It was a moving moment for Afiq Ikhwan when he heard the Malaysian national anthem playing in the background for him after claiming the win for JK Racing Asia Series Round 11 at Buddh International Circuit today.
Ikhwan is on a winning streak after claiming both races in Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit at the last outing, and after a tough battle at the end of this race, the win was worth it. The 21 year old crossed the line just ahead of compatriot Nabil Jeffri of Eurointernational after the duo and Indian Aditya Patel changed positions a few times in the closing stages of the race right through to the chequered flag. Patel finished the race in third and set the fastest time of the day with 1:50.803.
Ikhwan made a quick announcement during the post race interview, saying “I’d like to dedicate this trophy to my mum for her 50th birthday”. He then continued to thank his team and sponsor Petronas for the race.
“In the beginning I had a really good pace but the conditions of the car deteriorated after five laps and I don’t know why, we have to find out the problem. After lap 5 I saw Nabil closing the gap, he was coming really fast from third but I just did my job and continued doing what I do and kept defending my line right to the end of the race”.
When asked what was his feeling hearing the Malaysian national anthem during a Formula 1 weekend, Ikhwan said “I’m really excited and really happy because it’s not easy to get a podium and we worked really hard for this weekend, so I really appreciate everything and would like to thank everyone in my team”.
For Jeffri, the race win was not as important as the Championship points and although he was slightly disappointed he is looking forward to making amends tomorrow.
“I started off a bit slow because I think I was a bit too relaxed at the start. I think I lost the race at the start because I didn’t push hard enough when compared to Afiq but then as the race progressed I pushed hard enough and managed to catch up to Afiq.
“I did a few mistakes but my pace was there and I caught up to him until Patel came into the scene and was right behind me”. The trio battled into the last lap and Jeffri lost his second place to Patel before managing to reclaim his position at the end.
“In the end it was a really good race, I had fun and most important are my points for the Championship and right now I am still leading, and I am very proud of that. I expected a win so for tomorrow I will come back stronger hopefully. I really want to win, I want to win in India and I want to win during Formula 1 to prove to the Formula 1 teams that I can win here too” ended Jeffri.
Recounting the end of his race, Patel had a big smile at the clean battle where he got both Ikhwan and Jeffri at the hairpin on the last lap. Ikhwan then regained his lead at the next turn while Jeffri made a dive on the inside a few turns before the finish line. But being on the podium at his home race was wonderful for Patel “Obviously it’s a great feeling. I got into third place at the start and as the race went on, I gained a little and I lost a little. Then lap by lap I started chipping away at Nabil and Afiq. Nabil caught up to him with two laps to go and that’s when it got tight between the both of them.
“It was a really really tight race. I was fighting for the lead with Afiq on the last lap and Nabil was also there and I think we were all over the place. At the end of the day, to finish on the podium was good but to know I could have won the race it doesn’t feel as great.
“I know I have the pace to be with the leaders, it did take me a while to build up a rhythm and get faster and faster and faster, so I know what to do now and what not to do. It should be good” ended the US Formula Project driver.
There was great action all the way down the grid. Akhil Khushlani who started the race in eighth had a few great battles to finish fourth. “The race was brilliant. I just kept my pace, drove sensibly and didn’t want to take risks. Eighth to fourth, I am quite happy with that and I hope tomorrow I can go for the podium”.
Khushlani had to make some good manoeuvres and had good battles with Calvin Wong and Earl Bamber before making his moves on both Aston Hare and Rookie driver Aidan Wright on his way up. Hare was not too impressed with his own results saying “Again I didn’t get off the line properly but otherwise we were quick until we got hit. Then after that we started losing places and ended up in fifth. It was an okay race, nothing special” he ended with a sad smile.
Wright did not have the best of starts and was playing catch up for most of the race. “From the start it was mainly trying to get back to where I started so I was trying to get back to fifth from eighth and I got to sixth so that was pretty good. Its good to know that we have the pace against people like Afiq who has been doing this for years so to be a Rookie here is really good”.
Eurointernational’s Danial Hidzir finished the race in seventh after having a problem with a stuck throttle at the start of the race, relegating him down the order leaving him to catch up to finish the race in seventh. Calvin Wong driving for US Formula Project, Toby Earle for Meritus.GP and Raj Bharath of Meco Racing completed the top ten.
Indian drivers Karminder Pal Singh of Mahara and Akhil Rabindra finished in eleventh and twelfth while Ashraff Dewal and Chetan Korada completed the list of finishers of the day.
Earl Bamber and Visnu Prasad both did not finish the race due to technical problems.
The JK Racing Asia Series continues tomorrow with Round 12 scheduled to be held at 12pm on Sunday, 28 October 2012.
words & pix: Motorsport Asia