Last weekend saw the third round of the Toyota Vios Challenge, as part of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival. Being held at Batu Kawan Stadium in Penang, it brought back memories for many of the drivers as this was the venue of the first ever round of the Toyota Vios Challenge back in 2017. It also happens to be one of the tightest circuits on the calendar, as the track was initial designed for cub prix bike racing instead of door-to-door action with touring cars.
As such, it becomes extremely difficult to make overtakes, and qualifying positions are usually the positions for the entire race. It also makes the risk of accidents incredibly high, which is great for spectators but awful for those competing. According to race officials, the reasonable reaction time for a driver to avoid an accident on this track is two seconds, which in our minds feels extremely generous but we digress.
Qualifying was held on Saturday, with the results being extremely close. In the Super Sporting Class, just one second separated first and ninth positions. Qualifying first was Boy Wong, followed by Kenny Lee and Brendan Paul Anthony. During the first race, an opening lap incident in the first corner severely shook the field up, with William Ho and Kenny Lee taken out of contention. This gave room for Keifli Othman and Eddie Lew to sneak up into third and fourth respectively, with Alif Hamdan finishing in fifth.
In the Sporting Class, the opening laps were far smoother. Brendon Lim was leading the pack, with Kenneth Koh and Hayden Haikal in tow. Despite some minor bumper tapping on Kenneth's part, the race managed to stay clean until the seventh lap when Kenneth overshot and pushed Brendon into the wall, pushing both drivers far down the field. Just one corner later, three more cars collided and were taken out; with most of the laps under yellow flag, the finishing order saw Clement Yeo taking the win, followed by Patrick Tam and Eric Yong - all three of which started further down the grid.
For the Promotional Class there were fewer incidents, save for one during the second lap out. Diana Danielle took pole position at the start, with Nabil Ahmad and Aiman Tino barely a second behind. Aiman Tino and Nabila Razali took themselves out of the race, leaving room for Akim Ahmad to snatch third place - although Diana and Nabil maintained a 7.5 second lead over him, even with the help of safety cars bringing the field together.
Day two saw the second races with reverse grid orders for the first six drivers. For Super Sporting Class, this put Syafiq bin Ali in pole position following his sixth place finish in Race 1, which he used to his advantage and maintained to the end of the race. The same couldn't be said for the drivers behind, as once again there was a massive first lap incident that took multiple drivers out - including Freddie Ang, who was hit so hard that his engine lost oil pressure and he had to limp into the pits. Brendan Paul Anthony managed to steer clear of trouble and take second, while Keifli Othman finished third.
In the Sporting Class, the race was far cleaner. Jakson Tan started in second but managed to snatch first off the line, while Kenneth Koh jumped from ninth to sixth. Over the course of the first eight laps, Eddy Tan collided with a wall while Wong Chin Eeg and Shawn Lee took each other out, eventually leaving Kenneth with just Eric Yong to contend with. Managing to make a clean pass in the closing laps, Kenneth took a solid second place and redeemed himself for the first day's incidents.
And finally, the Promotional Class. With tensions high, all the drivers in the class kept things clean and safe - up until the closing laps of the race when drivers started to fight for better positions. Janna Nick started in pole and finished first, taking her first win in fourteen race starts. Nabil, starting in second, briefly managed to overtake her but she fought back for the position and crossed the line ahead. Rounding out the podium was Aiman Tino, with a solid third place spot.