Season 6 of the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Festival drew to a close with at the Sepang International Circuit with the crowning of four new champions in GR Vios Challenge one-make race series. A total of 45 drivers competed in the four categories: 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 was constant 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 has 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, with Telagamas Toyota’s Freddie Ang finished third.
The battle for the Overall Super Sporting championship was to have been between Tengku Djan’s teammate Mitchell Cheah and Laser Motor Racing’s Putera Adam who started the 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 title uncontested, finishing just 2 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, Mitchell gave away his track position to allow me through. But at the end of the day, Eddie won the race and that’s all part of racing,” said Tengku Djan.
The 3-way battle for the overall championship in the Rookie Class 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 1-point advantage and just enough to take the overall Rookie Class championship. However, a post-race penalty denied him the glory and he was subsequently handed a 2-position penalty.
That passed the race victory to Ariff with 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 Racing Young Talent Development Program was started in 2021. The first two champions were simulator racers, demonstrating the value of today’s sophisticated simulators which are also used by top racing drivers all over the world.
“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 became a 3-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 past Nabil diminishing the latter’s hopes for the overall championship.
“I 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 (weight) 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 I. 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, always a hit with fans of local celebrities, 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 enable him to take home the crown as 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,” said Zizan.
After six seasons, the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Festival with the GR Vios Challenge as its highlight has grown into Malaysia’s premiere saloon car racing series and motorsports festival for the masses. More than 10,000 spectators and 4 million online viewers watched the final round of the season which had started in February.
Besides the various activities at the track, spectators also got a chance to see the new competition version of the Vios (pictured below) for the first time. The ready-to-race car will be available for purchase by teams and individuals who wish to participate in Season 7 next year.
“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 K., President of UMW Toyota Motor.