Kahia bags Star Driver award as Martono ends penultimate South East Asia event on a high

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Event 5 of the Formula 4 South East Asia (F4/SEA) Championship – certified by FIA, came to a conclusion this weekend with two more days of action in Thailand.

The drivers were back in action in another bumper-packed schedule of racing on Saturday.

Kicking off the proceedings with the third race of the weekend, the honours belonged to Indonesia’s Presley Martono (INA, Car #32) who shone in the early morning race with a resounding victory over Singapore’s Danial Frost (SIN, Car #66) and local hero Worawong Komarakul (THA, Car #7) who finished third. The race also proved a happy hunting ground for Malaysia’s Eric Louis (MAS, Car #23) who finished a strong fourth.

The second race of the day and fourth of the weekend, belonged to Kiwi Faine Kahia (NZL, Car #55) claiming his second win of the weekend ahead of Frost and Oman’s Khalid Al-Wahaibi (OMN, Car #8). Local favourite Komarakul finished fourth with F4/SEA debutant Daniel Hibbitt (CHN, Car #25) with a strong fifth place finish.

Meanwhile, the accolades for Race 5 belonged to Martono with a second win of the day reversing his misfortunes in Race 4. Finishing behind him was the Kiwi Kahia who despite struggling with mechanical issues managed to bring his car home in second ahead of India’s Akash Gowda (IND, Car #33). The young Indian’s result also came on the back of difficulties in the earlier races. The Malaysian contingent also had a strong outing with Isyraf Danish (MAS, Car #19) also reversing his misfortunes from the previous race to finish in fourth ahead of compatriot Eric Louis.

Sunday featured an early start for the young guns as they prepared for the final two races of the weekend.

Accolades for sixth race early on Sunday morning belonged to Indonesian Presley Martono (INA, Car #32) who notched up a hard-earned win ahead of New Zealand’s Faine Kahia (NZL, Car #55) and India’s Akash Gowda (IND, Car #33), the latter earning his second trip to the podium for the weekend. Singapore’s Danial Frost (SIN, Car #66) finished fourth, edging out Thai driver, Worawong Komarakul (THA, Car #7).

The seventh and final race of the weekend, which was held as the replacement for the one postponed following the typhoon at the second event (Clark International Speedway) last October proved to be the most intense. Having already collected the winner’s trophy in Race 6, Martono would make a return trip to the top of the podium with another hard-fought win.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Isyraf Danish (MAS, Car #19) finally reaped the rewards of his impressive pace over the course of the weekend with an inspiring second place finish behind the Indonesian. Rounding off the podium was Frost who managed to overcome a difficult start to the race to finish in the bronze medal position. Fourth place went to Gowda who also faced difficulties in the high-attrition race, edging out Kahia who rounded off the top five.

With two race wins and three second place finishes, New Zealand’s Kahia was also crowned the Fuji Xerox Star Driver Award as the Event 5 overall champion. Frost came in overall second following his one race win and four podium finishes. Martono’s three wins was enough to secure him third overall for the event.

With the conclusion of Event 5 at the Buriram United International Circuit in Thailand, the F4/SEA will head south of the border two weeks from now for the final event of the season from 20 -22 January 2017 at Sepang.

Presley Martono (INA, Car #32) Winner Race 6, Winner Race, 3rd Overall Fuji Xerox Star Driver Award for Event 5: “The last race of the weekend was very very hard because at the start I had a tough fight on my hands against Akash (Gowda). That battle lost me a lot of time. By the time I managed to overtake Akash, I had a big task to catch Khalid (Al-Wahaibi), who was very hard to overtake. I did manage to get him, but I had to defend for almost two laps. Towards the end, Isyraf (Danish) also started to close in and I really had to push as hard as possible to make sure I had enough of a gap to him.

“Overall, this has been a good weekend. To finish overall third for the Fuji Xerox Star Driver of the event is really great, this despite the problems I was facing earlier in the week.”

Faine Kahia (NZL, Car #55) P2 Race 6, Overall Winner Fuji Xerox Star Driver Award for Event 5: “Again, I was suffering with a small issue with the car, which made it a bit difficult to drive. Overall, I am really happy with my start, as I was able to push myself up a few spots and catch Eric to challenge for the race lead. But then Presley (Martono) caught up to me and after that we had a really good battle. We both kept it clean and raced responsibly. I am happy to make it to the podium again.

I’m really happy to have come away from the weekend as the overall winner and take home the Star Driver Award. It’s definitely great for the championship, plus it is my first time for me! I am very very happy! Looking forward to Sepang, let’s hope we can repeat the success!”

Danial Frost (SIN, Car #66) – P3 Race 7, 2nd Overall Fuji Xerox Star Driver Award for Event 5: “I really struggled with pace in Race 7 and am a little disappointed with that. But I was a bit lucky that the safety car came out and I was right behind Akash (Gowda) at the restart and I was able to overtake him for the position.

“To be honest, I was not expecting to finish anywhere near contending for the Star Driver Award for the event, but I am happy with where I finished. Now we will push for the last event of the season at Sepang in two weeks’ time.”

Peter Thompson, Chairman, Triple A: “It has definitely been a challenging weekend for a lot of these young drivers, in addition to having to learn and familiarise themselves with a new circuit. There has been a lot of learning for the young drivers with a lot of close racing on track. That sets us up for what could potentially be an exciting finale to the inaugural season of the Formula 4 South East Asia Championship. We are really looking forward to bring the first ever season to a close at the Sepang International Circuit, the venue where we kicked the season off, six months ago.

Firhat Mokhzani, Managing Director, Triple A: “Undoubtedly a difficult and challenging outing for some of the drivers this weekend but by the same token an excellent one of learning for these young drivers. The drivers - including those new to the championship, made huge and significant improvements as evidenced by how close everyone was and the pace they were able to demonstrate as well as their race craft. It has definitely provided us with a lot of close and interesting racing. The drivers’ growth and improvement really sets us up for what is going to be an interesting sprint to the finish in Sepang in two weeks’ time.”