From L-R: Keifli Othman, Boy Wong

The inaugural Vios Challenge race in Penang on August 12-13 will see top Malaysian racers battling it out with different strategies. Local racing names that need no introduction include Keifli Othman, Boy Wong, Kenny Lee, James Veerapan, Syafiq Ali, Mark Darwin, Mitchel Cheah, Rocky Seow, Akina Teo and “Prince of Drift” Tengku Djan Ley.

The racing will be door-to-door, as all the cars are identical with no mechanical advantage in a one-make race. This was clearly demonstrated during a recent Sepang shakedown of the Vios race car, when some of the top racers clocked lap times within a second’s difference of each other.

“It is going to be a very close race. The Vios is very responsive and easy to handle so newcomers and seasoned racers will have a lot of fun driving this car in the race,” said Keifli Othman, a veteran of saloon and open-wheel racing.

Rally ace Kenneth Koh will be making his debut on a race track in the Vios Challenge, and he was quick to praise the ease of settling into a quick rhythm with the Vios. “The car is so easy to drive, I got used to it after just a few laps. It is very balanced with the right amount of power, handling, braking and acceleration so I think it is equal for beginners and expert drivers to handle the car,” he said.

An early favourite is Boy Wong, who will be racing under Team ST Wangan’s banner. There will be no strategy as far as he’s concerned. “This is going to be a pure pedal-to-metal race from lights to flag. You won’t have any opportunity to think of strategies in the race. Everyone will be jostling to get ahead of the pack so you either keep up or defend,” said Wong.

CY Ong, owner of the Dream Chaser Team that’s fielding three cars, is taking a different approach. No bulldozing through. “Having driven the Vios, I believe that this car will reward the gentle and smooth driver. If you’re too aggressive, you may lose too much momentum and actually fall behind. The way to drive it is by being smooth through the corners. I think that the driver who realises this quickly will do very well,” said Ong.

The expanded field of 40 Vios race cars have been built to identical spec. The rims, tyres and fuel are controlled items supplied by the organisers, further restricting any variables the drivers can exploit.

The race car is based on a Vios 1.5J manual but with a 10% power hike (the 2NR-FE makes 107 PS/140 Nm stock) and track-essential mods. TRD parts include an aerodynamic kit, exhaust system, clutch and limited-slip differential (LSD), suspension system, brake pads, tower bar and lower brace bars, and a full roll cage.

Also on are 15-inch Enkei rims with 195/50 Toyo Proxes tyres, a Motec C125 racing display, a fire suppression system, OMP’s Corsica Superleggero steering wheel, an OMP First-R racing seat and tow hooks at both ends. The cars were prepared by Wing Hin Motorsports in Malaysia.

The Vios Challenge will be the headlining event at the Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGR) Racing Festival that kicks off on August 12-13 at the Batu Kawan Stadium in Penang. There will be plenty of activities in store, including drift demos, celebrity performances, food trucks, test drives, and a Toyota C-HR showcase. Entrance is free.