The 2nd round of Rotax Max Challenge Asia, Malaysian round was held at Sepang last weekend. Over 90 drivers took part, the Junior grid formed the largest group with 35 drivers, and the smallest category at an impressive 19 drivers (DD2 and MicroMax). Congratulations to all drivers and well done to the all the winners; Calvin Wong (Senior Asia + Malaysia), Melvin Moh (DD2 Asia), Brandon Lee (DD2 Malaysia), Kyle Blockley (DD2 Masters Asia), Kelvin Choo (DD2 Masters Malaysia), Daim Hishammudin (Junior Asia), Mitchell Cheah (Junior Malaysia), Gezha Sudirman (MicroMax Asia), and Muhammad Sidqi (MicroMax Malaysia).
In Rotax Senior category, Izzat Hanif and Silvano Christian had the front row start, with Calvin Wong (ART GP Asia) in third. Calvin Wong wasted no time getting to the front as he drifted past the front two to take the lead heading into turn one. “I had a good start and was past Izzat before I got to turn one. My qualifying pace wasn’t as good as expected, with only fourth on the grid. The setup was unchanged from the warm-up but the qualifying set of tyres didn’t feel quite as good as the warm-up set, but we found the pace for the final.” Izzat looked ready to challenge for the lead on lap two, but his clutch went bonkers dropping him out of the race into the pits. Also succumbing to a clutch failure was Silvano, dropping him out of the race from third position just a few corners before Izzat. “It was a shame because I’m sure I had good pace,” remarked Silvano.
After the front row drivers dropped out of contention, Calvin Wong powered away to win by over seven seconds, but behind him the battle for second placing was intense in the closing laps, as Japanese driver Akito Saito of ISRacing closed in on Malaysian ART GP Asia driver Ariff Amran, and after some paint trading side-by-side action Saito took the flag first, three tenths clear of Ariff. Daim Hishammudin qualified second in Rotax Junior on Saturday, with Mitchell Cheah taking pole. Daim also finished heat one in second position, not quite being able to match Mitchell’s pace. But on Sunday the pecking order was reversed, with Daim taking control, winning all three races, with Mitchell taking second position in all three, for a repeat of round one′s pre-final and final finishing order. “The pre-final was fairly easy because when I looked back on lap one I already had a big gap because of some incidents in turn one. In the final I had to work much harder because Mitchell was really close in the opening laps, but I managed to build a gap and win.”
Despite almost matching Daim’s best lap, Mitchell dropped back to 2.5 seconds behind. The battle for third place was intense, with Rory Elliott holding the position for several laps after a strong start from ninth on the grid. Danial Roslan eventually took third position, with Elliott having to settle for fourth. Thailand’s Jakkarin Sirinontanawech finished in fifth. Worth noting are the sixth and seventh place finishers Presley Martono and Cao Zhao. Both drivers retired from the pre-final, which meant they had to make their way through the field from outside the top thirty, into their respective finishing positions. Cao Zhao set the fastest lap of the race in the process.
In DD2 one of the most important events took place at the pre-final post race weigh-in, as race winner Kyle Blockley was 0.5kg under the weight limit, resulting in a disqualification and putting him to the back of the grid for the final. This moved Yong Boon Tirachaimongkol to first and Melvin Moh to second for the start of the final. Moh and Tiachaimongkol exited turn one on lap one closely side-by-side, with Melvin’s aggression enough to take the lead into turn two, after which he powered away to take the win. The early move was important, because Kyle Blockley made his way through the back of the field all the way valiantly to second place, just 2.3 seconds adrift of the winner. Kyle also set the fastest ever lap recorded in DD2 at Sepang with a 48.938, which was four tenths faster than Moh’s fastest in the final, and faster than double DD2 Rotax Grand Finals champion Wesleigh Orr’s previous DD2 record of 48.998 set at the Rotax Invitational earlier this year. Tirachaimongkol didn’t have his pre-final pace in the final, as he dropped to fifth place at the line. Ang Kok Wee finished in third, ahead of Brandon Lee.
The MicroMax field produced some incredible racing throughout the weekend amongst the mini stiggies. In the final the battle for the win was between Indonesian driver Gezha Sudirman and Malaysian guest driver Nazim Azman (on an Italian license). The two took turns leading the race several times, but with a few laps to go it was Gezha who managed to break free to take the win by a few seconds. Nazim then had his hands full on the final laps to keep a hard-charging Muhammad Sidqi in third, with the two crossing the line just two tenths apart. Arsh Johany of ISRacing took fourth while Keanon Santoso crossed the line in fifth less than a tenth ahead of Prassetyo Hardja. The next round of Rotax Asia in Malaysia will be on 18th-19th of May, at Speedway PLUS (subject to track approval).
words: Jeo pix: Faiz Zakariah