JOHOR BARU, Jan 19 — A first time winner emerged at the first race of round three of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Vios Challenge race here in Johor Baru. Starting from third on the grid, Wong Chin Eng inherited the lead after a first lap crash at turn one resulted in a red flag and a restart. Wong drove a steady race, pacing himself to just stay ahead of the ongoing battle for second spot happening right behind him. In fact, a partial loss of concentration towards the end nearly saw him being overtaken in a three-car race to the flag. Fortunately luck was on his side, and Wong was the first to cross the flag. Speaking at the press conference after the race, Wong revealed that he was actually the service manager at a Toyota outlet in Johor Baru, and said, very happily, that he never expected to win.
In second place was Brendan Paul Anthony who was on pole at the start. Unfortunately Brendan was involved in the first lap crash — Brendan was halfway through Turn 1 when he was hit from behind. After the restart, Brendan had to work his way up from down the field to finish a very credible second.
The happiest driver for the day would be Kenneth Koh, who started form eighth on the grid and after the turn 1 fracas, found himself in second position and held it for most of the race, until Brendan overtook him in the last 500 metres before the finish.
The sad story of the day belongs to Clement Yeo — starting from second on the grid, Clement got caught out in the Turn 1 accident, and ended up last on the track at the restart. Working his way up the field, Clement put on a valiant drive to finish eighth.
Intermittent rain fails to dampen Shawn Lee’s race
In the Promotional (Celebrity) Category Race for today, Shawn Lee drove a superb race to finish first yet again. Just before the race, he said that the mistake at the MAEPS round cost him dearly, and said that he has made a promise to himself not to make the same mistake of being too excited. A passing thunderstorm wet part of the track during the race but that did not dampen his spirit. A spin by Diana Danielle on lap 4 saw the Safety Car come out, and the race resumed as lap later.
With the gaps closed up again once the Safety Car left the track, Shawn has to stave off a strong challenge from Shukri Yahaya. At one point, the two cars touched at the hairpin just before the start straight, but Shawn was cool enough to shake it off and maintain his lead.
Super Sporting Category — Turn 1 incident again turns fates around
In the Super Sporting Category, another Turn 1 incident saw three cars or more trying to get into Turn 1, and this changed the fate of the some of the race drivers. Safety car had to come out again to allow the marshals to clear up Mark Darwin’s car which was immobilised, Akina Teo also suffered a retirement after sustaining severe damage — trying to stay clean and clear of the carnage in front, he kept to the left side of the track, but suffered collateral damage when he got pushed against the wall and had to retire after one lap.
During the convoy with the safety car on track, no overtaking is allowed, and to make things worse, torrential rain started to pour down on the track. With ponding occurring at many places, and visibility down to a few metres, the safety car stayed on for more than 8 laps.
The safety car went in after the rain slowed down to a drizzle, and the racers managed a few laps, but again the wet track saw some casualties, and to make things worse, the rain came back again — the safety car came out again and the race ended with the safety car out in front.
Whatever it is, a win is a win, and a jubilant William Ho took the chequered flag. Boy Wong had a good start, and after the Turn 1 incident, found himself in second place, which he held to the end.
The race ended pretty much in the same order as how the cars ended up after lap 1. Syafiq Ali took the last podium position, while Kenny Lee was in fourth. Tengku Djan only managed a fifth, but that would still give him some valuable points. Keifli Othman managed to be placed sixth, with Ser Ming Hui trailing home in seventh.
There will be another round of races in the three categories tomorrow — stay tuned.