When UMW Toyota Motor (UMWT) started the Toyota Vios Challenge One-Make series, one of the aims was to bring new blood into the racing scene, especially at grassroots level. Now, after three successful seasons, the company is introducing the GAZOO Racing Young Talent Development Program. This is aimed at identifying and nurturing young Malaysian racing talent transitioning from karting and sim-racing to saloon car racing.
“One of the principal achievements of the Toyota Vios Challenge has been its ability to not only attract young racers but giving them an equal opportunity to excel competing alongside more experienced racers,” said Akio Takeyama, GAZOO Racing Malaysia’s Chief Motorsports Officer, and Deputy Chairman of UMWT.
Young newcomers joining racing series
“In three seasons of the Toyota Vios Challenge, we have noticed a stream of young drivers making their way into the series. Affordability and cost of participation has certainly played a significant part in this but its one-make race format has also provided young drivers as well as newcomers with a fair and level playing field in terms of racing as they compete against more experienced drivers. This and the combination of having to drive in a super competitive environment has resulted in an accelerated learning curve,” said Mr. Takeyama, who also participates in the series.
“The success of the series in nurturing young talent could not have been better validated than with the crowning of 16-year-old Hayden Haikal as the Sporting Class champion in Season 3 with another teenage driver, 18-year-old Bradley Benedict Anthony clinching second place overall in what was only his first year of saloon car racing, both of whom were karters making the transition up to saloon car racing,” he said.
Mr. Takeyama said the GAZOO Racing Young Talent Development Program underlined Toyota’s continued investment and commitment towards the development of Malaysian motorsports.
Transition from sim racing and karting
The programme, for those between the ages of 14 and 20, has identified 6 young racers, based on their karting and sim-racing accomplishments, overall performance and level of commitment. They will be coached before being provided with the opportunity to compete in Season 4 of the Toyota Vios Challenge series.
They are sim racers Mika Hakimi (17) and Naquib Azlan (20), and karters Amer Harris (17), Jwan Hii (18), Putera Adam (14) and Troy Eimann (16).
The racers will undergo intensive training both on and off the track under the close guidance of instructors at the GAZOO Racing School beginning this month. They must satisfy a number of criteria before being certified competent to race. As with all racing drivers, they must also fulfil all conditions for the issuance of a national competition license (for circuit racing) by Malaysia’s motorsports-governing body, the Motorsports Association of Malaysia (MAM).
Toyota’s growing presence in motorsports
GAZOO Racing and Toyota’s growing presence in Malaysian motorsports has collaboratively helped to develop both the sport and brand as more dynamic, vibrant, emotive and exhilarating entities.
“The commitment from the onset had been to establish an even bigger footprint in Malaysian motorsports and to be in the position to give Malaysian motorsports a further boost. In 3 seasons, we have been able to make an impactful difference by establishing a series that ran on purpose-built street tracks instead of at traditional racing circuits. That successfully attracted not only first-time competitors but also amateur and professional racers to the series. With Season 4, we intend to take this one step further by providing young racers with a gateway into the higher levels of motor racing,” said Ravindran K., President of UMW Toyota Motor.