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Formula 4 SEA to carry legacy of Malaysian F1 GP

Race promoter Thompson hopes to find some more Asian drivers through FIA-certified championship

Gulf News

Dubai: The promoter of the Formula 4 South East Asia (SEA) Championship — certified by FIA — is hopeful of seeing the new series throwing up a few more Asian drivers into the Formula One scene in the future.

The F4 SEA Championship will commence with six support races at the 2017 F1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix, scheduled to be held in the Malaysian capital from September 29 to October 1.

This change to the previously-announced F4 SEA calendar has come following Formula 1’s revision to the timetable for the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix. Instead of opening in Singapore, F4 SEA will now stage its first event of the season with a six-race programme at Sepang at the end of this month.

The F4 SEA series is organised and run by promoters Asian Autosport Action which has, since 1996, under the banner of Meritus GP, helped nurture at least seven talented drivers, including former F1 drivers Rio Haryanto (Indonesia), Narain Karthikeyan (India) and Takuma Sato — who this year became the first-ever Japanese driver to win the Indy 500.

Many others, including Malaysians Jazeman Jaafar, Daniel Woodroof and Afiq Ikhwan Yazid, got their start with entry-level championships such as the AsiaCup, which has now been upgraded to the Formula 4 SEA Championship.

“These six F1 support race slots at the Malaysia Grand Prix are a huge boost to our continued efforts to profile and promote junior driver development in Asia through the FIA Formula 4 SEA platform,” Peter Thompson, F4 SEA Promoter, told Gulf News from Kuala Lumpur.

“While the F4 SEA offers young motorsport athletes a unique opportunity, we have far wider goals for Malaysia as the investment in F1 has generated massive interest from the younger generation eager to explore opportunities in motor racing. We have several young drivers now pursuing motorsport-related careers such as automotive and mechanical engineering, race car dynamics and analytics, sports journalism, event management and education,” Thompson noted.

“For the past 20 years, the team behind Formula 4 SEA has been training and developing Malaysians and building an Asian autosport ecosystem to create and employ a highly-skilled workforce and promote entrepreneurship,” he added.

The Formula 4 SEA Championship is seen by the motorsport community as the Grand Prix’s most exciting legacy, providing a professional, prestigious and comprehensive launch-pad for young talent.

Since the first-ever Malaysian F1 Grand Prix in 1999, motorsport in the country has undergone rapid development while igniting a myriad of motorsport-related industries, rejuvenating sectors of the economy and attracting major international investment.

From Malaysia, the FIA F4 driver development championship in South East Asia will proceed to the Philippines to the Clark International Speedway from October 20 to 22 before heading to the Sentul International Circuit in Indonesia from November 24 to 26 November.

In the new year, Thailand’s Buriram International Circuit will host the fourth race day from January 12 to 14 before making a return trip to Sepang for the season finale between February 8 to 10.