REV #2 (download your copy here)
Photos courtesy of Cheryl Tay and Drakar Racing Team
It was dry all weekend until Sunday afternoon after lunch when the skies opened and showers morphed the final race of the inaugural Singapore Karting Championship (SKC) held at Singapore’s only karting facility Kartright Speedway. Initially scheduled for end of October, the fifth and last round of the SKC was postponed to mid-November. The championship leaders of the five categories successfully did their parts to defend their advantage and clinched the overall titles eventually. Local karting team Drakar Racing showed dominance on the podiums consistently throughout the five rounds, eventually securing three overall titles in the Cadet, Junior and Senior categories.
The pressure was on Cadet championship leader Jon Lee when he received a nine-second penalty in qualifying for crossing the blend line and was relegated from pole position to sixth. Only managing fifth place in the heats, Lee knew that he had to fight hard for the pre-final to secure a good starting position for the final. After achieving two wins and two second-place finishes, Lee came into the last round with a 32-point lead and only his team-mate Glenn Chiam was in a position to challenge him for the title.
“After the heats on Day One, I was feeling worried because my championship strategy was compromised. My main contender Glenn was up in front so it was crucial to get a strong starting position for the final,” said 11-year-old Lee of Drakar Racing Team. With advice from his father James Lee – who is also his mechanic and a kart racing champion himself – Lee fought hard during the pre-final and overtook the four ahead of him to finish first. That gave Lee pole position for the final. In previous rounds of wet weather, Lee has already proven his skills driving in the rain. Hence when the afternoon showers poured upon them, Lee displayed his usual wet weather driving expertise and drove a faultless race in the final to clinch the chequered flag as well as seal the championship title.
Another young driver who deserves credit is nine-year-old Jordan Tay. The youngest driver in the entire Championship showed immense improvement from the first round in April. From a place near the back of the grid, Tay qualified in second place before finishing first in both heats. He came in second in the pre-final and final, but was demoted to third place eventually because of a jump start. “I had a fantastic season at the SKC. The rest of the drivers in my category are at least two to three years older than me. I will continue to train harder and next year I will be competing in more regional series,” said Tay who is also participating in the Asian Karting Open Championship.
The Junior category had the tightest competition with just six points between championship leader Amin Noorzilan and Anderson Martono. Martono is an evidently strong driver, starting the season with wins in Rounds 1 and 2, and second in Round 3. Other race commitments caused Martono to miss Round 4, thus handing the championship lead to 13-year-old Amin of Drakar Racing Team. Back in the final round to try and win the championship, Martono was performing brilliantly as he pulled strongly ahead of the rest of the field in qualifying and the heats.
Knowing that it is vital to start ahead of Martono, Amin tried his best but could only manage third in qualifying and the heats. However, Lady Luck was kind to Amin and an engine failure for Martono in the last two laps forced the latter to retire from the race. The Junior final race ended with a surprise win from Saravanan Rajakumar – who has never been on the top of the podium before – with Thaddeus Lee and Amin joining him in second and third respectively.
“This is my first year in competitive kart racing and to be honest, I never expected to become overall national Junior champion. I had very strong competitors who are very fast and more experienced than me. Nonetheless, it was a great accomplishment and I would like to thank my mechanics, my team-mates and my family for their support,” said Amin.
The Junior race in this final round of the SKC had a fresh addition to the grid. 12-year-old Gabriella Teo was the first and only female of the SKC, making her debut kart race. She was very nervous at the start of the weekend and it didn’t help that there were problems with her kart set-up, causing her to lose one second off her testing pace. Although she finished last in qualifying and the heats, changes made to correct her kart set-up and an injection of confidence saw Teo driving much better on the second day. She finished fourth from seventh in the pre-final just behind championship winner Amin. Alas, her lack of experience in wet conditions worked against her in the final and she spun out.
“It was both fun and frustrating racing against the boys. I have no problems competing against them and I just wanted to put in my best. The second day was a lot better for me and although it didn’t end too well, the experience gained is very valuable and I will now start preparing to compete in the entire SKC series next year,” said Teo, whose father Allan is a director at Kartright Speedway.
With only four drivers on the grid for the Senior category, it wasn’t too difficult a task for Senior championship leader 21-year-old Mohammad Nasri Naufal bin Nasir (Opai) of Drakar Racing Team to deliver as expected and win the final race to clinch the overall Senior championship title. Usual names like Andrew Tang and Julien Fong were missing from the grid due to overseas race commitments and study obligations respectively. Ivan Lim Zi Yang – who came into this round 13 points behind Opai in the championship – qualified in pole position but finished second to Opai in both heats.
Team-mate to Opai, Sean Hudspeth was catching up to Ivan in the heats when his engine seized and he had to call it a day. Fortunately for Hudspeth, his kart was ready in time for the final where he finished second after Opai.
“It’s a truly tremendous feeling to the win the final race of course. It hasn’t been an entirely smooth season with post-race penalties taking wins away from me and various on-track race incidents. But all’s well that ends well and winning the championship is a bonus for me!”, said Opai who has more than a decade of kart racing experience with titles like the 2000 KBS AAM Malaysian Kart Prix cadet champion, 2003 Asian Karting Open Championship Junior champion and 2006 Macau International Kart Prix (ROK Senior) Asia champion under his belt.
From almost 30 drivers before, participation for the Masters category dipped dramatically to just 12 drivers for the final round. Championship leader Paul Lee Kok Khiang has had some close neck-to-neck racing with his closest competitor Sheridan Thomas in previous rounds, but it was a pity that Thomas was absent from this final showdown. Thomas has two race wins and a second place finish in Round 4, but he missed the second round due to an injury so it was Lee who held the championship lead with 14 points ahead.
Without Thomas on the grid, the pressure should be lifted off Lee, but that was not the case as he encountered collisions with other drivers in the heats and in the final that eventually cost him a podium finish. However, although Lee narrowly missed a spot on the podium at this final round when he finished fourth in the final, the overall Masters title was still his.
Throughout the five rounds, Lee experienced problems of all kinds like on-track accidents and engine problems but still managed to finish no lower than second place, except for the last round. It was Benjamin Goh, Danial Walker and Lim Keong Liam who took to the podium in the final instead. “It would have been nice to win the final along with the overall championship title, but this is racing and it is unpredictable,” said Lee.
50-year-old Kenny Yip Ngai Meng of PDB Maddox Singapore (YZF Karting) was a former karting champion with his own kart racing team. He was also the first Singaporean to race at the World Karting Championship in Europe and has strong links with world-renowned tuner Peter de Bruijn, a former World Karting Champion who beat Ayrton Senna before Senna became Formula 1 World Champion.
Now track manager and senior instructor of Kartright Academy, Yip was thrilled when he first heard about the SKC as his love for speed never ceases. “I was actually afraid that my body might not be able to sustain the physical demands of racing like before, but I couldn’t resist the chance to race. As a veteran, it’s not so much about winning anymore and I just want to complete the race without aching for too many days after,” laughed Yip. Of the five championship leaders, Yip held the biggest lead of 35 points over the next driver. He won the first and fourth round, and finally the last round to clinch the overall title.
Nescafe Singapore Karting Championship Round 5 Results
CADET (8 to 12 years old)
1st – Jon Lee Xuanhao
2nd – Tan De Shuen
3rd – Jordan Tay
Overall Champion – Jon Lee Xuanhao
JUNIOR (12 to 14 years of age)
1st – Saravanan Rajakumar
2nd – Lee Jia Jie Thaddeus
3rd – Amin Noorzilan
Overall Champion – Amin Noorzilan
SENIOR (15 years of age and above)
1st – Mohammad Nasri Naufal (Opai)
2nd – Sean Hudspeth
3rd – Lim Zi Yang Ivan
Overall Champion – Mohammad Nasri Naufal (Opai)
MASTERS (30 to 45 years of age)
1st – Benjamin Goh
2nd – Danial Walker
3rd – Lim Keong Liam
Overall Champion – Paul Lee Kok Khiang
VETERAN (45 years of age and above)
1st – Kenny Yip
2nd – Jerry Ibara
3rd – Richard Wee
Overall Champion – Kenny Yip