The Singapore kart racing season officially started last weekend with the first round of the Singapore Karting Championship (SKC), held at Kartright Speedway. A total of 35 drivers competed across five categories and although it is a smaller competing field compared to past seasons, the amount of drama, tears, joy and controversies was never higher.
Here’s a quick rundown on what happened in each category:
Now that two-time national Cadet champion Jon Lee has moved on to Juniors, it’s time for someone new to take over the throne. Javier Chng, 11, only started competing in karting last year but was already throwing up consistent podium finishes and even won Round 2, tarnishing what would otherwise have been a perfect 5/5 winning streak for Jon Lee.
Javier put in a strong weekend – fastest in practice, qualified in pole position, won both heats, won the pre-final and finished the race 14.581 seconds ahead of Josh Lee in second place. (Josh is Jon Lee’s younger brother by the way.)
For putting a wheel right in every place possible, Javier also took home the Best Presented Award, the prize given to the driver with the best overall presentation, package and performance at each round.
1st – Javier Chng
2nd – Josh Lee
3rd – Jayden Jinde
The Cadet category is important because it features the youngest drivers of the series and represents the next generation of drivers. There is a lot of value in starting young and getting the steps right for a solid foundation. But it was a tad disappointing to learn that the Cadet class only had six drivers last weekend…
This is quite a significant worry as it is essential to see new blood being injected into the sport, especially at a young age so they can develop right. More people are starting to understand the sport as parties such as the SKC organisers are planting huge efforts to educate right about motorsports, but the race between time and money is crucial in this cycle: Resources to educate about motorsports -> people understand about motorsports -> more support and resources to educate about motorsports. Education and changing of mindsets is a long-term process and hopefully all the efforts will come into fruitful effects so the cycle can keep on going.
Two-time national Junior champion Amin Noorzilan started the season well with a defence of his title, but not without some incidents on the track. He was fastest in practice, but he had a bad qualifying that put almost to the end of the grid. He bounced back some with second place in both heats and was right on Gabriella Teo’s heels when he finished 0.480 seconds behind her in the pre-final.
Gabriella was pumping in strong timings and started in pole for the final, but Amin was right there, never once letting her miss his presence with a few friendly unintentional bumps here and there. She was leading the race until Amin saw a chance to overtake and dived on the inside of Gabriella at Turn 1. Contact between both karts saw Gabriella drop down the order to fourth place. Stewards ruled this as a racing incident.
Fighting back to the front, Gabriella got into another incident, this time with Jon Lee at the exit of Turn 8. She crossed the line in second place but the 10-second penalty she received from the incident with Jon placed her in fourth place, a mere half second behind Santos Bala Kerisnan Thevar who was happy to finish on the podium again.
1st – Amin Noorzilan
2nd – Jon Lee
3rd - Santos Bala Kerisnan
For his first season in Juniors, it is a good start for Jon to finish in second place, flanking Amin with team-mate Santos on the podium. Santos got his first podium finish at the last round of the SKC last year and although he received third place this time due to Gabriella’s 10-second penalty, he is working hard to make sure he finishies on the podium regularly.
It was Mohammad Nasri Naufal (Opai) who took the win in the Senior class, making defending Senior champion Thaddeus Lee settle for second. Thaddeus qualified first, but later engine problems cost him the heats as he came in 6th in Heat 1 and failed to finish Heat 2. Driving with a replacement Vortex engine (not the usual engine he practises with), he managed to come in second in the pre-final and final.
Suriya Bala Kerisnan Thevar (Santos’ elder brother) returns to karting after taking a rather long break since he last raced in formula cars, in the 2011 AFR series with the Asia Racing Team where he was securing podium finishes.
Suriya was also the first and only Singaporean to have raced in a single-seater at the prestigious Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix when he competed in Formula BMW Pacific back in 2009, a support race to the Grand Prix. Serving his National Service now, he has not been able to get as much training as he could and took a while to get back into the groove. At some point in the race however, he was putting in some fastest laps. He will be one to keep an eye on as the rounds roll on.
Another name to watch is Randall Ng, who clocked the fastest lap of the weekend with a new record for the SKC of 31.704 seconds! He was quickest in practice, qualified third, second in Heat 1, won Heat 2, then came in third for the pre-final and the final.
“I’m damn happy with my results from Round 1 – it’s the first time I got two trophies at a time! I didn’t really expect to get the fastest lap and am really surprised. The Formula Renault testing sessions I went for indeed helped my driving a lot,” said a delighted Randall after the race. Randall attended two driver training sessions (on two separate occasions) with the Asia Racing Team in Zhuhai earlier this year, where he was trained in a Formula Renault single-seater by professionals such as Rodolfo Avila.
Relatively new to racing, Randall has proven his speed and ability to get to the front, but he would need to gain more experience and learn about tyre management and conservation, so he can stay upfront!
1st - Mohammad Nasri Naufal (Opai)
2nd – Thaddeus Lee
3rd – Randall Ng
Combining the grids for the Masters and Veteran classes, a new winner was crowned as Kenneth Smith took to the top of the podium. The weekend could not have been better for him as he was quickest all the way from practice to the heats to the pre-final and the final.
2011 Masters champion Eric Ho was absent from the grid that weekend due to work commitments, but Paul Lee (a serious contender for the Masters title last year and father of Thaddeus Lee) was there, putting smiles on the faces of spectators… He was about three seconds from race leader Kenneth during the final, when the latter ran into traffic and allowed Paul to catch up. At the entry of Turn 2, Paul made a move on the inside of Kenneth but ended up off the track. Kenneth resumed the race with the lead, and so did Paul, while hugging his nose cone and trying not to let Yap Kheng Weng overtake him. The black and orange flag came up shortly and Paul was called into the pits, ending his race early.
With Paul out of the race, Yap smoothly took second place followed by Peter Chua.
1st – Kenneth Smith
2nd – Yap Kheng Weng
3rd – Peter Chua
2011 Veteran champion Anthony Seow finished third overall in the combined Masters-Veteran class and first in the Veteran class. His closest competitor Kenny Yip was absent from the grid.
1st – Anthony Seow
2nd – John McGregor
Detailed results of the entire SKC can be viewed here.
The local karting community is a small one and despite the competitive nature of the sport, it is like a big family gathering at each round of the SKC. The commercial value and the whole packaging of the SKC has been revamped since McElrea Racing Pte Ltd came onboard as the race promoter.
It is very encouraging to see parents like Randall Ng’s, invest in their son’s driver development by sending him to Zhuhai for formula car training, which has resulted in stark improvements in his speed. Over time as he gains more experience he should be able to stay in front once getting there.
It is also great to see local teams stepping up their games, such as Kartmaster Drakar Racing’s merger.
There is still a lot more work in getting the society at large to embrace motorsports and its benefits, both on the personal and professional fronts, but at least we got started.
Round 2 of the SKC will be held at the F1 Village the weekend of 30 June – 1 July, which coincides with Formula Drift Singapore that is taking place at Changi Exhibition Centre.