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A total of 3.7 million online viewers across all of Toyota Gazoo Racing Malaysia’s social media platforms tuned into an epic weekend of night racing in Round 2 of the GR Vios Challenge that was held under the bright lights of the Sepang International Circuit.

If Race 1 on Saturday (3 June) appeared calculated and cautious, Race 2 on Sunday (4 June) saw much more intense competition as all the top contenders throughout the four classes of racing jostled to accumulate as many championship points as they could. The chase for the overall titles in the Super Sporting Class (elite drivers); Sporting Class (amateurs); Rookie Class (young drivers); and Promotional Class (celebrities) remains very much open with one final round to be contested in September.

“The fact that you can never single out a favourite driver to dominate with the door to door competition – right up to the last corner of the last lap – in the GR Vios Challenge is what keeps spectators and online viewers at the edge of their seats,” said UMW Toyota Motor President, Datuk Ravindran K.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank all our online viewers and race fans for their utmost support. It is the fans who have made the GR Vios Challenge what it is today. Of course, not forgetting all our racers, race team, dealers and sponsors,” he added.

Race 2 Highlights

In Race 2 of the Sporting Class, former Rookie driver Sharique Zulqarnain who started from pole position in Race 2 botched his take off allowing Panglima City Racing Team’s Kenneth Koh to streak into the lead with Crestmax Motorsport’s Bradley Benedict Anthony in third and Distinctive Model’s Aaron Haikal towing in fourth place.

Sharique however, dropped out of contention three laps into the race leaving Koh, Bradley and Aaron to slug it out for the top three positions. Bradley eventually got pass Koh for the lead in lap 7 and the three contenders would continue their private battle on track until the chequered flag.

Bradley eventually won the race but just 0.6 seconds ahead of Koh with Aaron in third place and his second podium finish of the weekend.

“The car set-up this weekend wasn’t all that great for me until tonight’s race. We certainly did something right because my fastest lap during the race was faster than what I clocked during qualifying. But it was still not an easy race when everyone behind me was putting pressure on me throughout the 20 laps,” said 21-year-old Bradley.

For Koh, returning to the podium after six races or almost a full season, was an absolutely liberating feeling. “I must say that it was a combination of trying so many different set-ups, the technical assistance I am receiving from a new team and whole new style of driving. I try to keep clear of any contact. I come into season 6 with a different approach and that is to collect as many points as possible,” said Koh.

In a reverse grid format, Axle Sports’ Naquib Azlan shot into the lead from pole position with Telagamas Toyota’s Freddie Ang in tow and Hayden Haikal in third at the start of the Super Sporting Class race for the professionals. By lap 2, it was Hayden’s turn to lead the race from Ang and Laser Motor Racing’s Putera Adam moving up to third position as Naquib came under tremendous pressure dropping him to sixth place.

Putera eventually got pass Ang for second place in lap 5 but his lead would be short lived when the race was red flagged and stopped at the seventh lap due to a racing incident. At the restart and with two laps to go, Putera remained in the lead with Ang wrestling his way back into second place and Prima Pearl TD Racing’s Mitchell Cheah finishing third.

“It was a good race yesterday though I started on my back foot. Today’s race was equally challenging and it was just surreal to win the race,” said Putera who along with Cheah and at least three other drivers have a real shot at clinching Season 6’s overall Super Sporting Class championship.

“What I can be sure of is that the championship will definitely be decided in the last race of the last round. Today is just a snippet into what you can expect from the Super Sporting Class in the final round. Everyone is running at almost the same speed and it all comes down to the little decisions that you make during the race that will determine the outcome.”

The battle in the Rookie Class was won by Elson Lew who redeemed himself from a poor result in Race 1 to win Race 2. Lew had been fastest in qualifying but finished fifth in Race 1 after a bad start.

Coming in second place was Iman Danish while racing to third place, and his second podium finish of the weekend, was Azriel Azhar.

“I really had a bad start in Race 1 and I couldn’t keep up with the leading pack. It’s great to be able to comeback stronger in Race 2 and to eventually win it,” said Lew.

The Promotional Class race for celebrities was also red-flagged (stopped) after just three laps when actor Shukry Yahaya was turned around on the Sepang International Circuit main straight right into the path of actor, host and TV personality Hefny Sahad.

At the restart, actor Zizan Razak immediately pulled 1.8 seconds ahead of actor and host Ezzrin Loy, with actress Ahirine Ahirudin in third.

With his lead cut from almost 2 seconds to 0.2 seconds, Zizan had to work extra hard to defend his position but that would be the final gap separating him from Ezzrin.

“Ezzrin Loy is now my new nemesis,” said Zizan. “He pressured me all the way from start to finish in Race 2. Hats off as well to Ahirine who drove an outstanding race.”

The third and final round of the GR Vios Challenge and Toyota GAZOO Racing Festival will be held at the Sepang International Circuit from 29 September – 1 October 2023.

For more information and updates, log on to UMW Toyota Motor (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd website at www.toyota.com.my and on the Toyota Gazoo Racing Malaysia social media pages.

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