After a three-year absence due to the pandemic, Asia Racing Team returned to the international stage to participate in the revitalised Formula 4 South East Asia (F4 SEA). This marked the team’s first international campaign following the merger with BlackJack Racing.
The trio from Asia Racing Team, composed of Tiago Rodrigues, Kevin Xiao, and Zhang Yu, delivered an outstanding performance in the opening round at China’s 3.774km Zhuzhou International Circuit. Working with the new-to-Asia F4 Gen 2 car for the first time, the team exceeded expectations. Sixteen-year-old Tiago Rodrigues clinched podium finishes in all three races, securing two second places and a third place over the weekend.
In Zhuzhou, the team celebrated its maiden win in the championship when touring car regular Kevin Xiao achieved an impressive victory in the second race of the season. While still in the learning process, Zhang Yu executed a calculated strategy over the weekend, and his approach worked flawlessly as the former Chinese national team rower claimed the Rookie Cup trophy in the first race.
The next event on the calendar was the visit to the challenging Circuito da Guia in Macau. The F4 SEA non-championship race took place in the first week of the prestigious 70th Macau Grand Prix.
After familiarizing themselves with the infamous Guia Circuit on Saturday, Tiago Rodrigues, Enzo Yeh, Kevin Xiao, and Marcus Cheong faced a tricky wet track in the qualifying race. After a few laps behind the safety car, the green flags were waved for the start of the fourth lap. The four Asia Racing cars held their nerve and finished the race in 8th, 10th, 14th, and 15th place.
In the afternoon, for the main race, the track conditions improved significantly. It was not an easy race for the 22-car grid, but Macau Grand Prix rookies Tiago Rodrigues and Enzo Yeh managed to keep themselves out of trouble, crossing the finish line in 6th and 8th place respectively. Back in the field, Kevin Xiao and Marcus Cheong were delayed due to an opponent accident in Lisboa corner. Local racer Marcus Cheong managed to bounce back to finish 12th. Kevin Xiao’s race finished prematurely with three laps to go due to a small contact in the Moorish Hill barriers.
The F4 SEA traveled to Malaysia for the last two events of the season at the former F1 circuit of Sepang. After a successful presence at the series’ opening round in Zhuzhou and the extra-championship Macau Grand Prix Formula 4 Race, Asia Racing Team entered three cars for the first of the two Malaysian rounds. Seventeen-year-old Joaquin ‘Wakkeen’ Garrido joined the season regulars Kevin Xiao and Enzo Yeh.
The first race on Saturday saw Enzo Yeh involved in a three-car battle, displaying great maturity to finish in fourth place. Kevin Xiao took a cautious approach but managed to climb a few places to finish 13th, while Joaquin Garrido completed his first-ever formula cars race in 17th place. With the top 10 reversed on the grid for the second race, Enzo Yeh impressed once again. After a good start, he followed the leaders to move up to second place, achieving his best result of the season.
In his best race of the weekend on a new track for him, China’s Kevin Xiao capitalized on other drivers’ mistakes to finish eighth. Single-seater debutant Joaquin Garrido had an eventful race; after stalling at the start, he retired due to damage to his car. The weekend came to a close with Enzo Yeh emerging from an early battle to take seventh. Behind him, Filipino Joaquin Garrido completed the top 10, three places ahead of teammate Kevin Xiao.
The week after, the teams reunited in Sepang for another triple-header. With Joaquin Garrido with commitments elsewhere, Enzo Yeh and Kevin Xiao lined up alongside series returnee Zhang Yu and debutant Allen Lu Ye. In the opening race of the weekend, Enzo Yeh scored a sixth-place finish, two places in front of Kevin Xiao. Zhang Yu and Allen Lu were P12 and 16, respectively, at the flag.
Sunday proved to be challenging for the team, as three out of the four team cars were entangled in race incidents during the second race. Allen Lu emerged as the best-performing driver, securing the 12th position. Unfortunately, the difficulties persisted in the third race of the weekend, marking the season’s final showdown. Both Zhang Yu and Allen Lu retired from the race even before completing the first lap. Enzo Yeh finished in 9th place, while Kevin Xiao secured the 12th position.
The Driver Classification finished with Kevin Xiao in 4th and second in the Rookie Cup, Tiago Rodrigues in 5th, and Enzo Yeh in 7th.
Asia Racing Team finished second in the Teams’ Championship standings with the same points as the winners but with one less overall win.
Commenting about the season, Team Principal Jack Pang said: “We had a solid run in the revived F4 SEA championship organized by Topspeed this year. It’s truly unfortunate that we couldn’t secure the Team Championship win, falling short by equal points and one less win. Nevertheless, both the team and all the competitors showcased improvement and potential over the four race weekends. I’m looking forward to the challenges 2024 will bring to us.”