Following an eventful first day of action at Event 5 of the Formula 4 South East Asia (F4/SEA) Championship – certified by FIA, the drivers were back in action in another bumper-packed schedule of racing on Saturday.

Kicking off the proceedings with the third race of the weekend, the honours belonged to Indonesia’s Presley Martono (INA, Car #32) who shone in the early morning race with a resounding victory over Singapore’s Danial Frost (SIN, Car #66) and local hero Worawong Komarakul (THA, Car #7) who finished third. The race also proved a happy hunting ground for Malaysia’s Eric Louis (MAS, Car #23) who finished a strong fourth.

The second race of the day and fourth of the weekend, belonged to Kiwi Faine Kahia (NZL, Car #55) claiming his second win of the weekend ahead of Frost and Oman’s Khalid Al-Wahaibi (OMN, Car #8). Local favourite Komarakul finished fourth with F4/SEA debutant Daniel Hibbitt (CHN, Car #25) with a strong fifth place finish.

Meanwhile, the accolades for Race 5 belonged to Martono with a second win of the day reversing his misfortunes in Race 4. Finishing behind him was the Kiwi Kahia who despite struggling with mechanical issues managed to bring his car home in second ahead of India’s Akash Gowda (IND, Car #33). The young Indian’s result also came on the back of difficulties in the earlier races. The Malaysian contingent also had a strong outing with Isyraf Danish (MAS, Car #19) also reversing his misfortunes from the previous race to finish in fourth ahead of compatriot Eric Louis.

The final day of the event on Sunday will see two more races scheduled, including a seventh race held in place of the race that was postponed from the second event at the Clark International Speedway in the Philippines last October.

Race Reports

Race 3 (11 Laps, Dry)

08:30hours, Saturday, 7 January 2017

With grid positions for the third race of the weekend determined by the drivers’ finishing positions from the previous race and the added twist of a reversed grid for the top 50%, Martono would have the distinct advantage of having the pole position start. Malaysia’s Isyraf Danish (MAS, Car #19) was lined up alongside the Indonesian in P2 with fellow compatriot Eric Louis and Oman’s Khalid Al-Wahaibi (OMN, Car #8) occupying the second row of the grid in P3 and P4, respectively.

Friday’s two race winners, Frost and Kiwi Faine Kahia (NZL, Car #55) would have the tough task starting from P5 and P6 on the grid. Capitalising on a strong start, it was Martono who would make the most of his grid position pulling out a healthy lead over the competition on the opening lap. Similarly, Isyraf Danish had also made the most of his grid position to also pull away from the rest. Behind the leading pair, there was plenty of drama as the rest of the drivers jostled for track position. This included a four-way fight for the third and final spot on the podium between Eric Louis, Al-Wahaibi, Kahia and Frost, with the Malaysian Eric Louis prevailing.

Strong starts by the two Malaysians were however compromised when both drivers began falling behind early on due to mechanical issues. That left the door wide opened for Frost, who managed to take full advantage of the situation to pull himself up to P2 by the third lap. Also benefiting from the circumstances was the Kiwi Kahia, though he was made to work for it as he defended the position from a charging Al-Wahaibi and Komarakul.

That contest proved an exciting one as the trio continued to jostle for the position through much of the middle stages of the 11-lap race. The battle would however swing in Komarakul’s favour as the local ace leveraged on the motivation of having the home ground advantage to wrestle third position off Kahia. The Kiwi would however suffer a mechanical problem, which saw him drop out of the race, gifting track positions to his competitors.

With Martono and Frost comfortable at the front, and things more or less settled for third in Komarakul’s favour towards the closing stages of the race; the battle for fourth was far from over with Al-Wahaibi tenuously holding on to P4 from a resurgent Eric Louis. The Omani would however prevail when a technical issue also forced him to abandon the fight, leaving Eric Louis to claim P4.

Though the drivers who finished in P2 and P3 did incur post-race time penalties for infringements, the duo of Frost and Komarakul had been sufficiently ahead of the rest of the field at the finish that both were able to retain their finishing positions.

Race 4 (13 Laps, Dry)

11:40hours, Saturday, 7 January 2017

With the starting grids for Race 4 determined by the drivers’ second fastest lap times from qualifying, it would be Malaysia’s Isyraf Danish who would start from pole position, with Kahia for company starting along side him. India’s Gowda and Frost in P3 and P4 would occupy the second row with Race 3 winner Martono joined by F4/SEA debutant Daniel Hibbitt (CHN, Car #25) on the third row.

Unfortunately, a mechanical problem for the pole sitter and Gowda would see both drivers unable to race the 13-lap mid-day race. A superb start off the line for Kahia saw the Kiwi cleanly pull away from the lead from what was effectively a pole start, though Kahia would have Frost follow closely behind in P2. That left the battle between Martono, Hibbitt and Komarakul in a closely contested battle for the final podium spot.

With the top two locked in a duel for track position, the pair would trade positions with Frost briefly taking the lead off Kahia. Behind them, despite gaining a position to move into third, Martono was coming under intense pressure from Al-Wahaibi. Back at the front, despite losing the lead, it was temporary as the Kiwi remained close to Frost and eventually regained the lead on Lap 2 though the pair would continue to fight it out. The battle for third also saw Al-Wahaibi prevail taking P3 away from Martono, quickly distancing himself from the chasing pack with a series of quick laps. Another interesting mêlée was also beginning to develop between the Indonesian and Hibbitt who also began pressuring for P4.

The action-packed race saw plenty of battles up and down the grid, as other drivers fought hard with each other for track positions. For the three drivers at the head of the pack, things quickly settled into a more comfortable pace with Kahia, Frost, Al-Wahaibi and Komarakul comfortably far ahead from the rest by the mid-way point of the race. That would not be the case for those behind them as battles continued to rage, particularly between Martono who had the difficult task of defending and unfortunately losing positions first against Hibbitt, then from fellow countryman, Keanon Santoso (INA, Car #88), Eric Louis (MAS, Car #23) and Kane Shepherd (THA, Car #34).

Towards the closing stages, there were several interesting duels including that between Hibbitt and Santoso, both battling for P5; and between Shepherd and Eric Louis for P7. Just when things had begun to settle for those running in midfield, a new drama began to unfold at the front, this time between Frost and Al-Wahaibi. The Omani had been quietly stalking the Singaporean closing in on him, enough that by the final lap, Al-Wahaibi was close enough to challenge for P2. The Singaporean did manage to hold on, finishing behind Kahia who notched up a second win of the weekend.

Finishing in P4 was Thailand’s Komarakul ahead of debutant Hibbitt in P5. Indonesia’s Santoso also had a stronger race after struggling over the weekend to finish in an impressive P6 ahead of Thailand’s Shepherd. However, as a result of time penalties awarded to several drivers following a post-race, the majority of the drivers’ finishing positions remained unchanged with the exception of Shepherd and Eric Louis, whose race positions were reversed following the stewards’ inquiry. As a result, Eric Louis was classified P7 with Shepherd in P8.

Race 5 (11 Laps, Dry)

15:00hours, Saturday, 7 January 2017

With the drivers’ fastest laps from the previous race determining the starting grid for the afternoon’s Race 5, the line up of the 13-lap race saw Kiwi Kahia start from pole position ahead of Oman’s Al-Wahaibi in P2. Third on the grid was Frost with Gowda in P4.

After a clean start, it was again the Kiwi who would have the lightning start to keep the lead into the first sequence of corners. That left the scrap for the two podium spots between Frost and Al-Wahaibi, the latter being the beneficiary when an ontrack collision between the pair saw Frost drop down the order. An investigation by race officials for the incident on lap 3 would later see the Omani driver receive a penalty. Behind the duelling duo, another battle was also brewing between Gowda and home favourite Komarakul for P3, with the Indian successfully defending the position.

But the biggest benefactor from the fracas was Martono who used the situation to his advantage, first finding himself in the scrap with Gowda and Komarakul. Using his pace, the young Indonesian was able to jump the two drivers and the order to find himself up into P2 by the mid-way point of the race.

Up front, despite holding a healthy lead over the field in the first half of the race, the second half saw Kahia’s pace drop slightly allowing Martono running in second to close in on him. The Indonesian ace began closing in to within striking zone by lap 7 enough to challenge the Kiwi for the race lead, which he did in the final sector of the lap. Though the Kiwi would stay close, he was not able to retake the position from the Indonesian in the closing stages of the race.

Meanwhile, the battle for third remained an intense one, though Gowda would hang on for the final spot on the podium, successfully fending off Shepherd, who was unfortunately excluded by race officials for an incident earlier in the race.

The win from Martono erased the disappointment from the previous race, with Kahia settling for P2. A great recovery drive by Gowda also saw the Indian claim his first podium finish of the weekend, ahead of Malaysia’s Isyraf Danish who also turned his fortunes from the previous race aroundfor a strong fourth place finish. Rounding
off the top five was fellow compatriot Eric Louis.

Selected Quotes

Presley Martono (INA, Car #32) Winner Race 3, Winner Race 5: “That was a great lights to flag finish for me in Race 3. I am really happy about that, as I was also motivated to get this win for a really good friend of mine. Yesterday I was struggling with my pace quite a bit as we had a few issues but the mechanics did a great job to turn things around overnight and we managed to overcome it all.

“After a really disappointing Race 4 due to a massive problem, I am really delighted with this win. The car felt amazing, thank you to the crew and engineers who worked tirelessly to fix the issue. Starting from so far down the order, I just took it step by step, but somehow with five laps to go I saw that the gap to Faine (Kahia) had closed and I was able to challenge for the race win.”

Faine Kahia (NZL, Car #55) Winner Race 4; P2 Race 5: “The plan was to drive a consistent race and it worked. Though I did have a good fight with Danial (Frost) but I did not want to take any unnecessary risk and preferred to race responsibly. I was able to regain the position and from that point on pushed as hard as I could.

“I had a really good start in Race 5 and was able to keep the lead in the first few laps. But then I started struggling with the car, as there was some vibration early on. I had to try and manage the situation but the car didn’t feel that great, so I just pushed as hard as I could, given the circumstances. By the mid way point Presley (Martono) had caught up and he overtook me. I did not want to threaten my position with any risky moves, so I am really glad to finish on the podium.”

Akash Gowda (IND, Car #33) P3 Race 3: “To be up here on the podium is great, especially after having a difficult few races! At the start, my mind was only on the lights and making a good start. Starting from P4, I was able to keep the position until an opportunity on Lap 7 allowed me to gain a position. But then Presley (Martono) was able to catch me and did overtake me, but there were about five of us who were all bunched together. I am really happy that I managed to finish P3!”

Danial Frost (SIN, Car #66) P2 Race 3; P2 Race 4: “I am quite happy with the race this morning though I had to put up quite a fight starting from P5. I managed to have a good start and gained a couple of positions and then I saw that Isyraf (Danish) was having a problem, I was able to gain another in P2. Although I did get a time penalty in the end, I am still quite happy with my pace.

“Race 4 was really interesting as I managed to get a good start and was able to stay close to Faine (Kahia) especially in the early part. I did manage to overtake him on Lap 1 and tried to pull away, but he was quicker in some sectors and managed to regain the place. After that, my focus was to try and keep the pace consistent. But towards the end, Khalid (Al-Wahaibi) was on my tail so I had to switch to a more defensive mode, and it worked out.”

Khalid Al-Wahaibi (OMN, Car #8): P3 Race 4: “To be honest, I was really happy about my start in Race 4 as I was able to gain quite a few of positions, moving up to P5 by the second lap, I think. I saw that Presley (Martono) had a problem, so I knew that I had the opportunity to overtake him for P3. After that, I just put my head down and tried to put together consistent laps and by the end managed to catch Danial (Frost). Unfortunately, I couldn’t challenge him, but overall, I am really happy with this result.”

Worawong Komarakul (THA, Car #7): P3 Race 3: “I am really happy as I finally managed to put the pace that I knew I had together into a strong race, especially here at my home track. I am also finally getting used to the racing here. I had few good battles on track, which was really fun!”

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