The World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) will light up Sepang International Circuit this weekend and if you’re wondering who to be vocal for, local outfit Viper Niza Racing Team has been making waves internationally and are well deserving of your support.
Fresh off a class victory in the TCR SPA500 24-Hour endurance race in Belgium, the spotlight is shining bright on the team to deliver at its home race this weekend as it spearheads the Malaysian charge on a wildcard. The inaugural WTCR World Touring Car Race of Malaysia begins today (13 December) and will see the flag drop for the final time on Sunday (15 December).
It’s a completely Malaysian outfit, including race engineers and mechanics. Even the drivers are Malaysian, with five-year touring car veteran Douglas Khoo piloting the Seat Leon Cupra TCR for local pride this round.
“Being in the company of the world’s best touring car drivers and teams, and racing on home ground at Sepang, is certainly an explosive way to make our debut in the WTCR World Touring Car series. It’s both very exciting and an honour,” said Khoo, who also wears the team owner hat.
“We’ve not underlined any specific expectations but the recent class win in Belgium has certainly placed a little bit of an international spotlight on us as far as the other teams in the paddock are concerned. Endurance racing however, is a world of difference from the WTCR’s fast-paced nine to 12 laps of racing over the three-race weekend in Sepang and we’re preparing for nothing short of door-to-door action all the way to the finish,” he added.
“With all three races taking place within hours of one another on Sunday (3pm, 6pm and 8pm), we’ll certainly keep our emotions in check and focus on bringing the car across the finish one race at a time, hopefully fighting as high up as for a top 10-position,” Khoo anticipated.
WTCR carries some of the standard touring car practices such as ballast for the winners and a balance-of-performance (BOP) for the field. There’ll be two qualifying rounds and a reverse grid for the following races.
Khoo’s racing repertoire is an extensive one. It includes stints in the TCR Asia Series, TCR International Series, TCR Thailand Series, Asian Le Mans Series, Michelin Le Mans Cup, Blancpain GT Series and the Sepang 12-Hour Endurance Race. He played bridesmaid for three of the last four years in TCR Asia and took to the grid at the legendary Le Mans this year.
WTCR brings some of the best touring car drivers to the grid and includes the likes of Yvan Muller, Gabriele Tarquini, Tom Coronel, Robb Huff, Augusto Farfus, Esteban Guerrieri, Andy Priaulx and Tiago Monteiro in a myriad of machinery from the stables of Hyundai, Lynk & Co, Audi, Volkswagen, Honda, Alfa Romeo and of course Seat.
The Viper Niza name is a combination of Khoo’s classic car racing days under the Viper Racing banner for his Chinese zodiac sign (snake) and current team manager Niko Ode Prayitno’s Niza Racing outfit.
“With a three-sprint race format, you can be assured of a very close and competitive race from start to finish. We have home advantage by virtue of having put in the most number of laps at Sepang and we intend to make the most of this opportunity, bearing in mind of course that we are driving against an experienced and accomplished grid of drivers and teams who are known to adapt very quickly to new circuits,” detailed Niko.
As for the team’s choice of the Seat Leon Cupra TCR racer, it all came down to the manufacturer support and comprehensive trackside assistance provided by Seat for all races.
The car itself is based on the Leon Cupra five-door, running a 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-four with a wet sump driving the front wheels. Power is rated at 340hp and 420Nm of torque that is managed by a six-speed sequential with a multi-plate differential and sintered multi-disc oil-cooled clutch.
Brakes are massive six-piston calipers in front and a dual setup in the rear. Bilstein keeps it planted in the corners and interestingly, runs an electric power-assisted steering rack. All in, it weighs 1,165kg but there’s no specific figure on the weight of expectations everyone’s placed on the team for this weekend’s race.