Formula 4 South East Asia, fueled by Petron, kicked off the fourth instalment of the 2017-18 Championship at the ultra-modern Sepang International Circuit, supporting the Asian Le Mans Series.
Under the supervision of the team’s engineers and coaches, the 13 drivers began their weekend by getting acquainted with the carbon-composite F4 race cars they would be using in their battle for victory. Friday commenced with testing followed by free practice, qualifying and races 1-3 were held on Saturday, with the final three races taking place on Sunday.
Testing & Free Practice
Harnessing the raw power of the F4 SEA cars for the first time were rookies Akid Azlee, Muizz Musyaffar, and Alister Yoong – son of Malaysia’s first F1 driver, and former MERITUS GP2 Asia driver Alex Yoong. The Malaysian trio were given an in-depth briefing and track walk by professional racing drivers and coaches Sandy Nicholas Stuvik and Faisal Asri.
Ong Chee Ming of Brunei, Colombo-native Liam Lawrence, Taiwan’s Benson Lin, Perth-native Aaron Love and Okinawan Hibiki Taira joined the Malaysians on their tour of the track, alongside returning favourites Kane Shepherd, Daniel Cao, Eshan Pieris, Adam Khalid and Ugo De Wilde.
Working with the data engineers and driver coaches, the drivers spent the three 45-minute Friday test sessions getting ready for free practice where Eshan would eventually take the top spot in qualifying. Cao and Malaysia’s Adam Khalid settled for second and third respectively.
|1||30||Eshan Pieris (SRI)||2:14.181|
|2||55||Danial Cao (CHN)||2:14.293|
|3||95||Adam Khalid (MAS)||2:14.431|
|4||78||Aaron Love (AUS)||2:14.554|
|5||3||Kane Shepherd (THA)||2:14.904|
|6||1||Hibiki Taira (JPN)||2:15.130|
|7||16||Benson Lin (TPE)||2:15.359|
|8||27||Ugo de Wilde (BEL)||2:16.729|
|9||29||Mitchell Cheah (MAS)||2:16.733|
|10||23||Muizz Musyaffar (MAS)||2:16.816|
|11||99||Liam Lawrence (SRI)||2:17.196|
|12||45||Luke Thompson (IRL)||2:17.401|
|13||22||Alister Yoong (MAS)||2:17.476|
Thereafter in qualifying, the field headed out to clock their best times for the premier race of the event.
Benson Lin of Taiwan spun going into Turn 6, but took it all in his stride.
It was none other than Eshan Pieris who took pole position in 2:13.271 for the first race of Event 4, having hovered close to the top for most of the stint.
The second fastest time belonged to Kane Shepherd of Thailand with 2:13.514. While the Thai had been exhibiting an amazing display of driving prowess, he could not pip the speedy Sri Lankan.
Thereafter, it was Aaron Love, Hibiki Taira and Ugo De Wilde who crossed the line in 3rd, 4th and 5th respectively.
Daniel Cao settled in behind the Belgian after defending his position fiercely from Terengganu-born Adam Khalid.
|1||30||Eshan Pieris (SRI)||2:13.271||2:13.379|
|2||3||Kane Shepherd (THA)||2:13.514||2:13.518|
|3||78||Aaron Love (AUS)||2:13.529||2:13.623|
|4||1||Hibiki Taira (JPN)||2:13.615||2:13.886|
|5||27||Ugo de Wilde (BEL)||2:13.947||2:14.011|
|6||55||Danial Cao (CHN)||2:13.990||2:14.005|
|7||95||Adam Khalid (MAS)||2:14.153||2:14.194|
|8||29||Mitchell Cheah (MAS)||2:14.217||2:14.324|
|9||16||Benson Lin (TPE)||2:14.984||2:15.973|
|10||23||Muizz Musyaffar (MAS)||2:15.270||2:15.742|
|11||22||Alister Yoong (MAS)||2:15.327||2:16.033|
|12||99||Liam Lawrence (SRI)||2:17.164||2:17.217|
|13||42||Luke Thompson (IRL)||2:18.339||2:18.588|
The race started with a bang as the field launched from the grid into Turn 1 where Kane Shepherd and Eshan Pieris found themselves crossing swords. Kane had the better start and got ahead, but going side by side into turn 1, they collided mid corner.
Aaron Love was gifted the lead after the fracas, with Kane and Eshan forced to the back of the pack. Hibiki Taira recovered well despite being forced out because of the incident.
Love held the lead until the seventh lap where he was too defensive going into turn 4 and Daniel Cao took it away from him. The young Aussie didn’t give up and kept within a car length of Cao but couldn’t quite find a way past and had to settle for 2nd.
Meanwhile Ugo was battling it out with Mitchell Cheah, Adam Khalid and Hibiki Taira. The young Belgian managed to pip 3rd ahead of Adam, Hibiki and Mitchel.
Kane and Eshan didn’t let their collision stop them, and climbed halfway back up the grid into 7th and 8th respectively. Eshan managed to set the second fastest lap, qualifying him P2 in the next race.
Luke Thompson meanwhile was fighting to defend his position from Liam Lawrence and Alister Yoong. Looking very strong in his first ever formula race, Yoong fought hard but spun going up the hill into turn 9.
He recovered and re-joined the field, making the final results Benson Lin in 9th followed by Muizz Musyaffar, Liam Lawrence, Luke Thompson and Alister Yoong.
|3||27||Ugo de Wilde||20:23.087|
The second scrimmage of the fourth event saw an excitable Daniel Cao on pole position alongside Aaron Love. As the five red lights went out, the squadron hurled down the grandstand straight into Turn 1.
The field of talented young drivers filed through in an orderly manner with Okinawa-raised Hibiki Taira claiming third position from Aaron Love along the way.
Eshan Pieris managed to find a way past Cao up the inside of turn 4, walking away with the win by 5 seconds.
In the final few laps, Hibiki managed to sneak past Daniel and was classified second ahead of Daniel’s third place.
But the real action was midfield, with the five cars fighting for 4th separated by just 2 seconds for much of the race. Mitchell Cheah, Kane Shepherd, Adam Khalid, Aaron Love and Ugo de Wilde all swapped back and forth in some brilliant racing that saw Ugo forced wide onto the gravel at the penultimate corner allowing Mitchel to cross the line in fourth ahead of Kane, Adam, Aaron and the young Belgian.
At the back, Benson finished a strong 9th and Muizz took 10th position away from Liam Lawrence.
|8||27||Ugo de Wilde||18:19.501|
As in the first two sessions, the first corner of race 3 was amazing. The field got away smoothly as the red lights went out and Kane squeezed into the lead with Mitchell in close second and Shanghai-native Daniel Cao just behind him. Pole-sitter Adam Khalid was incredibly unlucky, damaging his wing while battling through the first 3 corners.
Kane led from there, building a gap of 4 seconds until lap 7 when Eshan and Hibiki collided uphill into turn 9, landing both drivers in the gravel trap. A steward’s inquiry found Hibiki at fault and penalised him.
The safety car came out and bunched up the field, closing the impressive gap Kane had built.
2 laps later the crash at turn 9 had been cleaned up and we watched in awe as Kane prepared for a 1 lap sprint to the podium. As the race resumed and Kane seemed to lose power going down the main straight, and dropped back to 8th.
This opened the door for the Malaysian Rookies behind him. Mitchell Cheah seized the opportunity and flew into the lead around the first few corners with Muizz right behind and the duo crossed the line in 1st and 3rd with Daniel Cao 2nd.
However, an incident on turn 4 caused Muizz to be penalized by ten seconds, sending him back to 6th place and gifting his position Aaron Love, who was followed by Alister Yoong in 4th.
|10||27||Ugo de Wilde||DNC|