The races in the Vios Challenge one-makes series typically take around 25 to 30 minutes around half the Sepang International Circuit but with the GR Vios Sprint Cup, the drivers race for up to an hour and they circulate on the full course of 5.534 kms. The extended time and number of laps made things more challenging and exciting and the lead changed multiple times from start to finish in the first race yesterday.
The first ever running GR Vios Sprint Cup saw a total of 18 cars with 36 drivers. Starting from pole position was S&D Tama Motorsports’ Freddie Ang but his leading position was lost by the very first corner to Boy Wong of Axle Motorsports, with Tengku Djan (Prima Pearl TD Racing) following.
From fourth on the grid, veteran racer Tengku Djan paced himself, picking off the front-runners one at a time before positioning himself as high as second by lap 10, 30 minutes into the race. At this time, the pit window opened for a driver change.
“As the pit window presented itself, we considered the overall race strategy and decided that it was just the right time to pit for a tyre and driver change. With the car running hot, it was better to make a pit-stop and take that chance to cool the car down, cool the tyres down before going back on track to attack again,” said the eventual winner.
“It’s a one-hour race and it’s a lot more stressful. Fitness definitely plays a role and it was definitely hot today as well. For example, in a race where everyone is on identical cars, I close the windows on my car so I get better aerodynamic efficiency… but that means you’re essentially cooking in the car and without fitness, you will mentally breakdown,” he explained.
Of his younger team mate Mika Hakimi, Tengku Djan said: “Mika has proven himself in the GAZOO Racing Young Driver Development Program last year and had some really good races in the Rookie Class. After a few sessions preparing for the Vios Sprint Cup, he came straight up to the pace. The pace is definitely there but there are some areas he will need to look into for example a little more aggression so that he can pressure the car in front more efficiently.”
With the final 30 minutes of the race unfolding, Prima Pearl TD Racing’s fate was left in the hands of the 19 year old driver. “In these kinds of races, you really have to pick your battles and that’s precisely what I did. I told myself that I would only go all out in the final two laps. I wanted to close the gap on Nabil immediately after taking over from Djan but it was better to just let the battle between Nabil and Goh play out ahead of me and save my tyres for the end,” Mika said after the race.
He put in a great drive in what was to be a game of nerves. From third, he had quickly challenged Tom Goh (the second driver for S&D Tama Motorsports) for second position before setting his sights on the lead – a move that no one anticipated, and would not come until the final few corners of the last lap. “When you have Djan as your team mate, you really need to be on your top form!” he added.
Finishing second clearly disappointed was Nabil Azlan (Axle Motorsports) who made a crucial mistake in the last lap. “I made a mistake in shifting gears. I am really sorry to the team because we could have won it. At the exit of turn 2, I wanted to shift into 3rd gear but I accidentally went into 1st,” said the 20-year-old, also a graduate of UMW Toyota Motor’s GAZOO Racing Young Driver Development Program. “I’m happy that I showed by pace here today but disappointed that I could not finish first.”
For third place winner Goh, meanwhile, starting from pole position was an incredible boost considering the tough competition he and team mate Ang were in. “The Vios Sprint Cup is a really exciting format, especially with the compulsory pit stop and driver change. I was hoping to win from pole position, but Mika and Nabil were really super fast and all I could do was to try to defend as best as I can,” said Tom.
The second part of the GR Vios Sprint Cup, which is held in conjunction with the Malaysia Championship Series (MCS), is on today. Total prize monies amount to RM60,000, and the overall champion in each of the 2 races at the GR Vios Sprint Cup stands to win RM10,000 in cash.
UMW Toyota Motor is also putting up an additional RM30,000 in prize monies for its Toyota dealer teams making the GR Vios Sprint Cup the second most lucrative racing event in Malaysia next to the Vios Challenge.
With pandemic-related restrictions now eased, spectators are allowed to be at the racetrack to watch the race. Or you can also watch the live broadcasts at UMW Toyota Motor’s Facebook page from the comfort of home. Click here for more information on GAZOO Racing Malaysia’s activities.