Friday’s final round Qualifying battles again underlined the competitiveness of the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship during a tense afternoon at Chang International Circuit.
DESPITE THE FLUCTUATING FORTUNES of many of the Supersport 600 championship contenders during the 40 minute session, Yamaha Thailand’s wildcard rider, Apiwat Wongthananon had pole position sewn up within five minutes, by recording 1:38.770 on his first flying lap.
The 2016 Asia Production 250 champion held an advantage of 0.7s until the last 10 minutes, when Azlan Shah on the Manual Tech KYT Kawasaki shaved his margin to four tenths. As the rest of the field pulled the pin, Chalermpol got within two tenths of Apiwat to grab second place and Anthony West bumped Azlan off the front row by going four hundredths of a second quicker than the Malaysian. Kawasaki Thailand’s wildcard, Thitipong Warakorn, improved throughout the session to end up fifth, just ahead of Decha Kraisart, who missed much of the session after an early crash.
Yamaha Racing’s Yuki Ito will lead the third row ahead of championship leader, MUSASHI Boon Siew Honda’s Zaqwan Zaidi and AP Honda’s Ratthapong Wilairot. Taiga Hada, who is level on points with Ito and just four points behind Zaqwan, qualified 10th ahead of Teppei Nagoe and Ahmad Yudhistira.
The remaining wildcard riders were led by Thai Honda Racing Club’s Passawit Thitiwararak who qualified 18th, one place ahead of Australia’s Broc Pearson on the Rama Honda and Ratchada Nakcharoensri for Yamaha TS Racing.
Perhaps the most likely scenario, as we speculated in the preview, is that the championship will be decided ‘off the podium. Another scenario, favoured by this observer, is that Azlan Shah will make up his 10 point title deficit with two podium finishes, while Zaqwan, Ito and Hada will be pushed down the finishing order by some of the fast non-contenders. That could be enough for the 33 year-old Malaysian to take the title he previously won in 2013.
IN ASIA PRODUCTION 250, Anuparb Sarmoon, who has been consistently the best of the non Honda riders during 2017, took a convincing pole position for Yamaha Thailand. He put in a lap of 1:53.522, which was half a second quicker than AP Honda’s in-form Muklada Sarapuech.
Anuparb’s teammate, Peerapong Luiboonpeng, led the first half of the session, before tyre changes took effect on the order at the front. Astra Honda’s Rheza Danica Ahrens was also among the leaders throughout the session, along with Tomoyoshi Koyama, Andy Fadly and World Supersport 300 race winner, Galang Hendra Pratama. Gerry Salim languished outside of the top ten for most of the session, completing only seven laps, before a late lunge propelled him into third place, behind Anuparb and Muklada.
The second row is occupied by Rheza, Peerapong and Koyama in front of Andy Fadly who leads row three. Galang qualified eighth, but will not start after an ugly crash after the chequered flag in the practice start zone left him with suspected concussion. That promotes Akeno Speed’s Soichiro Minamimoto and brings AP Honda’s Vorapong Malahuan onto the third row. Vorapong had engine problems during the session, which robbed him of the pace he had shown during Free Practice.
The first races for both classes, together with the Underbone 150 and Honda Thailand Talent Cup, will run this afternoon and streamed live, so follow Wroommm!! On Twitter and Facebook for links and updates.