Race Reporter: Ben Panic
With racers all home from FEMCA in Pattaya things settled back in to the Southern Super League round 4 this weekend in Johor Bahru Malaysia. Once again David Aw and Sunny Wong delivered a new layout for the racers. Many spent Saturday settling in to the new track and finding the fast lines and places to pass. The track designers had made this a challenge with plenty of tight sections that really challenged the buggies and drivers.
With 120 drivers entered, qualifying would be 3 rounds of 7 minutes with the best run to count. Finals would revert to standard IFMAR Christmas tree with everyone progressing through a semi to the main.
Qualifying kicked off at 8 am and round one went to Ben Panic (Kyosho/ Novarossi /JConcepts) who managed to navigate a super greasy surface and end up TQ for the round. The drivers were all suffering from an extreme lack of grip as the cloud cover was low, conditions were super humid and the surface was still moist from rain on Saturday night.
Round 2 saw the pace pick up again and both Didier Perrin (Mugen/Novarossi/AKA) and Ben would make the most of the drying track to lodge an 11-lap run with Ben again TQ for the round. Both Didier and Ben managed to break in to the 39-second bracket, which had not been done in practice on Saturday. They had not been able to get to Malaysia for practice but were certainly acclimatizing to the layout and conditions quickly. Hot on their heels were Malaysian’s Andy Lee (Agama/Aphap/AKA), Kelvin Yong (JQ/Alpha/AKA) and Ong Chee Yong (TeamC)
It was apparent that a week spent in Pattaya had paid off for young Andy Lee as his pace had moved up a notch and he was just shy of the elusive 11 laps. Racing internationally on a demanding layout like Pattaya against Asia’s best had given the youngster plenty of valuable experience and he was making the most of it in qualifying.
By the time round 3 kicked off the sun was breaking through and conditions on track were improving, still greasy but a little more grip saw the times of the top runners drop a little more. Ben managed to lock out the competition and throw down a fast 11-lap run that no one would beat. Didier came close but was not as comfortable through the six-pack jump section and this would cost him. Felix Tan (JQ/KII) and Sunny Wong (Hong Nor/JS/AKA) along with Danny Teh (TeamC/Arrow/AKA) would all have good runs that would lock them in to a semi position.
Finals begun under sun for the lower mains but out on the fringes there were black clouds looming. The locals thought it would not be a problem and it would pass, mother nature had other ideas. The rain came and they dumped water everywhere. With a flooded track and the rain showing no signs of stopping the general feeling was the race would be called on qualifying. With IFMAR style finals being run there is not usually so much focus on qualifying, racers want to make sure they are locked in to a semi and from there the rest of the work begins. Today plenty of guys were focusing on the overall qualifying position to see where they had finished as it looked like that might be their result for the day. After a couple of hours and plenty of water dropping from the sky the event was called on qualifying.
Ben would take the TQ and win for the day along with overall Southern Super League Champion for 2012 after 3 wins from 4 races in a 5 race series. Didier finished second and third was a well-deserved podium for Andy Lee.