The 1st race in 2017, the Rotax Invitational Race, was held at the Speedway PLUS Karting circuit in Malaysia on Jan 14th and 15th. The race was supposed to be held in Sepang International karting circuit but due to homologation dateline, the race was shifted to Speedway PLUS Karting circuit instead to avoid any unnecessary risk. Attendance has dropped as some drivers were unable to get license from their respective ASN to race. Weather was good and hot although there were dark clouds threatening on the horizon but it never did rain to spoil the race event.
In the DD2 category, Senna Noor (Indonesia), winner of the AMC 2016 DD2 category, had to settle for 2nd place. His biggest challenger came from his own team mate, Jogre Carlos Pescador. This is Jogre 2nd race in Malaysia as he had raced before in the Rotax Invitational 2016 which he also won ahead of Senna. While Senna did clocked the fastest in the final, he was not able to make an attempts to overtake Jogre. Eshan Pieris (Sri Lanka) won 3rd place ahead of Manav Sharma (India). At the start of the final, Manav was 3rd with Melvin Moh (Malaysia) 4th and Eshan 5th. At lap 6, Melvin had an incident with Sharma and was unable to continue on. This open up the path for Eshan to overtake both and held on to the 3rd place. Long Mohammad Ariff (Malaysia) won 5th place after starting at 8th place under new team. Newcomer Silvano Christian (Indonesia) finally made the switch to DD2 after being in the senior class for quite some time and managed to bag 6th place on his first outing in the DD2.
Scott Howard (Australia) won the DD2 master category. Scott had raced in Sepang before and this was his 2nd time racing in Malaysia. Back then he struggled and managed to win 3rd in the Masters category. This time, he had a much better race although at the beginning he was struggling abit to get the setting right for the kart. And in the DD2 Veteran category, Lee Lung Nien (Singapore) bagged 1st and gave some of the other DD2 masters driver a run for their money as he showed he is much faster.
In the junior category, Romain Leroux (Singapore) driving a Praga kart bagged 1st place ahead of Amer Harris (Malaysia). While Romain showed he is the fastest in the time trial, Amer was much faster in the heats, beating Romain and took the pole position in the prefinal. At the start, Romain was determined to fight on and both Romain and Amer exchanged position until Amer open up abit and was overtaken by 3 karts. Amer fought with the other karts and this gave Romain opportunity to further build a gap. Romain started well on the final and Amer immediately bounced back from the set back in the prefinal to take 2nd. Both 1st and 2nd just kept pulling away from the group but Amer wasn’t able to try out any moves on Romain and settled for 2nd. Nik Zamir (Malaysia) started 2nd but dropped to 5th at the start of the final, went all out to move up to 3rd place. Ananthorn Tangnianatghai (Thailand) bagged 4th place and Akheela Chandra (Indonesia) bagged 5th place.
With Silvano going to DD2 and Ricky Donison not racing, a new champ emerged in the Senior class. Barrichello Noor, won the Senior class by a good margin as he was able to build a gap and run away from the pack. His main challenger came from the 2 Taiwanese drivers, Benson Lin and Ting Shiu Hau who were in juniors last year, also didn’t have the speed to match Barrichello. James Veerapen (Malaysia) didn’t have a good weekend as he was struggling all race with his kart but he got lucky in the prefinal as he managed to take 2nd place due to an incident between Benson and Ting Shiu Hau. However in the final, he could only finished 3rd place as Ting was much more faster. In the end 3 Taiwan drivers managed to bagged podium finish, Ting Shiu Hau 2nd place, Benson Lin 4th place and Chen Yang Tsai 5th place.
In the Micromax category, Aditya Wibowo (Indonesia) took the win ahead of Nathan Hibbit (China). It was a real close race as both drivers were constantly changing position at the last 5 laps. However Aditya managed to hold on at the last lap and sealed the win. Mstr Krit Boonyang had a terrible prefinal as he was DQ for ignoring a mechanical flag. However this did not disheartened the young driver as he quickly rose up the pack from 14th place all the way to 3rd. Sergio Noor (Indonesia) had a tough time dealing with the Thai drivers as they were constantly at his back and he couldn’t shake them off to give chase to the 1st and 2nd kart. He was overtaken by Krit Boonyang and then Sitarvee Limnantharak (Thailand) who finished 4th and Jirapat Jirapraneet (Thailand) 5th place. Sitarvee was harassing Sergio throughout the race as she is always behind him but was unable to make an clean move to overtake. Jirapat was unfortunately DQ for technical infringement after the final and Sergio automatically gained a position up from 6th to 5th to secure a podium finish.
The next race which is the Asia Max Challenge Round 1 will be on 4th and 5th March at the Sepang International Karting Circuit. After the Invitational race, the organisers and SIC have agreed to hold the AMC Round 1 in Sepang. It will be another unfamiliar ground for the foreign drivers especially the Thai drivers as they have expressed their interest to continue in the AMC series after a successful outing.