Japanese karting champion Hibiki Taira won podiums in his first formula car race when he contested the fourth event of the 2017-18 Formula 4 South East Asia Championship – certified by FIA. The six-race F4 SEA event – fueled by Petron – was held in conjunction with the Asian Le Mans ‘4 Hour of Sepang,’ last weekend.
Malaysian rising talent Mitchell Cheah grabbed the FIA F4 SEA Event Champion title away from Daniel Cao (15, China) and Kane Shepherd (16, Thailand), Ugo de Wilde (15, Belgium). Hibiki (17) was just five points short of the mark and finished fifth overall in the FIA F4 event championship.
Impressing his peers with his racecraft, the Okinawa-native battled hard with the frontrunners of the competition for a chance at a spot in the winner’s circle. Hibiki, who had been immediately on the pace in testing, exhibits the amazing trait of only the best: consistency.
In Tests 1 to 3, he was hovering just tenths away from his best times: 2:16.559 in the first session and 2:16.462 in the second.
Such was his thirst for speed and victory that the test culminated in his personal best of 2:16.158. This effort shot him to second place on the score board, and his first runner-up position of the weekend.
Qualifying saw the rookie Japanese F4 driver clock an impressive time of just 2:13.615, representing a colossal, two-and-a-half second improvement over his best time in Test 3.
The first race cemented Hibiki the mid-field while the second gave him his first taste of life on the podium, having battled lap after lap with Eshan Pieris who pipped him to the finish line.
F4 SEA Promoter Peter Thompson remarked: “the live streaming of the battle between Hibiki and Eshan featured some of the best junior driver racing I’ve witnessed in the last ten years. Both drivers were extremely impressive and showed enormous talent and ability and are truly Asia’s stars of the future.”
The duel continued with Eshan in Race 3, unfortunately resulting in both drivers spinning out of the race at Turn 9.
In the fourth race Hibiki set his fastest time of the weekend, but it was the last two races which saw him on the runner-up step, inches away from victory.
Ending his weekend of spectacular racing action in fifth place with 28 points, the Japanese star was just 5 points away from the overall event champion, Mitchell Cheah. Hibiki’s fighting spirit and determination for victory is truly commendable and his professionalism sets the bar for the rest of the championship contenders.
Formula 4 SEA will return for the final round of the championship soon. Follow our social media pages to keep abreast with future happenings and to relive all of the action from the weekend.