Red White Sangari Invitational Kart Prix at Sepang

With 108 entries, the first ever Red White Sangari Invitational Kart Prix Championship at Sepang was a great success, both in terms of participation and racing intensity. Drivers from United Kingdom, Brazil, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Switzerland, Macau, Germany, Netherlands and Philippines were determined to demonstrate their driving skills against each other.

With the highest prize to date in Asia Pacific Karting Championship, it’s hardly any surprise to see big names coming from all over the world. Most notably, Ireland’s World Champion Martin Pierce who is driving in the Senior Max category.

The three categories featured are Rotax Micromax (8-12 years old), Rotax Junior (13-16 years old) and Rotax Senior (17 – above years old).  The formats are non – qualifying practice, qualifying practice, heats to qualify for the pre-final, pre-final and final. In all the categories, drivers must take part in each of them competing to be the best in all the heats to qualify for the pre-final and subsequently race in the pre-final to determine their grid positions for the final.

The event is a 3 day affair from Friday to Sunday.  Friday is unofficial practice sessions, nevertheless the track is already buzzing with activities. It’s topmost important that drivers are taking every chance presented to familiarize with the track environment and acclimatize with the hot weather. The mechanics and drivers interrelate a lot on car setups at this stage. Pit at this time was an eventful area where drivers were going back and forth and fans getting on the track and in the pit lane taking opportunity to get closer to the action. The fans make out once the official event starts, organizers wouldn’t let them near the pit let alone the track. Hats off to the organizers for bringing this sport close to its fans and let them be a part of what Karting is all about, pure racing and less politics.

As typical Malaysian style weather, rain had been pouring consistently since Day 1 of the event in the afternoon sessions. In a similar fashion, as expected it was a wet race for Rotax Micromax final which started in the afternoon. All the drivers were using wet Mojo tires. There was a sight of panicky among the pit crew as they attached on the wet tires to the kart. The fans were up on their feet in the grandstand and before the race even started, a collision already takes place on the way out of the pit lane for familiarization lap between Gezha Falihy Putradimi and Rafif Rabbani. Fortunately it was minor rear-ender and both were able to carry on.

Starting on pole is Giuliano Raucci with Perdana Putra Minang second on the grid. But it was Pietro Rimbano and Suhaizarul Suhaizat who commands the race as Giuliano Raucci dropped to 3 rd as the race unfolds. Nothing is between these three drivers as they drag each other to checkered flag. It was a very tight race and in the end it was Pietro Rimbano who emerged as the winner, Suhaizarul Suhaizat second and Giuliano Raucci third. As the podium celebration was about to commence, there was a protest and result was put on hold but the podium celebration did continue to take place. When the official result was out, Pietro Rimbano is disqualified due to technical infringement and Suhaizarul Suhaizat was announced as the winner. It was a sad day for Pietro Rimbano as his victory is short lived and having being earlier celebrated at the top of podium in front of huge crowds really adds salt to his wounds.

Rotax Max Junior category was dominated by Nabil Jeffri in all practice sessions, qualifying heats and pre-final.  However, lady luck seems to stops smiling for him when Jaie Robson took top step of the podium in a tricky final. In a drying circuit, teams were face with tough decisions whether to go for wet weather tires or slicks. All drivers with the exception of Robson opted for slicks. He took advantage of the tricky condition and a bit more rain later in the race to secure his first position and only later was stripped of his win due to a technical irregularity. Clerk of the course James Leong later commented on forum mentioning that the second driver in the junior, having made a right choice of tyres ran away hands down. Unfortunately at scrutineering, it was found that he used non-standard gasket. He further clarify that it is clearly stated in the Rotax Technical Regulations 2009 that only Genuine Rotax components shall be used. Nabil Jeffri then was promoted to top spot of the podium to summarize his perfect weekend of the event. Victor Franzoni comes second and Rahul Raj Mayer is third.

John King, the boss of Comma Motorsports expresses his gratitude by looking back at the history. Nabil Jeffri and Suhaizarul both arrived at the team without the equipment. It was last week before the event Nabil got a new Junior engine and Suhaizarul got a MicroMax engine from a new senior engine in stock plus a used P8 junior cylinder with a used MM kit.  John King also makes sure all engines was run in carefully and then strip them and balance the crank.  He believed, it was the key to his team victorious outing.

The final for Rotax Senior saw the battle between Ryuichi Narra and Martin Pierce. Both are class above from the rest in all the qualifying heats. But Martin Pierce did one better by taking pole position. Ryuichi Nara joined him on the front row and the final was all set for an intense showdown. In the first few laps, Satoro Mimura and Ryuichi Nara overtook Martin Pierce only to delay him the fight for the first place. Ryuichi Nara took advantage and built a steady gap to Satoro Mimura who is holding Martin Pierce. When Martin Pierce overtook Satoro Mimura few laps later, he showed why he is the world champion by rapidly closing the gap and finally overtook Ryuichi Nara and comfortably wins the race by 2.784 seconds margin. Mohd Afiq Ikhwan finish third, 5.594 seconds behind the leader.

It was a successful outing by Malaysian drivers in Micromax and Max Junior categories. With the young talent showing a lot of promise, Malaysian motorsports can look forward to a brighter future in the senior category. For a country that is new to motorsports culture, Malaysians can stand tall knowing they have competitive young talents at par international level. With the proper exposure and good management, things will only get better for the drivers from here.

Editorial : Mu’az Zakaria

Related posts:

Through the Lens - Red White Sangari Invitational Kart Prix 2009 Part 2
Rotax Max Challenge Malaysia 2010 Round 1 at the Sepang International Karting Circuit
Gallery - Red White Sangari Invitational Kart Prix 2009 Part 3
Rotax Max Challenge Malaysia Round 2 - Chaos, Thunder, Storm
Nabil Jeffri - One Step Closer to Malaysian Dream
Rotax Max Challenge Finale Is Just Around The Corner
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