pole for Race 2. This meant Super Sporting Race 1 winner Djan would start Race 2 well down the order, and his win on Saturday would further add to his success ballast which totalled a hefty 55 kg for Race 2.

An overzealous effort on the opening lap saw Djan’s #23 car sustain damage to its right rear wheel forcing a pit stop for a wheel change. This ended Djan’s contest for the front in Race 2, though he continued to finish two laps down in order to collect precious points for the championship.

With a strong race start, Ang held off the two-pronged challenge from William Ho of Toyotsu and defending champion Boy Wong. The #39 car driven by Ho was in hot pursuit of Ang in the #3 car, though the lack of sufficient opportunity saw Ho hold position in second place in order to score valuable points for the overall championship this season.

Most eventful and dramatic of the weekend was Race 2 for the Sporting class, with double the number of entrants at 16 cars compared to the Super Sporting class. Finishing sixth in Race 1, Tom Goh in the #33 car of S&D Tama Motorsports took pole position in the reverse grid for Race 2, leading Bradley Benedict Anthony of Dream Chaser, Adam Khalid of Crestmax Motorsports and Haji Sutan Mustaffa Salihin of SMS Motorsports.

Goh defended the lead into the first corner despite a bumper tap from the second-place car, managing to gather up the ensuing slide and avoiding trouble in the opening lap. Drama was brewing further behind, however, and the second lap was red-flagged by a six-car pile-up which obstructed the full width of the track where it happened. Upon restart, four of the six cars involved could not rejoin the race.

Goh continued in strong form following the race restart, gradually building a commanding lead over Haji Sutan and Bradley Benedict who were going hammer-and-tongs in battle for second place. Haji Sutan eventually had to yield to a dive down the inside from Dream Chaser entry on the ninth lap, and thus commenced the chase to close the gap to the #33 S&D Tama Motorsports car.

Shanmuganathan Arumugam spun in his #69 car in the closing stages of the Sporting class race, which brought out the safety car once again, and Goh’s sizable lead would evaporate with the field once again bunched up.

Once the safety left the circuit, it was now down to a two-lap sprint to the finish, culminating in Bradley Benedict making another hard pass on the penultimate corner before the chequered flag to take victory in Race 2, Goh having to settle for second and Haji Sutan rounding up the Sporting class podium in P3.

Closing up the competition proceedings on Sunday was Race 2 for the Promotional Class, with Janna Nick taking pole position in the customary reverse grid arrangement over the race weekend. Janna held the race lead for the first two laps before Shukri Yahaya overtook, having carried a comfortably quicker pace.

Janna also contended with a looming Nabil Ahmad, who proceeded to take second place on the fourth lap, leaving the actress to fend off another challenge, this time from Shawn Lee. Janna put in a strong defending effort, though eventually contact resulted in her spinning four laps from the finish.

Facing oncoming traffic, Janna’s #18 car was successfully avoided by Diana Danielle and Nabila Razali, though Syafiq Kyle’s luck ran out this time and collided into the stationary car. Thus, Race 2 for the Promotional class concluded with the same podium finishers as in Race 1, albeit in different order – this time it was Shukri Yahaya for the race win, Nabil Ahmad in second place and Shawn Lee in P3.

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