Afiq Ikhwan scores a double victory, bridges gap

JAKARTA: Malaysia’s 19-year-old Afiq Ikhwan (Meritus GP) completed a marvellous double by winning the two races in the third round of the JK Racing Asia Series at the Sentul International Circuit in Bogor near here on Saturday, rising to the second place in the championship behind Austrian teenager Lucas Auer (EuroInternational).

A visibly delighted Afiq Ikhwan picked up 42 points from his twin victories from pole to leave behind memories of two poor races in the second round of the series in Sepang in May. He now has 102 points and is a clear second in the standings behind Lucas Auer who has had podium finishes in all eight races so far in his rookie season to tally 146 points.

Afiq Ikhwan won the two races in contrasting styles, facing a challenge from Auer in the morning when the lead changed hands early on before the Austrian spun off the track and left himself with work to do but holding a comfortable advantage throughout the faster race in the afternoon.

“We have a good car, good setup and it was amazing. I would like to thank my team for all the hard work for these races. I am happy that the team has worked hard on the car, making the small changes necessary to gain pace from the last time in Sepang,” Afiq Ikhwan said. “I am hoping to continue the good work in the two races tomorrow.”

Lucas Auer said he was delighted to be consistently taking the points but made it clear that he would return to the track on Sunday to win both races. “While I am happy to take the points, I set out each time to win. I have noticed a few things in Afiq’s driving and will push him in the two races tomorrow,” he said.

In the opening race, Afiq started from the pole and fought hard to keep his place in the front but the championship Lucas Auer slipped past him on the last turn of the second lap but reclaimed his lead a lap later before the safety car had to be brought out on track as Irfan Ilyas (Petronas Mofoz Racing) spun off the track on the fourth lap. That mishap meant Ilyas would have no points today and slipped from second place in the standings to fourth.

With Auer and Nabil Jeffri engaging in a battle for the second place, Ikhwan did well to settle down to a consistent pace to win the race. “I think I did my best lap after the safety car pulled away and my Team Manager radioed me and told me to relax and just keep my time consistent to finish the race. It is my first win, I am so happy,” he said.

After Auer went into the gravel and gave Afiq Ikhwan the space and the opporunity to consolidate his position, the Austrian teenager had to overcome had to overcome anger and stay calm to work his way up the order from sixth place to finish a creditable second. “I lost my race when Afiq passed me but presence of the the safety car let me close the gap on the cars in front and I was able to pass a few cars but Afiq was too far ahead,” he said.