SHAH ALAM, 3 OCTOBER 2023 – Season 6 of the Toyota GAZOO Racing Festival drew to a close with UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd celebrating fans, teams and racers, and underlining a very big thank you for their continuous support in firmly establish what has grown into Malaysia’s premiere saloon car racing series and motorsports festival for the masses.
2023’s two-day finale at the Sepang International Circuit crowned four new champions in GR Vios Challenge race series and served up a myriad of activities and attractions at the festival grounds fans witnessed intense action on the track to decide this year’s overall champions.
More than 10,000 spectators and 4 million online viewers tuned into the final two races of the Season which included the first on-track appearance of the new Toyota Vios in full race trim ahead of its 2024 official debut in all classes of racing. UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd was also honored with an award from the Motorsports Association of Malaysia (MAM) in recognition of its efforts in promoting motorsports to the masses and contributing to the development of young and future motorsports talent.
In introducing the third generation Toyota Vios to the racing track this weekend, UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd President Datuk Ravindran K. said the all-new GR Vios Challenge race car will be used in the 3 main classes of racing: Super Sporting; Sporting; and Promotional; from 2024 to 2027.
“The format of a one-make series will be retained and further enhanced moving forward. This is in keeping with our objective to not only make the racing fair and dependent on skill, but to also make motorsports more accessible in terms of cost to a greater pool of teams, racers and enthusiasts.
This also forms the very foundation of our efforts to attract and help nurture young talent,” said Datuk Ravindran adding that efforts will be also stepped up to enhance greater awareness and appreciation for Malaysian motorsports.
A total of 45 drivers competed in the Super Sporting Class for elite and professional drivers; Sporting Class for amateurs; Rookie Class for young drivers; and the Promotional Class for celebrities.
Drama in the Super Sporting Class for elite and professional drivers unfolded right until the last corner of the last lap in the 20-lap race.
Starting from second on the grid, Laser Motor Racing’s Eddie Lew powered into the lead from start to finish, crossing the finish line just 0.2 seconds ahead of Prima Pearl TD Racing’s Tengku Djan Ley Tengku Mahaleel. Telagamas Toyota’s Freddie Ang finished third.
The battle for the Overall Super Sporting championship was to have been between Prima Pearl TD Racing teammate Mitchell Cheah and Laser Motor Racing’s Putera Adam who started the sixth and final race of Season 6 equal on 69 points. That battle however, failed to materialize as expected by race fans and throughout most of the race, Lew led the pack with Cheah in pursuit and Putera a distant fourth place and being unable to get pass Cheah. That meant Cheah raced his way to the overall Super Sporting overall title uncontested, finishing just two points ahead of Putera and winning the prize money of RM70,000.
Team strategy then came into play in the final lap as the position for third overall in the championship would then be decided between Lew and Tengku Djan.
“In the end just before the chequered flag Cheah gave away his track position to allow me through but at the end of the day Lew won the race and that’s all part of racing,” said Tengku Djan.
The three-way battle for the overall championship in the Rookie Class meanwhile, was decided by the narrowest of margins. Simulator racer Elson Lew won the race ahead of karter Ariff Azmi with another simulator racer Nazmir Azlan finishing third. That would have given Lew a one point advantage and just enough to take the overall Rookie Class championship but a post-race penalty denied him the glory and he was subsequently handed a two-position penalty.
That meant that Ariff was awarded the race victory and 20 full points to take his total tally to 89 points. He is also the first karter to win the Rookie Class since the GAZOO Young Talent Development Program was started in 2021 whereby the first two champions were simulator racers.
“It’s been a great season. It’s great for Toyota to have a program like this which supports us young drivers. Without such support it would have been difficult to even make it to saloon car racing. I hope to be able to return next season and this is (racing) something that I just want to continue doing,” said the 16-year-old Ariff.
The Sporting Class also shaped into a three-way battle for the overall championship title involving Axle Sports’ Nabil Azlan, Crestmax Motorsport’s Bradley Benedict Anthony and Panglima City Racing Team’s Kenneth Koh.
However, it was Abdul Miqail of 23 Motors who shined in the 20-lap race, finishing an astounding 8.7 seconds ahead of Axle Sports’ James Russell, and with Bradley in third position but with enough points to secure his first ever Sporting Class overall championship.
All three drivers were within striking range of one another in the race with Bradley ahead of Nabil and Koh in tow but in the very last lap, Koh and Distinctive Model Racing Team’s Aaron Haikal piled on the pressure to get pass Nabil diminishing the latter’s hopes for the overall championship.
“l finally did it (winning the overall championship) in my fourth season! ” said an elated Bradley who won the overall prize money of RM50,000. “Starting the race was not easy with the extra ballast (weights) I carried in the car. I couldn’t make a move on anyone because I didn’t have the pace.
“Before the start of the race the game plan was to put as much distance between Nabil and l…Had Koh and Aaron not come into the picture and Nabil finished behind me, he would have won the championship by a single point. So basically I won the championship with the help of both drivers in the very last lap.”
The Promotional Class was almost a repeat of race I’s results with television host Ezzrin Loy taking his second straight race win of the weekend. Finishing second was actor Zizan Razak with television host and Hot FM radio presenter Imran Aqil finishing third.
Second place however, was enough to give Zizan an unassailable lead in the point standings and crown him the overall champion in the Promotional Class.
“I’m thankful to have finally won the championship after three seasons of trying. It was a great fight throughout the season and Shukri Yahaya has always been one of my closest competitors on the track. Today’s final race was exceptionally tough because of the extra 60Kg ballast (weight penalty) I had to carry in the car in addition to the hot weather conditions,” said Zizan.
“Racing is in my blood and this is something I’d like to continue doing if given the chance to return to the Toyota GAZOO Racing Festival and GR Vios Challenge. I would like to record a huge thank you to Toyota, all the instructors, my fellow racers, my team of personnel and all the fans for both the opportunity and support.’
Open to the public, the Season 6 finale of the Toyota GAZOO Racing Festival brought together an exciting weekend of activities and attractions both on and off the racing track. The two days included concerts; meet and greet sessions with the racers; a Tempatan Fest featuring no less than 50 popular booths selling vintage accessories, trinkets, street wear, art & fashion as well as local delicacies; and the sale & promotion of merchandises.
For more information, check all of Toyota Gazoo Racing Malaysia’s social media platforms on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube pages, or log on to the UMW Toyota Motor (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd website at www.toyota.com.my.