The first races of the ARRC final round served up the best kind of clean, edge of the seat racing this afternoon.
SUPERSPORT 600, as widely expected, saw the all-important championship showdown happening outside of the podium positions. The 18 lap race featured a five-way battle for the lead that was led initially by the only championship contender in the front group, Azlan Shah, who continuously swapped positions with Thitipong Warokorn, Anthony West and the Yamaha Thailand R6s of Chalermpol Polamai and Apiwat Wongthananon.
As the race moved into the second half, West spent more time at the front, as everyone bar Azlan took turns in the lead. An old but still simmering rivalry between Apiwat and Thitipong re-emerged as the two Thai riders battled for honours, before West asserted himself as a likely race winner in the later stages. On the final lap, the Australian looked to have sewn up the win, despite intense pressure from Apiwat. As they came into the braking zone for the final turn, West was a full bike length in front, only to be passed the Thai wildcard, who managed to control an impossible-looking braking maneuver to hold the lead on the short run from the exit of the turn to the finishing line. Thitipong held on to third position from Chalermpol, with Azlan just out of touch one second further back. Decha Kraisart was another 1.3 seconds adrift of Azlan and 10 seconds clear of Ahmad Yudhistira and Ratthapong Wilairot, who won a three-way fight for eighth position from championship pretenders, Taiga Hada, who finished 9th and Zaqwan Zaidi. Yuki Ito crashed on lap 16, so the championship positions going into the last race of the season are Zaqwan, now with 144 points from Hada on 141, Azlan on 139 and Ito on 134.
GERRY SALIM SEALED THE ASIA PRODUCTION 250 CHAMPIONSHIP with a measured performance that earned him 13th points for winning a battle for fourth place that brought his 2017 tally to 199 and out of reach of his rivals.
The first half of the race saw an edgy battle between the two remaining title contenders, Yamaha Thailand’s Anuparb Sarmoon and Rama Honda’s Tomoyoshi Koyama ahead of a swarm of eight bikes contesting the last podium position. Salim’s Astra Honda teammate, Rheza Danica Ahrens broke clear of the powered peloton on lap six and caught the two leaders, with hundredths of a second separating them as they swapped the lead. Anuparb and Koyama did everything they could to collect the 25 point first prize, but the Indonesian did a perfect tactical job for his team by getting enough of a gap on the last lap to get across the line ahead of Anuparb and Koyama. Meanwhile, Salim narrowly won the battle for fourth from Vorapong Malahuan and Yamaha Thailand’s pair of Peerapongs, Luiboonpeng and Boonlert, who were sixth and seventh, ahead of AP Honda’s Muklada Sarapuech, Ahwin Sanjaya, Andy Fadly and Imanuel Putra Pratna.
Anuparb now has a five point hold on second place in the championship, with 168 from Koyama’s 163.
Asia Production 250 Race 2 is scheduled for 14:05 local time tomorrow (Sunday), with Supersport 600 to start one hour later.