Just last month, we were given an exclusive opportunity to drive up the Genting hills with Jean Alesi in a loaner Exige S provided by Lotus Cars Malaysia. To put into perspective: Up close and personal with F1 legend, Jean Alesi and an Exige S for 4 days. It was Jean's last day in Malaysia before his return to Geneva. I thought that'd be the best time of my life, yet. I was wrong.
We received an invite from Proton on a Sunday morning stating:
"MEDIA GO KART CHALLENGE WITH AN F1 LEGEND - Show off your karting skills against Formula One legend, Jean Alesi"
- Date: Tuesday, 5 April 2011
- Time: 9.00 am
- Venue: Speedway Plus Circuit, KM8, USJ Rest & Service Area, ELITE Highway
- Attire: As appropriate –please wear suitable karting shoes. See you there!
This would mean friends from the websites, magazines and papers will all be there, including the almighty Jean Alesi. Instinctively, a reply was sent to the source with a "I AM IN!".
In an effort to appreciate the media's support and to celebrate the upcoming Malaysian F1 GP, Proton and Lotus decided to organize a Go Kart challenge in conjunction with Jean Alesi's stay in Malaysia for the week.
I haven't been Karting for some months now and didn't think i'd stand a chance against the elites but what the heck, it's just going to be a fun day for me and i'd be really happy just to Kart with the legend. Especially since it's going to be on a circuit.
The Elite Speedway Plus Circuit is a 1.07 KM circuit and has plenty of elevation changes and slight cambering with a lot of green and scenery to take in. Almost like a scaled down version of a road-based race circuit common in Europe. Unlike the baby-smooth go kart circuit in Sepang that requires plenty of precision, the Elite Speedway Plus is rather teeth-jarring yet challenging and allows for multiple entries and exits.
It is located within an R&R area along the Elite Highway, now sporting a new operator, Raycer Powerhouse who've recently shifted their operations from Sepang just last month.
So what's the Challenge really about?
Equipment: 4 Stroke Birel Fun Kart
- About 40 Media representatives in groups of 4
- Practice Runs for all groups
- Top 25 Qualifies to Semi Finals into groups of 3
- Top 3s from each 3 Group moves into Finals to race against Jean Alesi
Go Kart allocation is randomized. One may receive a lousier machine than the other
Even selected Proton Communication staffs were in for the fun (in grey + yellow collars)
Some starts off with a strong hand and a thumbs up
But returns with jellied hands from the jarring ride
Trying to Qualify for Top 25!!...
Without being distracted.
Traffic Mag Online boys and a Hypertune Boy
Harvinder Sidhu from Paultan.org raced with me in Top 25's Group B. We were leading the group and was neck to neck and he takes me in turn 8 (or something) at the last 4 laps. It was intense right up till finish!. So, Harvinder - 1, Tom - 2.
Jean Alesi makes a surprise arrival halfway through
"mmhmm, yes, yes, Silvester Stallone used to be my stuntman in some of my previous GP crashes.."
Jean checks out his new Nolan helmet, which will eventually be given to the Champ of the day
Some of the 9 Finalists to race against the Legend!! (not including the Emcee)
It's Jean's virgin run on the Speedway Plus. He gets 2 practice laps - A Snap of the fingers for him.
Makes brief checks to his tiny F1 replica - Car No.1 at Pole Position on the Grid!
Does look like he's coping well with the tired Go Kart that has seen much better days.
Jean negotiates the hairpin - Turns in late..
Clips the Apex..
Meanwhile.. Race Starts. Gino Rosato and Anita watches from the side
Checkered Flag! Race ends, Jean follows up with an interview from TV3
Race summary, started at 5th position on the grid, lost 2 places at the start of the race and slowly made way through the pack and had a few close shave with a couple of drivers spinning out ahead, managed to catch up with the race leaders, and just barely managed to pass Botak from trafficmagonline.com from the inside, braking really late, and then finally close in on Jean. Head to head with no opportunities to pass Jean at the straights and in the corners. Jean Alesi - 1 , Tom Goh - 2
Race De-briefing for Jean
As the stewards process the data Jean poses for the camera
A shot fit for GQ
Boys from Wemotor.com
Lunch Buffet continues
Time for a speech from Proton
VIPs Chill out on the couch
Oh Kah Beng was there to join the excitement
Appreciation plaques to the participants
Dennis a.k.a Koolspyda the guy with the kool wide-body MR-S
Ian Khong, also bound to be a Malaysian motoring legend - He receives "The Most Daring Driver" title.
2nd Runner Up
1st Runner Up
Second place. Words can't describe the pleasure of being able to race with one of the gods of F1, let alone go head to head with one for laps so satisfying, even just for that 3 laps being just inches and feets behind yet at times, trying to taunt the almighty one.
In a Fun-Kart. Such a fragile machine that for any bad move you make, slows you down like shit. So you're forced to turn really widely just so the front tyres not grip too hard, making it easier for the small little engine to breath(at least for me). So I now believe, when in a race with great drivers, even the Fun-Kart can be, if not more competitive than the 100cc 2-stroke Karts. Of course, especially the rental fun-karts, can differ in performance. I feel for those who were surviving on that bad random kart. It can be very frustrating. Trust me, i know from a previous experience.
The Helmet in an acrylic show case. What a prize!
Jean Alesi answers questions from the floor
Here's a picture of the prized Jean Alesi autographed Helmet