UMW Toyota Motor (UMWT) today announced the Gazoo Racing Young Talent Development Program, which aims to identify and nurture young Malaysian racing talent between the ages of 14 and 20 who are transitioning from karting and sim-racing to saloon car racing.

The programme scouted and drafted six young racers (based on their karting and sim-racing accomplishments, overall performance and level of commitment) to be coached before being provided with the opportunity to compete in Season 4 of the Toyota Vios Challenge series.

They are sim racers Mika Hakimi, 17 and Naquib Azlan, 20; and karters Amer Harris, 17, Jwan Hii, 18, Putera Adam, 14, and Troy Eimann, aged 16.

“One of the principal achievements of the Toyota Vios Challenge has been its ability to not only attract young racers but giving them an equal opportunity to excel competing alongside more experienced racers,” said Akio Takeyama, Gazoo Racing Malaysia’s chief motorsports officer.

“In three seasons of the Toyota Vios Challenge, we have noticed a stream of young drivers making their way into the series. Affordability and cost of participation has certainly played a significant part in this but its one-make race format has also provided young drivers as well as newcomers with a fair and level playing field in terms of racing as they compete against more experienced drivers. This and the combination of having to drive in a super competitive environment has resulted in an accelerated learning curve,” he added.

Successful examples include the crowning of 16-year-old Hayden Haikal as the Sporting Class champion in Season 3 with another teen driver, 18-year-old Bradley Benedict Anthony clinching second place overall in what was only his first year of saloon car racing. Both were karters making the transition to saloon car racing.

Takeyama said the Gazoo Racing Young Talent Development Program underlined UMWT’s continued investment and commitment towards the development of Malaysian motorsports.

Takeyama, whose day job is deputy chairman of UMWT, says that the past three seasons of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival and Toyota Vios Challenge one-make race was about bringing motorsports to the masses, cultivating greater awareness, interest and appreciation in motor-racing. The concept of racing on street circuits not only made racing even more accessible to the general public, but it provided drivers with a unique challenge that placed emphasis on precision driving.

The six young racers drafted into the programme will undergo training both on and off the track under the guidance of instructors at the Gazoo Racing School beginning this month. They must satisfy a number of criteria before being certified competent to race. The racers must also fulfil all conditions for the issuance of a national competition license by the Motorsports Association of Malaysia (MAM). Congrats and all the best, guys!