After solid performances at the opening event of the 2015 AsiaCup Series in August, Malaysia’s contingent of young drivers in the series returned to the Sepang International Circuit last weekend set on more podium results.
The rookie trio comprising Adam Khalid (#5), Adam Haikal (#77) and Nazim Azman (#17), were able to record six podium finishes between them from the five races contested over the weekend.
Kicking off the event’s proceedings with practice and qualifying sessions, the Malaysian challenge got off to a flying start with Adam Khalid leading the way on Friday. Securing his maiden pole position start in single-seater formula racing, the 16-year old was quickest out of the 15 drivers, clearly outpacing championship leader, Australian Jordan Love (#79) to record the fastest laps throughout the 30-minute session.
Fellow compatriot Adam Haikal was fourth fastest with the series’ youngest competitor, Nazim Azman posting the seventh-fastest time.
Lined up in pole position for the first of five races on Saturday morning, Adam Khalid was forced to work hard off the line in defense of the race lead against Jordan Love. Having had the better start, Adam Khalid was able to keep the Aussie ace behind for the first few laps. An unfortunate error coming into the final corner on the third lap saw Adam Khalid relinquish the race lead to Love.
Despite losing the position, Adam Khalid was able to maintain a similar pace to the Australian for a closely fought battle throughout the eight-lap race. Coming home with a hard fought second place, the young Malaysian finished ahead of Japanese formula-racing debutant, Yuma Shoji (#19) who finished third for his maiden trip to the podium. Meanwhile, strong finishes by Nazim Azman saw the youngster finish fifth, ahead of compatriot Adam Haikal in sixth.
The second race would also see the pair of Khalid and Love engaged in another epic duel though the advantage was all Love’s, who started the race from pole, courtesy of his fastest lap time in the first race. Keeping the lead of the race from the start, Adam Khalid did manage to stay with Love, who had to drive a defensive race through to the flag.
Making vast improvements from his first race, Adam Haikal also produced a strong drive to finish on the podium in third place.
With conditions declared wet for the third race on Saturday, the attention was again centred on Love, Adam Khalid and Shoji. Starting from the second row of the grid in P3, Adam Khalid’s efforts were however, thwarted when he was penalised for a jump-start, which dropped him back down the field, leaving Love to claim another race win.
Despite the setback, Adam Khalid was able to make full use of his pace to fight his way back to sixth at the end of the 8-lap race, just behind Adam Haikal who finished fifth. Enduring a more difficult race, Nazim Azman had to be content with eighth.
Adam Khalid’s stellar effort in Friday’s qualifying that saw him also clock in with the second fastest qualifying time meant the Malaysian had secured a pole position start for the fourth race on Sunday. The midday start saw Adam Khalid lead the way from the lights, but he could not maintain the position into the first corner and had to relinquish the race lead to Jordan.
Struggling with his pace, the Malaysian quickly became embroiled in a fight for position with his fellow countrymen, Adam Haikal and Nazim Azman as well as Kiwi debutant Faine Kahia (#55). Unfortunately, a racing incident with Kazakh female driver Lyubov Andreyeva (#46) on the fourth lap led to a premature end of the race for both Adam Khalid and Lyubov.
Meanwhile, with Love involved in a lonely race upfront, the battle for the two final podium positions quickly became a four-way fight between Adam Haikal, Nazim Azman, Danial Frost (SIN #66) and a recovering Shoji who had dropped down the order after colliding with Adam Haikal at the start of the 10-lap race.
It was however to be a Malaysian affair with Adam Haikal and Nazim Azman claiming the two remaining spots on the podium in second and third respectively.
Though the final race of the weekend on Sunday afternoon was again a Jordan Love affair; it was the unpredictable weather that would dictate the outcome of the 8-lap race. Starting from P3 on the grid, Adam Haikal suffered an accident on his outlap, forcing him out of the competition, leaving Adam Khalid and Nazim Azman to continue the Malaysian challenge.
The dry conditions at the start witnessed Nazim Azman and Adam Haikal engaged in an exciting mid-field bout through to the first half of the race. With the onset of rain midway through the race, the slippery track conditions caught several drivers off-guard, including Shoji who dropped down the running order after suffering a spin whilst in a battle with Faine Kahia for second position. That incident helped promote Nazim Azman into third, one he held on to en route to his second podium finish of the weekend, ahead of Adam Khalid in fourth.
With two podium finishes each, the Malaysian contingent was able to consolidate their positions in the championship standing with Adam Haikal in second spot with his total points haul of 91, ahead of Adam Khalid (81 points) and Nazim Azman (74 points). At the head of the field, Australia’s Jordan Love leads the way in the championship with 207 points after two events.
Adam Haikal, #77: “Overall this weekend was not what I was expecting as there were definitely some highs and lows. But looking on the positive side, there were areas where I have taken some big steps forward – in particular, my pace. Looking at the data and at the times with the engineer, I can say I am very satisfied especially as I am definitely on the right track. There were moments where I am starting to match Jordan (Love)’s pace and that felt very good. This is something I can build on, work and improve on for the coming event. For sure there was that one scary moment in the final race, which was completely my mistake. But this is something I can and will learn from, which will only make me a better driver.”
Adam Khalid, #5: “On the whole, I am very happy with the weekend. Starting from Friday, I knew I have made progress as I had the pace to match Jordan. I am very happy about that! It felt good getting pole position and although I couldn’t beat Jordan, I am happy with the pace which was translated into the two podium finishes that I had this weekend. In Race 3, my nerves got the better of me causing me to make rookie mistakes that cost me a podium finish. Then I had that collision with Lyubov (Andreyeva, #46) in Race 4 where I had to retire, but that is part and parcel of racing. Race 5 was much better and I am happy that my lap times were competitive and I could finish fourth. There is a lot of positives from this weekend that will help me better prepare for the next event.”
Nazim Azman, #17: “To come away from what was a very challenging weekend with two podiums is something I can say I am happy about. I had a number of good battles on track, which was very exciting and something I can take back and analyse to see where I can improve my race craft. The field was very competitive and I think I have learned a lot from this weekend, and I cannot wait for the next event!”
Peter Thompson, AsiaCup Promoter, “After the first event in August, we knew that the trio of Malaysians would come back for the second event fighting harder and stronger, and that is exactly what they did. We were able to witness some incredible racing this weekend, most of which involved the three Malaysians. They have made significant improvements in areas of their race craft and their overall pace. While Jordan was the star of the weekend with five wins from the five races contested, it is very encouraging to see Adam Khalid, Adam Haikal and Nazim Azman catch up with him. It is going to be quite exciting to see how much progress they will make come the next event!”
Race Results (Selected)
Race 5 (8 laps) – Sunday, 8 November
Race 4 (10 laps) – Sunday, 8 November
Race 3 (8 Laps) – Saturday, 7 November
Race 2 (8 Laps) – Saturday, 7 November
Race 1 (8 Laps) – Saturday, 7 November