The return of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival to the Sepang International Circuit for Round 2 of Season 5 brought public attendance back to the festival, and with it renewed excitement from the wheel-to-wheel action on the racetrack.
As before, competitors are classified in four different categories – Super Sporting for professional and elite racers, Sporting for amateur/gentleman racers, the Promotional class for celebrities, and the Rookie class for stand-out young talent, who share the grid with the Super Sporting class.
Racing commenced with the Super Sporting category and drama unfolded almost immediately, where the first lap saw contact between Eddie Lew of Laser Motor Racing and Tengku Djan Ley Tengku Mahaleel of Prima Pearl TD Racing Team, resulting in both getting eliminated from the race.
Up ahead, the lead pack of Mitchell Cheah (Prima Pearl TD Racing Team) and Mark Darwin (Laser Motor Racing) stretched their margin to 10 seconds ahead of the closest competitors, while Freddie Ang of Telagamas Toyota fought his way through the field for an eventual third-place finish, ahead of Hayden Haikal of Axle Motorsports.
By the chequered flag, Cheah held his lead until the end to win the race, holding a 2.1 second gap over Darwin. “Conditions were extremely difficult today with the heat. I was just focused on the task in hand and to do my best to avoid making any mistakes. To be honest that was quite difficult to do with Darwin putting me under tremendous pressure,” race winner Cheah said of his Race 1 outing.
The second-placed finish in Race 1 represented a strong comeback for Darwin, having missed the first two races of the season due to illness. “It’s great to be back on the podium having missed their first two races of the season due to COVID-19. It was a tough race, Cheah was extremely quick today and there really wasn’t anything else that I could do to catch him,” Darwin said of his race.
Promising young talent was showcased in the Rookie Class, which once again saw Nabil Azlan take victory for his second race win of the season. Muizz Musyaffa followed shortly behind for his second-place finish, with the podium completed by Muhammad Hamdany. This also represents the second and third podium appearances for Muizz and Hamdany, respectively.
“It wasn’t the easiest race for me with Muizz on my tail. It was very tough and I just had to maintain a good pace. The heat was also very hard on the tyres this afternoon and that required me to constantly change my braking point into the corners,” said Nabil.
“I feel amazing. Today was good and I could stay with the leaders throughout the race. As the conditions got hotter however, I began to lose a lot of time as I couldn’t turn into the corners as well. I’ll certainly be gunning to make it four for four (4 races and 4 podiums) in Race 2 tomorrow,” Hamdany recalled of his Race 1 outing.
Racing for the Sporting Class was paused shortly after it began on the first lap, where a major crash disabled two cars and brought out the red flag. Following a 15-minute recess to clear the track, the race for the amateur and gentlemen racers continued with the top three positions unchanged.
Naquib Azlan of Axle Motorsports wasted no time from the restart, growing his lead from the field gradually in the early and middle stages of Race 1 for the Sporting Class. The Rookie Class graduate stretched his lead to nearly four seconds, before Tom Goh of S&D Tama Motorsports wound up the pace and narrowed the gap in the closing stages to 2.3 seconds by the waving of the chequered flag.
Abdul Miqail of 23 Motors diced with Bradley Benedict Anthony of Crestmax Motorsport, doing battle for most of the race and taking the fight to the very last lap, when 16-year-old Miqail made the pass to take his podium result in the Sporting Class.
The Promotional Class for celebrities saw actor Zizan Razak take control early on in Race 1, clearing a gap that stretched to 12 seconds from presenter Nabil Ahmad in second place by the chequered flag, while TV host Ahirine Ahirudin rounding up the podium in third place.
The start of Race 1 for the Promotional Class saw Shukri Yahaya jump the start, leading to his disqualification for his first race of the weekend. Not knowing the status of his race, Shukri slowed to let the field through before resuming his chase, gradually fighting his way through to finish second.
Meanwhile, singers Nabila Razali and Khai Bahar completed Race 1 in P4 and P5 respectively, while Janna Nick finished in sixth. TV host Ain Edruce finished seventh, while Singer Wany Hasrita completed the race in eighth.
In addition the racing action on track, the Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival featured an urban street dining area featuring food trucks serving local delicacies, while those looking for a different kind of action on wheels could take to the pump ramp for bicycles and skateboards.
On stage, Malaysian band Bunkface was the headline act, followed by Indonesian singer Judika on the second day of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival for Round 2 of Season 5.
On Sunday, the racing action continues at the north track of the Sepang International Circuit, where the top five race finishers in each category in Race 1 go to Race 2 in a reverse-grid format.