The FIM Asia Cup of Road Racing (ACRR) held its first round of three for 2017 over the weekend. It is ten years since the series began following its conception by Akira Goto of the MFJ and Thongchai Wongsawan of the FMSCT and it continued as it began, at Thailand Circuit, again joining the programme for R2M Superbike 2017.
The Asia Cup puts young racers into a different competitive environment by taking them to what is usually an unfamiliar track in an unfamiliar country on bikes they have never ridden before and getting them to compete in two-person teams with riders they normally battle with in their national championships. As well as enabling them to test themselves against leading riders in other Asian countries it addresses crucial, often overlooked factors for international racers who need to deal with new languages, food and weather when they leave the comfort of their homes. This aspect has ruined many promising careers, so ACRR gives an early opportunity for them to have fun while dealing with a new racing challenge.
Riders and their support teams travel together, eat together and form friendships over the days of competition. They also often go sightseeing after the event to maximise what they can gain from having been selected for the trip.
For Round 1 Yamaha Thailand supplied a fleet of underbone style 150cc Exciter motorcycles and Thai manufacturer, Vee Rubber, provided tyres for the 16 competitors, along with full support from Yamaha’s top race technicians. Of the competing riders, only those from Thailand and Philippines had ridden this type of motorcycle before, so an extra challenge was thrown in for those representing India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Taiwan and Japan. In keeping with the spirit of the competition, host country Thailand entered two teams, each with one established rider and one who was less experienced.
From the first free practice session on Friday, Japan’s 15 year-old Miu Nakahara demonstrated the competitive level of the JP250 series she normally competes in by immediately lapping faster than the rest of the field, including the Thai representatives, who were next up. Miu was lapping in the 1:44s, the top Thais in the 1:45s, while the others were in two groups in up to and over 1:50. Miu maintained her advantage through to Qualifying to take pole position with a time of 1:43.365, which was eight tenths clear of Thailand B’s Arkarapon Tummanon, who was followed by Durraine Dan Carlos of Philippines, Abeysinghe Mudelanselage of Sri Lanka, Garry Caneda Jr of Philippines and Suradech Nuntawat of Thailand A. There had been several minor crashes, but nothing more than a few scrapes and bruises and every rider had progressively improved their lap times.
There were plenty of surprises In the first of Sunday’s two races, when pacesetter, Miu, crashed on lap one, leaving Arkarapon in the lead. He, however, found himself under pressure for the entire race, first from the seasoned Philippines duo, then from Sri Lanka’s Abeysinghe, who looked likely to overhaul the leader with an exciting charge that ended with a last lap crash. Thailand B’s Arkarapon took the win from the two Philippine riders, leaving them in a strong position for the second race. Suradech of Thailand A was fourth ahead of Szu Han Liu, who put in a strong performance to take 5th place. Sri Lanka’s Vinula Dananjith Pathirage was sixth, followed closely by India’s Ryhana Bee, Japan’s Marika Fujiwara and Ashik Lama and Osama Khan from Nepal, who completed the top ten.
Miu Nakahara showed how a champion bounces back from disappointment by dominating Race 2 to take the chequered flag by 15 seconds from Durraine, Suradech and Liu, who impressed again for Taiwan to take fourth, with Vinula again solid in fifth. Arkarapon and Garry crashed out of contention in separate incidents. Ashik and Osama ran in tandem again, after fighting off a strong challenge from India’s Kalyani Potekar, who finished eighth after crashing in Race 1. She was chased to the line by Marika and Thailand A’s Pariyakorn Pimpa. When the points totals were calculated, Philippines were first overall from Thailand A and Japan.
With most riders experiencing some attrition as well as personal achievements, everybody felt they had grown from the experience.
Ryhana Bee, who performed strongly to take seventh in Race 1 and dropped back to 11th in Race 2 after running onto the grass, summarised the experience. “This was an amazing experience to fight with riders from all over Asia and has inspired me to do my best in the future. I am very thankful to the Federation of Motorsports Clubs of India and the Madras Motorsports Club for this opportunity, to the rest of Team India and to everyone in the Federation of Motorsports Clubs of Thailand and Yamaha Thailand Racing Team for their wonderful support and hospitality. I loved my time in Thailand and will remember it always!”
The next round of ACRR will be in Taiwan over the coming weekend, 14th and 15th October.