Anuparb Sarmoon led the way for 10 Thai riders on the second day of Round 3 of the Asia Road Racing Championship at the legendary Suzuka Circuit in Japan. It was a day when every one of them had to dig deep to deliver what their supporters and sponsors expect and not one of them fell short.
AS THE ONLY THAI RIDER IN THE UNDERBONE 150CC class, Peerapong Luiboonpeng was the first into action on the Team All for One Yamaha. He overcame a problem in Superpole qualifying that left him starting from the fifth row of the grid and fought his way up to the leading group of riders during the race to cross the finishing line less than 1.2 seconds behind winner and championship leader, Helmi Azman. He will be looking for another good result in Race 2 on Sunday.
THE MOST BRUISING BATTLES were joined by Thailand’s five riders in the ultra-competitive Asia Production 250cc category. With Indonesia’s Rheza Danica Ahrens setting a pace that nobody else could get close to, AP Honda’s Muklada Sarapuech came close to grabbing second place in qualifying, being narrowly edged out by Indonesian Kawasaki rider, Andy Fadly. Yamaha Thailand’s Anuparb led the third row of the grid, despite being at a clear power disadvantage to the Hondas, followed by Mukalda’s rookie team mate, Kritchaporn Kaewsonthi, who qualified 9th, then Yamaha Thailand’s Peerapong Boonlert and Kanatat Jaiman in 13th and 15th.
For the eight lap race around the 5.8km course, Rheza converted his pole position into a comfortable lead during the first few corners, chased by Fadly, who made a good start, then Muklada, who showed the Kawasaki rider some lines and hard braking manoeuvres that he had no answer for. On lap 3 she broke clear, as Kritchaporn and Rheza’s two team mates battled with Anuparb just behind. Peerapong and Kanatat were in the second main group behind. One lap later, Muklada made a mistake, braking too deep and allowing the chasing group to get back on her tail. This time she was not able to break away and, as the last lap started it looked like she and Astra’s Mario Suryo would be deciding second and third. However, on the 900m straight on Suzuka’s famous overpass, Fadly, Anuparb and Awhin closed up. Fadly made a mess of braking for the left turn at the end of the straight and pushed Muklada wide and out of podium contention. Two corners later, for the final turn, he went in too hot, braked too hard and too long and went down. As the other leaders tried to avoid the chaos, Anuparb threaded his way through to take second place ahead of Mario, Awhin and Muklada, who recovered from her clash with Fadly to cross the line in fifth. Behind her, Kritchaporn and Peerapong finished 8th and 9th, with Kanatat in 15th, the final point scoring position.
As he waited for the podium ceremony, Anuparb explained, “The competition is much faster this year. I did not go well in qualifying, but the race was better and I knew if I pushed hard I could stay in 5th place and try to do something at the last corner. I am pleased with this result because I know it is the very best we could do for Yamaha.”
THE FOUR THAI RIDERS IN SUPERSPORT 600 all rose to the different challenges that faced them.
In qualifying Yamaha Thailand’s Ratthapong built on the good pace he showed during Friday to put in an early lap time of 2:12.812, which placed him in the middle of the front row, flanked by ARRC champions, Azlan Shah, who won pole position, and Zaqwan Zaidi, who qualified third. Directly behind him, in fifth place on the grid was 19-year-old Keminth Kubo, who put in a time just a few hundredths slower than Yuki Ito, his Yamaha Racing Asean team mate.
Decha Kraisart, still suffering from the wrist injury he sustained in a crash in Round 2, qualified 9th, while class rookie and Suzuka debutant, Passawith Thitiwararak continued to improve his lap times to qaulify in 21st.
In a drama packed race, Azlan got away well, chased by Ratthapong, Ito and Zaqwan, while Anthony West, who won both races in 2017, moved ever closer to the front as the 12 lap race unfolded. Ratthapong slowed, apparently with tyres wear problems after half distance, but Keminth, who had stayed in contact with the leading group kept his pace and moved past him. Decha Kraisart fought off the pain and weakness caused by his wrist injury and stayed in the middle of the pack, while Passawit made good progress, improving his lap times during the race.
At the end it was Manual Tech KYT Kawasaki’s Azlan who took the win from his team mate, Ahmad Yudhistira and Anthony West. Iti was fourth, from Zaqwan, Keminth, Tomoyoshi Koyama and Ratthapong, who came home in 8th. The gritty Decha brought his YZF R6 home in 11th, while Passawit was rewarded for his efforts with 15th, to add to his points tally.
Second race action will take place on Sunday from 11:00 Thai time and will again be streamed live on Facebook and televised on Fox Sports and true4U.