Published on October 17th, 2016 | by Amirul Mukminin0
Flying Start for Akash Gowda on Day 1 at Clark Speedway
After their Formula 4 South East Asia Championship (F4/SEA) – certified by FIA outing last August at Sepang, the young drivers were back faced with the challenge of a brand new circuit at the Clark International Speedway in the Philippines. Proceedings for the country’s first FIA-certified race event commenced with a compressed schedule on Saturday with the free practice and qualifying in the morning ahead of the two races later in the afternoon.
Claiming first ever front row start after storming to his maiden F4/SEA pole position, Indonesia’s Presley Martono (INA, Car #32) was poised for a strong outing in Race 1 later that afternoon. The honours would however go to India’s Akash Gowda (IND, Car #33) who claimed his maiden F4/SEA race victory in the mid-day Race 1.
The Indian ace went one better in Race 2, claiming a hard-earned win to claim the double on the first day of proceedings.
Already quickest in the early morning practice, it was Indonesia’s Presley Martono who topped the qualifying timesheets setting his fastest lap time of 1:54.412s en route to his first ever pole position start for Race 1. Claiming a front row start along side Martono was India’s Mohammed Nalwalla (IND, Car #46) with an impressive 1:54.568s ahead of fellow compatriot Akash Gowda (IND, Car #33). Rounding off the top four was New Zealand’s Faine Kahia (NZL, Car #55). Local driver, Gabriel Cabrera’s (PHI, Car #51) qualifying time of 1:55.388s was good for a P5 start ahead of Indonesia’s Keanon Santoso (INA, Car #88) in sixth on the grid.
Race 1 (10 laps)
With rain threatening the horizon just prior to the start of the first race of the weekend, the 10-lap race did begin in dry conditions with Martono and Gowda occupying the front row on the grid. Unfortunately, the race did not keep to its script with drama unfolding immediately after the start with the front two penalised for a start procedure infringement. With both Martono and Nalwalla serving their penalties, it was Gowda who inherited the lead of the race with Kahia in P2. The pair would hold on to their positions all the way to the chequered flag. It was the young Indian’s first race-win of the season following his podium finishes in Sepang last August.
Meanwhile, the battle for the final podium spot witnessed a two-way battle between Khalid Al-Wahaibi of Oman (OMN, Car #8) and Malaysia’s Chia Wing Hoong (MAS, Car #68), a duel that went down almost to the wire, with Al-Wahaibi holding on to the position to claim his maiden podium finish in the championship. Narrowly missing out on the podium was Malaysia’s Isyraf Danish (MAS, #19) who finished in fourth place.
Race 2 (13 laps)
With the start positions for the second race determined by the drivers’ fastest lap times in the first race, it was Race 1 winner Gowda who would claim the top spot on the starting grid for the Saturday afternoon race. Starting beside Gowda was Martono who was all fired up to make up after a disappointing first race. Lining up behind the pair were Kahia and Nalwalla, the latter also keen to make up ground after a challenging race. However, the dry conditions from the earlier race did not extend into the second race, as rain began to descend onto the 4.189km Clark International Speedway circuit just before the start of the 10-lap race.
Despite the challenging conditions, Martono made a brilliant start on the grippier side of the track to jump Gowda for the lead, pulling out a big gap to the field by the end of the opening lap. Behind him, a poor getaway at the lights saw Gowda drop down the order to P8. After adjusting to the conditions, the Indian ace was able to gain on his competitors, overtaking several drivers to move himself up into P3 by the mid-way point of the race. It did not take long before he began hunting Gabriel Cabrera (PHI, Car #51) down for second position by the closing laps of the race. With two laps remaining, a mistake by race leader Martono brought both Gowda and Cabrera into contention for a three-way thriller to the flag. A gutsy move by Gowda into the first corner saw him jump Martono for the lead, which he held on through to the finish en route to his second consecutive win of the weekend.
Home favourite Cabrera wrapped up a gutsy drive in third position, his first F4/SEA podium finish and making up after a disappointing Race 1. Malaysia’s Chia Wing Hoong (MAS, Car#68) finished just outside of the podium in P4 after successfully defending his position from Kiwi Kahia.