The race recommences after a seven month hiatus as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and will be held strictly without the presence of spectators in adherence to strict standard operating procedures as the country’s sports and commercial industries begin to fully reopen.
Although Season 4 of the festival and the Vios Challenge has endured numerous challenges off the track – the start delayed by almost a year due to the pandemic in 2020 and a second disruption that caused a seven-month break after the completion of Round 1 in March 2021 – action on the track has been even more competitive compared to the previous seasons.
Round 1 brought out the best in all participating racers, some going on to stamp an early sign of dominance in the opening two races of the season while the presence of several newcomers have demonstrated talent that have all the makings of emerging champions.
The Vios Challenge consists of four classes of racing which includes the Rookie Class featuring five graduates of the Gazoo Racing Young Talent Development Programme who are stepping up from karting and simulator to racing in a saloon car for their very first time; the Promotional Class which will field 10 local celebrities, the Sporting Class for amateur drivers; and the Super Sporting Class for Malaysia’s elite and professional drivers.
The battle of the rookies is currently being led by Naquib Azlan, whose transition from simulator racing to real racing has had little impact on his dominance on the racing track.
Naquib won the first two races of the season, while in hot pursuit are the likes of 17-year-old teenagers Amer Harris and Mika Hakimi.
Also in the class are 18-year-old Jwan Hii and 14-year-old Putera Adam.
The Super Sporting Class also continues to display the dominance of professional driver and Gazoo Racing Ambassador Tengku Djan Ley Tengku Mahaleel who swept to victory in the two season opening races.
Other contenders in the running include last season’s runner-up Mark Darwin, last season’s second runner-up Freddie Ang, and accomplished veterans the likes of Boy Wong, William Ho, Kenny Lee, Keifli Othman, Syafiq Ali and former Sporting Class champion Brendan Paul Anthony.
Also competing in the class is teenager Hayden Haikal who was last year’s Sporting Class champion.
An individual who has been equally dominant in the season opener is actor Zizan Razak who, like Tengku Djan and Naqib Azlan, also rejoins Round 2 with a perfect two-race victory in Round 1 despite being in his first ever season of the Vios Challenge.
Others competing in the Promotional Class include actor Shukri Yahaya, actress Janna Nick, presenter Nabil Ahmad and singers Wany Hasrita, Nabila Razali and Khai Bahar.
They will be joined by singer/song writer Talitha Tan and television personality Ahirene Ahirudin.
The Sporting Class meanwhile, remains a class that is still too close to call with Adam Khalid and Haji Sutan Mustaffa Salihin each with one race victory under their belts.
The class will field a total of 19 competitive drivers gunning for the chance of being crowned the new champion in Season 4.
Gazoo Racing Malaysia’s Chief Motorsport Officer Akio Takeyama said the organisers were extremely grateful that the season could continue.
"I am sure that all the racers are eager to get back into action. I do not foresee the long break having an adverse impact on their performance, instead like Round 1, the competition will be even stiffer and closer all the way to the chequered flag,” he said.
All the action of Round 1 will be broadcast live on the UMW Toyota Motor (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd website at www.toyota.com.my, and on the Toyota Malaysia and Toyota Gazoo Racing Malaysia Facebook pages.