After completing five events in its inaugural the sixth and final event in the Formula 4 South East Asia (F4/SEA) Championship – certified by FIA finally got underway on Saturday at the Sepang International Circuit.

The bumper-packed schedule kicked off in the early hours with the final free practice session of the season. The session belonged to Indonesia’s Presley Martono (INA, Car #32) who was able to make the most of the cooler track conditions to post the quickest time of the session. His scorching lap time of 2:11.509s was enough to take the top spot over New Zealand’s Faine Kahia (NZL, Car #55) who also posted a sub-2:12 lap time (2:11.760s).

After a short breather, the young drivers were back strapped into their cars for the qualifying. Martono once again dominated the session topping the timesheet with a 2.11.563s to claim the prime spot on the grid in pole for Race 1. Coming in second was Singaporean ace, Danial Frost (SIN, Car #66) who clocked in with a 2:11.751s for a front row start in P2. Bolstered by being on home soil, Malaysian youngster Isyraf Danish (MAS, Car #19) was third quickest with his 2:12.096s effort.

The first of four scheduled races at noon promised an exciting affair with the main protagonists in the running with Martono starting ahead of Frost and Isyraf Danish. That race would however see an unfortunate collision between Martono and Frost at the start that would end both drivers’ races early on. Having inherited the race lead as a result, it was the Malaysian Isyraf Danish who would romp home to an emphatic win, with compatriot Eric Louis coming home in second position to make it a double celebration for the host nation. Coming home in third was Kahia ahead of Khalid Al- Wahaibi (OMN, Car #8) and Akash Gowda (IND, Car #33).

With the dust barely settling after the first race, the drivers were back in their cars for the second race of the day in the early afternoon. In what proved to be a superb recovery drive following his non-finish in the first race, the accolades went to Martono who edged out Kahia after a blockbuster action-filled 8-lap race. Finishing the race in third place after a hard-fought battle was Race 1 winner, Isyraf Danish following a captivating sprint to the finish line against Frost. Rounding off the top-five was Eric Louis.

The bumper-packed schedule again saw a quick turnaround for the drivers as they returned to their racecars for Race 3 not long after concluding Race 2. With grid positions determined by the drivers’ finishing positions from the previous race, Race 3 also had the added twist of a reversed grid for the top 50%. After a superb start, it was the Singaporean Danial Frost who snatched victory reversing his misfortunes from a non-finish in Race 1. Finishing in second following a tough defensive drive was Martono who just edged out Isyraf Danish in what was a photo-finish to the chequered flag. Oman’s Al-Wahaibi took fourth place ahead of Akash Gowda of India.

The fourth race of the day would also provide plenty of action throughout the 10-lap affair. Coming home with his second win of the day was Martono who had to work hard to defend the position right up to the end from Isyraf Danish, who had to settle for second after an epic sprint to the chequered flag. In third place was Kahia ahead of Frost in P4 with Al-Wahaibi rounding off the top five drivers.

The final two race of the inaugural season will take place on Sunday morning with the final Fuji Xerox Star Driver of Event 6 set to be determined at the end of the day’s proceedings. Unlike previous events, the F4/SEA Overall Champion and F4/SEA Overall Rookie champion titles will be awarded later on Sunday evening at the Meritus AAA Awards Gala night also at the Sepang International Circuit.

Practice, Qualifying & Race Reports

Free Practice & Qualifying (Dry)

07:30hours, Saturday, 21 January 2017

10:30hours, Saturday, 21 January 2017

With the driver’s day commencing bright and early, the morning’s free practice session in the cooler temperatures saw Martono claim the top spot with the fastest time of 2:11.509s. His time was over two-tenths quicker than Kahia who managed a 2:11.760s. The two drivers were also the only two who managed to crack the 2:12minute mark. Malaysia’s Eric Louis (MAS, Car #23) and Isyraf Danish (MAS, Car #19) were also in the top half of the field with the third and fourth quickest times with a 2:12.383s and 2:12.390, respectively.

After a short break, the drivers were back on track for the 30minute qualifying session. Despite the rising temperatures, Martono was still able to put the hammer down going purple in several sectors en route to posting a scorching 2:11.563s and more importantly, the pole position start for Race 1. Coming in second to join Martono on the front row was Singapore’s Frost with an equally strong effort to post a 2:11.751s, just under two-tenths shy off Martono’s time. Third fastest was Malaysia’s Isyraf Danish with his time of 2:12.096s ahead of the Kiwi Kahia (2:12.112) who will join the youngster on the second row in P4. Qualifying in P5 with a time of 2:12.369s was Eric Louis.

Race 1 (12:00p.m, 10 Laps, Dry)

12:00hours, Saturday, 21 January 2017 – 10 Laps

With the main championship protagonists in the top half of the starting grid for Race 1, the 10-lap midday Race 1 promised an exciting duel on the cards with Martono starting from pole ahead of Frost and Isyraf Danish. A clean start off the line by Martono saw the young Indonesian successfully defend his lead from Frost, but only just. The action would however unfold in the fight for the lead when a collision between the race leader Martono and Frost would see both taken out of the race.

After successfully evading the pair, it was Malaysia’s Isyraf Danish who suddenly found himself in the lead of the race. There was drama elsewhere down the order including an epic battle at the start in the fight for P3 between Kahia and Eric Louis. With a better tow off the start, the young Malaysian was able to jump Kahia for P4. Also embroiled in a battle for position were Oman’s Khalid Al-Wahaibi (OMN, Car #8) and India’s Akash Gowda (IND, Car #33). All four drivers were able to gain track positions following the
Martono-Frost incident.

With the frantic opening lap action settling down by the second lap, it was Isyraf Danish who made the most of the situation, pulling out a succession of quick laps to open up a gap to the rest of the field. That left a four-way battle for P2 between Eric Louis, Kahia, Al-Wahaibi and Gowda. Running in second, it did not take Eric Louis long before he too found his momentum to also begin pulling away from the rest.

The battle for P3 would go on for several laps, until Kahia running in P3 also found his pace to pull away from the battling duo of Al-Wahaibi and Gowda by the midway point of the race. Though the Kiwi was able to close in on Eric Louis, the young Malaysian was able to up the ante to maintain a healthy gap throughout.

At the front, race leader Isyraf Danish’s unrelenting pace did see the home hero pull out consistent laps in the low to mid 2:12m mark to ensure a comfortable gap to the rest of the field. With a healthy lead of over six seconds by the start of the tenth and final lap, the youngster was well on course for a memorable first race victory of the season on home soil. Crossing the line in P2 was Eric Louis, whose results made it a double celebration for the host nation. Taking the bronze position was the KiwiK ahia, ahead of Al-Wahaibi and Gowda. Rounding off the top-6 was Adam Khalid (MAS, Car #5).

Race 2 (2:35p.m, Dry, 8 Laps)

14:35hours, Saturday, 21 January 2017 – 8 Laps

After a short turnaround, the drivers were back strapped into their racecars for the second race of the day. Having clocked in with the fastest lap of the race in the first race earlier, Isyraf Danish had the honour of starting Race 2 from pole position, ahead of Kahia in P2 and compatriot Eric Louis is P3. The unfortunate racing incident between Martono and Frost saw both drivers faced with the monumental task of starting from the back of the grid.

A poor getaway at the start of the 8-lap race did see Isyraf Danish lose the lead of the race early on as Kahia took the early lead from the Malaysian. Meanwhile, a superb start by Martono and Frost saw both drivers make up considerable ground with Martono up to P3 and Frost in P4 by the close of the opening lap.

Despite losing the lead, the Malaysian youngster was able to stay close to Kahia, though the duo had to contend with the prospect of the fast-approaching Martono. By the second lap, the race had turned into a three-way fight for the lead between Kahia, Isyraf Danish and Martono with all three separated by less than half a second. Behind the trio, Frost had also begun to close in as the Singaporean began lapping around the pace as the frontrunners. Behind them, another battle had also begun to brew between Malaysia’s Adam Khalid and Gowda for P7.

By the mid-way point of the race, Kahia was able to open up a small gap, leaving Isyraf Danish and Martono to battle it out for P2, one that saw the Indonesian prevail. As the duelling duo’s pace was quicker than that of the race leader, it did not take long for them to catch Kahia, with Frost lurking dangerously close behind them all.

With two laps to go, what had been a comfortable lead virtually disappeared as Martono, Isyraf Danish and Frost closed in on Kahia for the makings of an enthralling four-way fight for the race lead. An unfortunate error at the start of the final lap by the Kiwi into the first sequence of corners afforded Martono the perfect opportunity to take the lead, which he did. Having recovered after going wide, Kahia then had to defend against the quicker Isyraf Danish, who also had it all to do to keep his position on track against Frost.

The blockbuster affair would continue through to the last sequence of corners when Frost did momentarily take P3 from Isyraf Danish. However, with the better racing line into the final corner, it was the Malaysian who prevailed over Frost, reclaiming the third and final spot on the podium.

After a non-finish in Race 1, the accolades belonged to Martono with a great recovery drive to win Race 2 ahead of Kahia in P2 and Isyraf Danish in P3. Despite his best efforts, Frost would close out the second race in P4 ahead of Eric Louis in P5.

Race 3 (4.30p.m, 8-Laps, Dry)

16:30hours, Saturday, 21 January 2017 – 8 Laps

With the grid positions determined by the driver’s finishing positions from the previous race, Race 3 would also have the added twist of the top half of the grid being reversed. This meant Eric Louis would have the advantage of starting from pole position, ahead of Frost and Isyraf Danish. Starting from P4 was Kahia with Race 2 winner Martono in P5 on the grid.

A good start by Eric Louis saw the Malaysian successfully hold on to the lead from a quick starting Frost. Strong starts by the rest of the field also did see the top five drivers closely bunched together with Kahia defending against Isyraf Danish and Martono in what quickly developed into a three-way fight for the third and final spot on the podium.
With battles up and down the order, it was the fight for the race lead that attracted the most attention as Frost got the better run to overtake Eric Louis for the lead of the race at the start of the second lap. The Kiwi Kahia also had a good run and began challenging for P2 from Eric Louis after that. However, in the heat of the battle the two drivers collided, which did not do either driver any favour in the race for position. Though the Kiwi suffered damages to his car, he was able to continue but began dropping down the order. Despite the collision, the Malaysian drove a brave race and managed to hold on to P3 as the race approached mid-distance.  

With Frost comfortably leading the pack, and Martono pulling out a small gap, the attention was on the duel for the remaining podium position between the two Malaysians – Eric Louis and Isyraf Danish. In a battle that lasted for several laps, it was the younger Malaysian who would eventually prevail as Isyraf Danish began posting a succession of quick laps.

Lapping consistently quicker than the front-runners, it did not take Isyraf Danish long to catch Martono who was running in P2 with two laps remaining. That battle would last all the way to flag as the Malaysian tried to overtake Martono with the pair going side-by-side on several occasions. In what was a near photo finish at the finish line, the Indonesian rookie was able to hold on to P2 with Isyraf settling to claim his third podium finish of the day.

Meanwhile, after the disappointment of a non-finish in Race 1, a strong drive by Frost saw the Singaporean youngster claim his first win of the day. Finishing just outside of the podium in P4 was Oman’s Al-Wahaibi ahead of Gowda in P5 with Eric Louis in a brave sixth despite having to nurse his car home.

Race 4 (6.15p.m, 10-Laps, Dry)

18:15hours, Saturday, 21 January 2017 – 10 Laps

The drivers’ second fastest lap time in qualifying would determine the grid for Race 4, starting on pole position was Martono, with Kahia lined up alongside him in P2. The second row of the grid meanwhile, was occupied by Isyraf Danish starting from P3 and Frost in P4.

A clean start by all the drivers saw Martono get off to a good start, keeping the lead of the race into the first sequence of corners, with Kahia not far behind the Indonesian ace. A poor start for Isyraf saw him drop down the order at the start, dropping him down to P6 on the opening lap.

With Martono and Kahia away at the front, the lion share of the attention in the early phases of the race was the battle for P3 between Frost and Isyraf Danish. That battle would also draw in Al-Wahaibi, making it a three-way fight for third. By lap 4, the situation had again changed with Kahia slowly picking up the pace to catch the race leader, and the fight for P3 intensifying between Frost and Isyraf Danish as the Singaporean tried to defend the position. The Malaysian youngster would get his opportunity on the final corner with a brave move on Frost.

Released from the fight for P3, the Malaysian began closing in on Kahia. After a succession of quick sector times, the home favourite had managed to close the gap the Kiwi by lap 6. That gave Martono the breathing space to pull away from the ongoing battles that were taking place behind him.

Carrying more speed than the Kiwi on the exit of the final corner, Isyraf Danish was able to overtake Kahia at the start of Lap 8. Once he cleared the Kiwi, the youngster began chasing down the race leader, lapping nearly three-tenths faster than Martono, setting up what would be the most intense sprint to the finish line on the final lap of the race.
In yet another near photo finish to the chequered flag, the Indonesian managed to hold on to the lead, by just six hundreds of a second over the Malaysian, who claimed his fourth podium finish of the day. Finishing in third was Kahia ahead of Frost, who despite briefly losing position to Oman’s Al-Wahaibi was able to regain the position for a strong fourth place. The young Omani settled for P5 ahead of Eric Louis.

Driver Comments:

Isyraf Danish (MAS, Car #19): Winner Race 1; P3 Race 2; P3 Race 3;
P2 Race 4
“It is truly special to come away with a race win right here at Sepang, my home track! I had a good start and was able to maintain my position but then Presley

(Martono) and Danial (Frost) collided in front of me and I had to avoid them both. From that point on I could pull away from the others. At first I was really scared, as this is the first time I was leading a race. So I tried to stay focus on the racing line and even pretended I was catching another driver ahead of me. I am really happy and would like to thank my parents and the crew!

“I had a bad start in Race 3 and lost the position to Faine (Kahia) on the opening lap, who managed to pull away. I did manage to stay close to him but then Presley (Martono) came and started to pressure me for position. Unfortunately he did manage to overtake me in the last sector on the second lap. I tried to find an opportunity to retake the position but then had to defend against Danial (Frost) who gave me a good fight on the last lap. Though he did manage to overtake me on the final lap, I had one chance coming into the final corner and I had the better inside line and managed to retake the position.

”I had a much better start in this race. Starting from P3, I tried to keep the pace consistent as much as possible, but Presley managed to catch me and unfortunately, he managed to overtake me on Turn 9 on lap 2. After that point, I managed to stay close to him but he was defending really hard. It was really hard to overtake him, even though I kept trying. Overall though, I am really happy with the result!

“Unfortunately for me, I did not have a great start in Race 4 as I got overtaken by four cars, dropping me down from P3 to P6. After that, I had it all to do. I managed to overtake a few cars and eventually caught up to the frontrunners. I managed to close in on Faine and managed to overtake him on Turn 1, I think on Lap 8. Then I caught Presley but I ran out of laps! Overall, I am really happy with my overall pace and the results from today.”

Presley Martono (INA, Car #32): DNF Race 1; Winner Race 2; P2 Race 3; Winner Race 4:  “I had a really great start in Race 2 and managed to move from P7 up to P3 on the opening lap. I think that moment was really what won me the race! After that, I was able to overtake Isyraf though I couldn’t really shake him off either. So while defending hard, I also had to attack Faine (Kahia). Then Faine started making a few mistakes so I knew I had to capitalise and managed to do it on Turn 1 on the final lap. I am really happy as I know how important this win is for the championship race.

“In Race 3, I was really trying to get a good start but Faine backed me into a wall, and I had to back off. I lost a lot of momentum after that. But once I got back the groove, I then had to defend against Isyraf, who was really really quick and he really pressured me. It was hard to defend against him but I am happy I managed to keep the position. Given the circumstances in this race, second position is good.

“I am so happy to get a second win! Initially once I got off at the start, I really did not have too much challenge, although I had to be mindful of Faine behind me who was very consistent. Then towards the end, I had to contend with the challenge from Isyraf who was super quick! I think we have to go back and strategise for tomorrow’s final two races. Overall, I am really happy with the results today.

Danial Frost (SIN, Car #66): Winner Race 3 “I am really overjoyed with this win. Starting from P2, I had a clean start and managed to stay behind Eric Louis for laps. I did manage to overtake him as I had a good run. After that, the focus was to stay consistent through to the finish. I am really happy with this result especially after the disappointment in Race 1.”

Eric Louis (MAS, Car #23): P2 Race 1 “At the start I was able to jump Faine (Kahia) for position and after that I just focused on the job at hand. After the two guys at the front collided, I was up to P2 and had a really good race all by myself. I began pacing myself from that point but then Faine managed to catch up to me, so I upped the pace a bit to maintain a gap. I am really delighted with this result!”

Faine Kahia (NZL, Car #55): P3 Race 1; P2 Race 2: “Unfortunately, I lost at position at the start to Eric (Louis), who managed to pull out a gap to me and left me in a good scrap with Khalid (Al-Wahaibi) and Akash (Gowda) for P3. But I managed to defend the position and opened up a bit of a gap. Later on in the race I was able to find the pace and began catching Eric but ran out of laps.

Overall though, I am really happy with this result, as it is a huge boost for the championship race. “I had the lead from the start almost to the finish, which was really good but then a felt something was not right and I started making a few mistakes and lost it on the last lap unfortunately. After Presley took the position, I had to concentrate on trying to manage the situation as best as I could to keep the position. Again, an important result especially when looking at the overall championship.

“P3 in Race 4, and that is important given the overall championship fight. I was in
second for most of the race but Isyraf seemed to have much better pace compared to
me. But, I have to think big picture and this is a good result!”

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