The Malaysian Rotax Invitational Race 2015 took place at the Sepang International Karting Circuit on the 24th-25th of January. The 2015 edition of the Invitational event marked the 6th running of the event. The event’s first edition was held in November but later events moved to a January date and it has since grown to a prestigious one-off event and serves as a great start to the kart racing season in the South-East Asian region.
Unofficial practice on Thursday was hampered by wet conditions, but from then onwards the track was dry and provided for great racing action.
In the MicroMax category Indonesian driver Akmal Ashibli put in a blistering time trial performance with a time over 4 tenths clear of 2nd place driver Afiq Haikal. Malaysia) After 2nd and 3rd in the heats Ashibli got back to full throttle in the winning the pre-final by over 5 seconds ahead of Afiq and the final over 7 seconds ahead of Afiq helped by a great start as his main threat Afiq dropped to 4th at the start, but recovered to take 2nd place ahead of Shahan Ali Mohsin from India. Shahan took his 3rd place after a miserable time trial session where he only managed 19th, but found the pace he had been missing by the pre-final. Alex Brown finished the final in 4th – having made his way up from 8th in the pre-final and a few poor heats with a DNF and 12th place.
The Junior race produced the most intense battle of the meeting with 2014 Rotax Invitational winner Presley Martono doing his best to defend his title. In the pre-final the Indonesian driver made a strategic move after a long battle for the win with Malaysian driver Adam Haikal. On the final lap with the leader out of reach he slowed down to allow Thai driver Kane Shepherd past him for an inside starting position rather than the outside spot for 2nd place. This worked to his advantage as he was able to grab the lead in the final, and once again a battle between the top-2 continued. Martono knew that he didn’t have the upper hand on pace and resorted to what some called questionable or down right dirty tactics – while others felt his moves were intelligent while being on the borderline of fair. Having realised Adam’s pace was not within his reach he resorted to slowing down Adam on the straights so much so that other drivers including Martono’s teammate Prassetyo Hardja were able to get past Adam. At times this dropped Martono out of the lead but Adam even further back. His final attempt was successful as Adam was forced to battle it out with Kane Shepherd and Prassetyo Hardja while Martono got far enough away to win the race. Martono explained his tactics after the race “Adam was 4 tenths faster than me so that was the only way I could think of that I could win the race.” Adam managed to get back to 2nd place, and to Martono’s dismay the post-race technical inspection found his carburetor float-height was outside the permitted range and he was disqualified.
The Senior field welcomed several Junior Max graduates. David Sitanala, Khalid Adam, and Ricky Donison all showing that adapting to the Senior equipment wasn’t much of a challenge for them. Indonesian driver Sitanala started the race in 2nd beside compatriot Julio Prost and took a great start getting to first as Prost dropped to 3rd. Some pushing near the front of the field meant that Gabriel Cabrera went from a promising start to the weekend (2nd in time trial) to a horrible end as he was caught in a 3-kart pileup involving himself, Zahir Ali, and Teruhisa Tanaka. Gabriel’s kart had too much damage to continue. At the front it was Sitanala from Prost from Silvano Christian. Sitanala held on with a small but comfortable enough gap ahead of Prost for the entire race, eventually winning the race by just under half a second. Silvano Christian held on to his 3rd place to improve from his 6th place the year before. He crossed the line 4 tenths clear of Ricky Donison.
In DD2 Malaysian driver Melvin Moh almost produced yet another clean-sheet. He took pole in time trial ahead DD2 debutant Lee Wai Cong and Senna Noor as well as first in both heats, but had to settle for 2nd behind Senna in the pre-final. Masters driver Ang Kok Wee took the masters win and was 3rd overall, crossing the line ahead of teammate Lee Wai Cong. James Veerapen drove an impressive race starting the final in 3rd and finishing in 5th. Unlike the competitors around him Veerapen was on a tighter budget using only one set of new slick tyres for the races, with most others opting for a brand new set for the final. The Veteran victory went to Kong Chun Keat ahead of Kenneth Boehler Paalsrud.
The RMC Asia series kicks off at Sepang on the 14th-15th of March with even more drivers expected to sign up for the races. Final results are below after the pictures. For full results go to mylaps here.