Shepherding FIA F4SEA Victory at Sepang

Shepherding FIA F4SEA Victory at Sepang

13.04.2018: The 2017-18 Formula 4 South East Asia Championship’s finale event here at the Sepang International Circuit is nothing short of spectacular. Drivers from all over the region and beyond gathered together to sing

The 2017-18 Formula 4 South East Asia Championship’s finale event here at the Sepang International Circuit is nothing short of spectacular. Drivers from all over the region and beyond gathered together to sing the song of speed and victory.
 



Free Practice


Official Free Practice signalled the start of fifth event here at the Sepang international circuit.



The grid of excited young drivers made their way out the pits onto the track at 9am. Joining Malaysians Nazim Azman, Isyraf Danish, Muizz Musyaffa, Timothy Yeo and the brothers Johany were  2016 F4 SEA champion Presley Martono and Alessandro Ghiretti of Morocco.



Making their way back for the Championship finale is rookie ace Kane Shepherd, Okinawa-native Hibiki Taira, Luke Thompson and two-time event champion Daniel Cao.



Nazim Azman took the fastest time of the session followed by Cao and Martono. Meanwhile Armand Johany spun as he negotiated his exit from turn 12, however he managed to keep moving and rejoined the field.



On the other side of the circuit, Isyraf Danish attacked turn 1 in a cloud of tyre smoke as he charged down the Grandstand Straight.



 “Martono is so fast. He trailed me throughout most of session. He’s one to look out for this weekend!” said Azman.



The racing is so close in fact, that the top five drivers are separated by a mere two-tenths of a second.



“The track is really good. I’m just taking it easy out there and getting the hang of the F4 car once again” said MRF vice-champion Martono.
 



Qualifying




The early morning free practice kicked the drivers into top gear and was followed by the much-awaited qualifying session. The fastest times determine pole position for the upcoming first race while the second fastest lap recorded in this session will set the grid for the fourth race, slated for Sunday.



The first couple of laps saw the drivers take it easy as they probed the track for the fastest line around it, each hopeful of setting a blistering lap time.



Presley Martono initially led the field and proceeded to systematically crack down on his lap times. Daniel Cao, Muizz Musyaffa, Nazim Azman and Kane Shepherd followed a similar train of thought.



By the fourth and fifth laps it was Cao on pole with Shepherd in tow. Meanwhile Presley was busy defending his position from a fast-encroaching Muizz.



Rookie Armand Johany however, was pushing his machine to the limits in the pursuit of time. He overshot Turn 5 and 6 on two occasions.



Unsurprisingly, it was none other than Hibiki Taira who fought his way from the mid-field to steal pole position away from his peers with a time of 2:13.185. Similarly, Muizz managed to set a scorching time that landed him in fourth.



Daniel Cao and Kane Shepherd clocked in second and third with times of 2:13.430 and 2:13.468 respectively. The top 8 drivers finished off the session with a margin of just seven-tenths.



Unfortunately, a steward’s inquiry discovered loose ballast in the pole-sitter’s car, and relegated Taira to fourth as a result. Cao was gifted pole position with Kane in second and Malaysia’s Muizz Musyaffa in third.



If the action from qualifying is any indicator, the fifth and final event is slated to be a heart-stopper!
 



Race 1




The first race of the final event of the Formula 4 SEA Champion was action-packed, to say the least. On the formation lap, Malaysian Timothy Yeo was forced to retire.



The cars lined up again following the additional formation lap, and as the five red lights went out, the grid launched off the line with Kane Shepherd taking the lead going into Turn 1. Daniel Cao followed close behind.



However the weather took a turn for the worst and started to dampen the 5.543km super circuit. With safety the utmost priority, the safety car was deployed immediately to ensure risk-free racing conditions.



The third lap saw the race resume at full swing. Hibiki Taira kept the pressure on Cao as he defended 3rd position. French-national Alessandro Ghiretti in fourth place kept the pace on the Okinawan.



By the fourth lap Shepherd and Cao were locked in a battle for first. The duo edged a growing lead over Taira, Ghiretti, Danish and Musyaffa in the mid field.



As the weather improved, so did their lap times. Muizz successfully overtook Isyraf as the pair tried to bridge the gap created by Taira and Ghiretti.



Meanwhile, the duo up front managed to carve a 4.8 second lead over the mid field by the seventh lap.



The battling foursome were joined by Nazim Azman and by the final lap, Ghiretti had clawed his way up to third, as he ousted Taira from his podium position.



Kane Shepherd defended his position valiantly and was rewarded the chequered flag with Cao and Ghiretti in tow. Shepherd clocked a best time of 2:13.419 with Cao just three-tenths behind.



“Race 1 was pretty good as I had a great start off the line. I did however take it easy for the first few laps as I got to grips with the changing weather conditions, but after that I just pushed hard to defend my position from a fast-encroaching Cao” explained a victorious Shepherd.





The never ending action continues in earnest as the contingent of speed returns to the haloed black top on Saturday for races 2 and 3.  Be sure to catch all the ensuing action by following Formula 4 South East Asia live on Facebook. Keep up to date with the championship on its various social media platforms.
 





- Aaron Thompson - also photos

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/sheperd-fia-f4sea-victory-sepang---174955.html

13.04.2018 / MaP

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