After another eventful second day of drama-filled action at the fifth installation of the Formula 4 South East Asia (F4/SEA) Championship – certified by FIA, the young drivers were again back in action at the Buriram United International Circuit on Sunday. The day featured an early start for the young guns as they prepared for the final two races of the weekend.

Accolades for sixth race early on Sunday morning belonged to Indonesian Presley Martono (INA, Car #32) who notched up a hard-earned win ahead of New Zealand’s Faine Kahia (NZL, Car #55) and India’s Akash Gowda (IND, Car #33), the latter earning his second trip to the podium for the weekend. Singapore’s Danial Frost (SIN, Car #66) finished fourth, edging out Thai driver, Worawong Komarakul (THA, Car #7).

The seventh and final race of the weekend, which was held as the replacement for the one postponed following the typhoon at the second event (Clark International Speedway) last October proved to be the most intense. Having already collected the winner’s trophy in Race 6, Martono would make a return trip to the top of the podium with another hard-fought win.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Isyraf Danish (MAS, Car #19) finally came good with his impressive pace over the course of the weekend with an inspiring second place finish behind the Indonesian. Rounding off the podium was Frost who managed to overcome a difficult start to the race to finish in the bronze medal position. Fourth place went to Gowda who also faced difficulties in the high-attrition race, edging out Kahia who rounded off the top five.

With two race wins and three second place finishes, New Zealand’s Kahia was also crowned the Fuji Xerox Star Driver Award as the Event 5 overall champion. Frost came in overall second following his one race win and four podium finishes. Martono’s three wins was enough to secure him third overall for the event.

With the conclusion of Event 5 at the Buriram United International Circuit in Thailand, the F4/SEA will head south of the border two weeks from now for the final event of the season from 20 -22 January 2017 at Sepang.

Race Reports

Race 6 (11 Laps, Dry)

08:00hours, Sunday, 8 January 2017

The grid positions for the sixth race of the weekend was determined by the drivers’ finishing positions from the previous day’s Race 5 with the added twist of having the top 50% reversed. This meant the advantage of pole position would go to Singapore’s Danial Frost (SIN, Car #66) with Malaysia’s Eric Louis (MAS, Car #23) along side in P2. Compatriot Isyraf Danish (MAS, Car #19) and India’s Akash Gowda (IND, Car #33) both occupied the second row in P3 and P4, with the Kiwi Kahia and Race 5 winner Martono on the third row in P5 and P6.

A poor start off the lights would prove costly for the Singaporean, giving the lead of the race to Malaysian Eric Louis. Behind him, troubles continued for Frost who quickly came under attack from Kahia and Martono, both having had a tremendous start from the third row.

It did not take long for Kahia to despatch Frost as the Kiwi began opening up a gap with a series of quick sector times in an attempt to catch the race leader. Similarly, Martono had also made the most of the start to overtake a struggling Frost with Isyraf Danish also in the mix. Unfortunately for the latter a start procedure infringement did earn the teenager a drive-through penalty, compromising his race, which was further dampened when he was forced to retire from a mechanical issue.

Back in the race, Eric Louis’ hold on the race lead proved a difficult one to defend as Kahia began challenging the Malaysian. The Kiwi would prevail on the second lap, taking over the lead of the race and pulling away with a succession of quick sector times. The Malaysian then came under pressure from Martono who had also caught up to him by lap 3 and eventually taking P2 from Eric Louis. By lap 4, a recovering Frost had also begun challenging for the third and final podium spot, though by this stage the field had been bunched up in what was effectively a five-way fight for P4.

Despite a poor start by Gowda, he too was on a recovery drive mode, making up lost ground, finding himself in contention for a podium finish. An issue with the early race leader Eric Louis saw him relinquish more ground as Gowda took P4 and close in on Frost. By the mid-way point, two exciting battles had begun to emerge, the first involving a battle royale for the lead of the race upfront between Kahia and Martono, and a three-way fight for P3 between Gowda, Frost and home-favourite Worawong Komarakul (THA, Car #7).

At the front, Kahia’s lead had become tenuous as Martono began pressuring the young Kiwi, with the pair going side-by-side into several corners. Despite a superb defensive drive, the fight would swing in Martono’s favour as he became the new race leader by the start of lap 7. The Indonesian quickly began pulling out all the stops to create nearly half a second gap to the Kiwi. Behind the duelling duo, Gowda too had begun opening up a small gap to Frost, who was himself in a defensive fight with Komarakul. Despite finding the blistering pace towards the end, which included a fastest lap of the race, the young Indian had run out of laps to try and challenge Kahia.

The conclusion of the 11-lap race saw Martono claim his third race victory of the weekend, ahead of Kahia and Gowda. Finishing in fourth place was Frost ahead of local ace Komarakul, with Khalid Al-Wahaibi (OMN, Car #8) taking home sixth.

Race 7 (Replacement race for Race 6 from Event 2 at the Clark International Speedway, 11 Laps, Dry)

11:00hours, Sunday, 8 January 2017

The drivers’ starting positions for the seventh and final race of the weekend, which featured as the replacement race for the Clark event last October, had already been determined with the new additions to the championship occupying the remaining slots. Starting from pole position was Oman’s Al-Wahaibi, from Gowda and Martono in second and third positions.

Successfully managing the pressure of a front row start, it was Al-Wahaibi who would hold on to the lead of the race, keeping a threatening Gowda at bay. Behind the leader, a superb battle was beginning to play out between Martono and Kahia, both challenging Gowda for P2. However, that battle on the opening lap would not play in to the Kiwi’s hands when he went off wide after jostling for position. That dropped Kahia down the order, keeping him out of contention, for the time being.

With all the drama behind him, Al-Wahaibi had the comfort of space as he began pulling away from the field. However, following a successful overtake move of Gowda and clear air ahead of him, it did not take long for Martono to begin hunting Al-Wahaibi down. After putting the hammer down, the gap had closed to just over a second by the second lap.

Behind the two drivers at the front, another exciting duel was taking place between Gowda and Isyraf Danish. After overcoming car troubles, the young Malaysian was clearly focused on a good result as he pushed Gowda hard for P3, one that saw him prevail on the second lap. That unleashed the youngster who began catching the top two drivers.

Back up front, Al-Wahaibi had the difficult task of defending against a quicker and threatening Martono. However by the fourth lap, the youngster unfortunately lost out in the battle for the lead as the Indonesian found a way through. Though the Omani would continue to fight to regain the lead, he also had another challenge on his hands as a field of five drivers began gaining on him, led by a charging Isyraf Danish.

By the mid-way point of the race, with six drivers all within striking distance of each other, there was bound to be drama. After chasing Al-Wahaibi down, a superb overtaking move would see Isyraf gain a position, leaving the Omani to battle it out with Gowda, Daniel Hibbitt (CHN, Car #25) and Eric Louis. Unfortunately, a collision between Al-Wahaibi and Hibbitt ended any chance of a strong finish by either driver as both were forced to retire. That collision would also bring out a brief safety car period – the first and only time for the weekend, at the end of Lap 6.

The safety car period would also wipe out whatever time advantage Martono had built with everyone bunched up together behind the safety car. The restart with only two laps remaining would still prove exciting as the drivers fighting for minor positions began jostling it out, including a great comeback drive by Kahia to battle for P3 with Gowda and Frost. Meanwhile, the driver with the best reaction to the restart was Frost who managed to overtake Gowda for the last spot on the podium, leaving Gowda to defend against a charging Kahia to the finishing line.

At the conclusion of the 11-lap race, it was Martono who would claim top honours ahead of Isyraf Danish after what was his strongest race to date. Claiming the third and final spot on the podium was Frost, ahead of Gowda and Kahia. The second Malaysian on the grid, Eric Louis would come home in P6 ahead of Thailand’s Kane Shepherd (THA, Car #34).

Selected Quotes

Presley Martono (INA, Car #32) Winner Race 6, Winner Race, 3rd Overall Fuji Xerox Star Driver Award for Event 5:

“I knew I had the pace to challenge even though I had to start from P6 on the grid. I just needed to be patient and pace myself. I had a really good start and managed to make up two spots on the start. After that I just kept my head down and slowly began to catch Faine (Kahia). At the end I managed to catch him but he was very difficult to overtake as he defended really well. I am really happy with this result.

“The last race of the weekend was very very hard because at the start I had a tough fight on my hands against Akash (Gowda). That battle lost me a lot of time. By the time I managed to overtake Akash, I had a big task to catch Khalid (Al-Wahaibi), who was very hard to overtake. I did manage to get him, but I had to defend for almost two laps. Towards the end, Isyraf (Danish) also started to close in and I really had to push as hard as possible to make sure I had enough of a gap to him.

“Overall, this has been a good weekend. To finish overall third for the Fuji Xerox Star Driver of the event is really great, this despite the problems I was facing earlier in the week.”

Faine Kahia (NZL, Car #55) P2 Race 6, Overall Winner Fuji Xerox Star Driver Award for Event 5:

“Again, I was suffering with a small issue with the car, which made it a bit difficult to drive. Overall, I am really happy with my start, as I was able to push myself up a few spots and catch Eric to challenge for the race lead. But then Presley (Martono) caught up to me and after that we had a really good battle. We both kept it clean and raced responsibly. I am happy to make it to the podium again.

I’m really happy to have come away from the weekend as the overall winner and take home the Star Driver Award. It’s definitely great for the championship, plus it is my first time for me! I am very very happy! Looking forward to Sepang, let’s hope we can repeat the success!”

Danial Frost (SIN, Car #66) – P3 Race 7, 2nd Overall Fuji Xerox Star Driver Award for Event 5:

“I really struggled with pace in Race 7 and am a little disappointed with that. But I was a bit lucky that the safety car came out and I was right behind Akash (Gowda) at the restart and I was able to overtake him for the position.

“To be honest, I was not expecting to finish anywhere near to contend for the Star Driver Award for the event, but I am happy with where I finished. Now we will push for the last event of the season at Sepang in two weeks time.”

Akash Gowda (IND, Car #33) P3 Race 6:

“To be honest, I think I could have done much better. I definitely had the pace but had a bad start and lost a few positions, I think down to P6. From that point on, I had it all to do. But then it started to come good at the end but unfortunately I could not do much with it. I could have pushed earlier but I was bogged down with trying to fight for position. Overall though, I will take the positive side in that I know that I definitely have the pace.”

Peter Thompson, Chairman, Triple A:

“It has definitely been a challenging weekend for a lot of these young drivers, in addition to having to learn and familiarise themselves with a new circuit. There has been a lot of learning for the young drivers with a lot of close racing on track. That sets us up for what could potentially be an exciting finale to the inaugural season of the Formula 4 South East Asia Championship. We are really looking forward to bring the first ever season to a close at the Sepang International Circuit, the venue where we kicked the season off, six months ago.

Firhat Mokhzani, Managing Director, Triple A:

“Undoubtedly a difficult and challenging outing for some of the drivers this weekend but by the same token an excellent one of learning for these young drivers. The drivers – including those new to the championship, made huge and significant improvements as evidenced by how close everyone was and the pace they were able to demonstrate as well as their race craft. It has definitely provided us with a lot of close and interesting racing. The drivers’ growth and improvement really sets us up for what is going to be an interesting sprint to the finish in Sepang in two weeks time.”

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