Recently crowned Automobile Association of the Philippines Driver of the Year for Circuit Racing, Iñigo Anton, lived up to his billing when he and his teammate, Malaysian racer Ariff Azmi, landed two podiums during the Toyota Gazoo Racing Vios Sprint Cup which maked them the current championship leaders.
Round one had two thrilling races which were held on May 6 and 7 at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.
The young Filipino drove for former Formula 1 driver Alex Yoong under team Axle Sports during the one-hour two-driver race.
Anton has qualified as the third fastest in a grid of 21 Vios Cup race cars with only 0.2 of a second separating the top three racers.
“It feels great to be as quick as the top racers during qualifying and I did not expect to rank this high because I only had about 10 laps to practice and learn how to race in a right hand drive car,” Anton said after qualifying.
Race one on May 6 saw Anton falling back to seventh after a slow start. He successfully clawed his way back up the field up to the third .position. After 40 minutes, there was a driver switch and Azmi brought the car to the finish line in second place.
Race two saw an even more action-packed race with the top six finishers of race one starting on a reverse grid format. Having finished second in race one, Azmi started fifth on the gird and gained one position before handing the car to Anton.
There was a tight battle for second place with three cars bumper-to-bumper and exchanging positions in the last 10 minutes of the race.
On the last lap, everyone witnessed the young Filipino racing phenom charge with all his might to dice it out with Malaysian drivers Mika Hakimi and Adam Putera who were side by side in the final stages of the race.
On the final turn, Anton positioned his car perfectly and pulled off the move of the race by passing both Hakimi and Putera on the last stretch to the finish line, taking second place and winning by a margin of only 0.02 of a second.
“It was a super race for me and it is definitely one of the closest finishes I have ever had. It was a great experience and to take two podiums here in Malaysia and to be leading in the championship is a dream come true. Alex Yoong was coaching me through the radio the whole race and I was learning a lot. He pushed me to do my best and it was just really great to be racing under his team. I would also like to thank my sponsors back home, especially Sir Charlie Ong of Motul Philippines, for making it possible for me to join in international races,” Anton said after the race.
Anton is sponsored by Motul-Infiniteserv Intn’l, Yokohama-Advan, Mark Young Racing, Cars Unlimited, JSD Autosport, MP Turbo, Mohspeed, MRD Performance, Alpinestars, Special Stage, and Parts pro. – Harley F. Palangchao