The Toyota Yaris which was entered in the Sepang 1000KM endurance race (S1K) recently was the first ever appearance of the model in a local race and it was a ‘baptism by fire’ on all accounts. Competing in the top MTC Production Class, the Yaris, driven by the pair of 16-year old Hayden Haikal and 24-year old Timothy Yeo, had taken the chequered flag 3 laps ahead of their nearest rival. However, a post-race penalty reclassified the duo to third position in class and fourth overall.
Three Toyotas occupied the top 5 front positions on the starting grid for the 9-hour/181-lap race laps around the 5.534-km Sepang International Circuit. The number #39 Yaris had been the highest-placed Toyota on the starting grid, qualifying second with a time of 2 min 38.932 seconds. They were followed by Wing Hin Motorsports team mates and the pair of Boy Wong and Dannies Ng in the number #38 Vios.
Two entries from GAZOO Racing Malaysia
Backing them up were the trio of Tengku Djan Ley, Naquib Azlan and Akio Takeyama from TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Malaysia in car number #37 (another Vios) which was fifth fastest. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Malaysia fielded a second entry, another Vios crewed by a trio comprising celebrity Zizan Razak, and young drivers Jwan Hii and Mika Hakimi in the SP2 Production Class in car number #36. Despite qualifying 30th , they went on to finish 20th in class and fifth in the inaugural running of the Vios Enduro Cup.
With three Toyotas in contention for overall victory, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Malaysia’s number #37 Vios, the number #39 Yaris and the number #38 Vios showed their dominance from the beginning to the final hours of the race. Four cars traded places for the lead throughout the race, but no one expected a huge turn of events that was to unfold in the closing laps.
Bad luck for #38 Vios
The number #38 Vios’ hopes of a podium finish were essentially erased due to technical issues, forcing it to rejoin 6 laps down but still managing to finish fourth overall and in Class. The number #37 Vios, meanwhile, was well poised for victory until 26 laps to the finish when the front left wheel was ripped away, dropping the team to 11th in Class.
Their misfortune left the race for the taking of car number #100 driven by Mitchell Cheah and Brendan Paul Anthony, but their hopes of a victory too came to a crushing end when mechanical problems 10 laps from the finish put them into retirement.
Yaris takes podium finish on debut
As all this unfolded, the charging #39 Yaris kept piling on the pressure and clocking consistent lap times right up to the chequered flag. “The Yaris performed impeccably, not putting a foot wrong! This is a huge testament to the car’s performance and reliability under extreme conditions, and to finish on the podium in the prestigious S1K race on its debut is, without a doubt, an amazing result,” said a happy Mr. Takeyama who is also GAZOO Racing Malaysia’s Chief Motorsports Officer.
“We would like to have won and seen two or all three cars on the podium but unfortunately, in racing, nothing is ever certain until you cross the finish line, and this is a disappointment we will have to graciously accept despite running very competitively until the final hours,” he said.
“The S1K is a challenging test of nerves not only on the reliability and durability of the car, but also the physical and mental strength of the competing teams and drivers,” he said, with his personal experience of racing in the event. ”As a team, we have proven to ourselves that we are competitive, and this setback has certainly fuelled our desire to come back and be even stronger next year.”
The Yaris’ third place finish, however, was made that much sweeter with one of the drivers (Hayden) being a competitor and the youngest ever champion in Toyota’s Vios Challenge racing series. In fact, eight of the drivers in the top 4 cars in contention for the race win had competed in the one-make series which has run for 4 seasons.
“The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Festival and Vios Challenge will next year enter its fifth successive season and we hope that it has not only made a huge impact towards enhancing the profile of Malaysian motorsports by bringing it to the masses, but also in creating a strong foundation for the development of existing, new and especially young drivers. We are committed in making an impactful contribution to Malaysian motorsports and this is an initiative we intend to continue to expand on moving forward,” Mr. Takeyama promised.
Inaugural Vios Enduro Cup
In the inaugural Vios Enduro Cup, Aylezo Motorsports’ trio Mirza Syahmi Mahzan, Zen Low and Aiman Haziq completed 166 laps enroute to collect a cash prize of RM10,000. It was a 1-2 victory for Aylezo with Dato’ Danny Yip, Kenneth Teh and Chang Choon Ming placed second. In third spot was 23 Motors’ Al- Farouk and Abdull Miqail, followed by Toyotsu Racing’s Liew Jo Choon, Tan Chan Wei in fourth.
A total of 10 Toyota cars took to the track for the S1K race which attracted 38 teams, with three cars competing in the MTC Production Class and the remaining seven vying for positions in the SP2 Production Class and the inaugural running of the Vios Enduro Cup.