After their Formula 4 South East Asia Championship (F4/SEA) – certified by FIA outing last August at Sepang, the young drivers were back faced with the challenge of a brand new circuit at the Clark International Speedway in the Philippines.
Proceedings for the country’s first FIA-certified race event commenced with a compressed schedule on Saturday with the free practice and qualifying in the morning ahead of the two races later in the afternoon.
Claiming first ever front row start after storming to his maiden F4/SEA pole position, Indonesia’s Presley Martono (INA, Car #32) was poised for a strong outing in Race 1 later that afternoon.
The honours would however go to India’s Akash Gowda (IND, Car #33) who claimed his maiden F4/SEA race victory in the mid-day Race 1. The Indian ace went one better in Race 2, claiming a hard-earned win to claim the double on the first day of proceedings.
Already quickest in the early morning practice, it was Indonesia’s Presley Martono who topped the qualifying timesheets setting his fastest lap time of 1:54.412s en route to his first ever pole position start for Race 1. Claiming a front row start along side Martono was India’s Mohammed Nalwalla (IND, Car #46) with an impressive 1:54.568s ahead of fellow compatriot Akash Gowda (IND, Car #33).
Rounding off the top four was New Zealand’s Faine Kahia (NZL, Car #55). Local driver, Gabriel Cabrera’s (PHI, Car #51) qualifying time of 1:55.388s was good for a P5 start ahead of Indonesia’s Keanon Santoso (INA, Car #88) in sixth on the grid.
Race 1 (10 laps)
With rain threatening the horizon just prior to the start of the first race of the weekend, the 10-lap race did begin in dry conditions with Martono and Gowda occupying the front row on the grid. Unfortunately, the race did not keep to its script with drama unfolding immediately after the start with the front two penalised for a start procedure infringement.
With both Martono and Nalwalla serving their penalties, it was Gowda who inherited the lead of the race with Kahia in P2. The pair would hold on to their positions all the way to the chequered flag. It was the young Indian’s first race-win of the season following his podium finishes in Sepang last August.
Meanwhile, the battle for the final podium spot witnessed a two-way battle between Khalid Al-Wahaibi of Oman (OMN, Car #8) and Malaysia’s Chia Wing Hoong (MAS, Car #68), a duel that went down almost to the wire, with Al-Wahaibi holding on to the position to claim his maiden podium finish in the championship. Narrowly missing out on the podium was Malaysia’s Isyraf Danish (MAS, #19) who finished in fourth place.
Race 2 (13 laps)
With the start positions for the second race determined by the drivers’ fastest lap times in the first race, it was Race 1 winner Gowda who would claim the top spot on the starting grid for the Saturday afternoon race. Starting beside Gowda was Martono who was all fired up to make up after a disappointing first race.
Lining up behind the pair were Kahia and Nalwalla, the latter also keen to make up ground after a challenging race. However, the dry conditions from the earlier race did not extend into the second race, as rain began to descend onto the 4.189km Clark International Speedway circuit just before the start of the 10-lap race.
Despite the challenging conditions, Martono made a brilliant start on the grippier side of the track to jump Gowda for the lead, pulling out a big gap to the field by the end of the opening lap. Behind him, a poor getaway at the lights saw Gowda drop down the order to P8.
After adjusting to the conditions, the Indian ace was able to gain on his competitors, overtaking several drivers to move himself up into P3 by the mid-way point of the race. It did not take long before he began hunting Gabriel Cabrera (PHI, Car #51) down for second position by the closing laps of the race.
With two laps remaining, a mistake by race leader Martono brought both Gowda and Cabrera into contention for a three-way thriller to the flag. A gutsy move by Gowda into the first corner saw him jump Martono for the lead, which he held on through to the finish en route to his second consecutive win of the weekend.
Home favourite Cabrera wrapped up a gutsy drive in third position, his first F4/SEA podium finish and making up after a disappointing Race 1. Malaysia’s Chia Wing Hoong (MAS, Car#68) finished just outside of the podium in P4 after successfully defending his position from Kiwi Kahia.
Driver Comments (top 3)
Akash Gowda (IND, Car #33), Winner Race 1, Winner Race 2
“That was a good Race 1 and I am so happy to finally claim my first race win in my first season in the F4/SEA championship. The start was a bit tricky but after the front-runners had a penalty, I inherited the lead but knew that I could not let my guard down with Faine (Kahia) behind me. But, I managed to maintain a gap to him throughout the race and claim the victory, which I am delighted about!
“I am really delighted with the win in Race 2, which was definitely more interesting. I was a bit nervous going into the race, which did cost me at the start, as I dropped down to P8. After that, I settled my nerves and kept my head down. By lap 2, I was better able to adapt to the track and the conditions and caught up with everyone ahead of me. I managed to overtake Gabriel (Cabrera) and not long after that we were able to catch Presley (Martono). Presley made a small mistake and I managed to overtake him in to the first corner near to the end. After that, all I had to do was concentrate and keep my head down to get the job done.”
Faine Kahia (NZL, Car #55), P2, Race 1
“I had a pretty good start with the top four pulling away but the guys at the front had false-started, which did put me up to P2. I tried to save the car and not push too much but when Presley (Martono) came past me, there was oil on my helmet, which meant that there was oil on the track, and that meant I had no grip. So I held back and dropped the pace a bit. After he pitted, I was able to get back on the pace and maintained it and brought it home in P2. I am happy with this result.”
Khalid Al-Wahaibi (OMN, Car #8), P3, Race 1
“It was a good clean race right from the start and I am happy with my first podium here at the F4/SEA. I did have a collision with Gabriel early one and I did have some damage to my car, which did cause some understeer later on and let Chia (Wing Hoong, MAS, Car #68) to catch me towards the end of the race.”
Gabriel Antonio Tayao Cabrera (PHI, Car #51), P3, Race 2
“I am really happy to achieve a podium, my first podium finish at the F4/SEA championship. And to get it here at what is my home race is amazing. The support has been incredible and would like to thank everyone for all the encouragement and support! The conditions in the race were difficult, for sure but I had a good start and was able to gain a few positions by the end of the first lap. I had a really good battle with Akash (Gowda) while I was in P2 but he managed to make a move on me for the position. When Presley (Martono) made a mistake, we were all bunched together, which made for some interesting racing towards the end. Overall, I am really happy to come away today with a podium finish!”
Presley Martono (INA, Car #32), P2, Race 2
“Admittedly, I had a disappointing first race today after getting pole position, so my goal was to get a better result for the second race. I had a really good start and was able to use the side of the track with better grip in what were quite difficult conditions. I was able to hold on to the lead for a good while until I made a mistake towards the end and ran off-track. I was able to recover quickly enough but that meant Akash (Gowda) and Gabriel (Cabrera) were able to close in. Unfortunately, I lost the position to Akash at the start of the second last lap. Overall, I am happy with the pace and will focus on the coming races.”
Peter Thompson, Chairman Triple A: “A fantastic start to the first day of Event 2 here at the Clark International Speedway here in the Philippines. The quality of the racing has been incredible and congratulations to Akash Gowda! Not only did he get his first win today, he also got his first double after winning Race 2. Overall, all the drivers did a great job and we can expect more exciting races on Sunday.”
Firhat Mokhzani, Managing Director Triple A: “It was a good start to our first race here a the Clark International Speedway. Both races were exciting from start to finish and we could see the drivers make progress and improvements from the first race to the second. Congratulations to Akash for winning both races today. This definitely sets us up for what will be more exciting races to come.”
Sunday will see four more races contested with another Star Driver award trophy up for grabs, which will be awarded at the end of the event.
2016 Formula 4 South East Asia Championship
Event 2: Clark Int’l Speedway Schedule*
Sunday, 16th October 2016
8.00a.m Race 3 (10 laps – top 5 reverse grid)
10.45a.m Race 4 (13 laps)
1.25p.m Race 5 (10 laps)
4.00p.m Race 6 (13 laps – top 5 reverse grid)
* Subject to change
Race Results (Selected, Provisional)
Race 2 (13 Laps) – 16:30hrs, Saturday, 15 October (Wet)
|4||68||Chia Wing Hoong||MAS||21:03.432|
Race Results (Selected)
Race 1 (13 Laps) – 12:45hrs, Saturday, 15 October (Dry)
|3||8||Khalid Al Wahaibi*||OMN||25:48.447|
Qualifying Results (Selected)
14:15hours, Friday, 5 August