Yamaha Thailand’s Anuparb Sarmoon leads a cohort of Thailand’s most talented motorcycle racers into Round 2 of the Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) this week.
In a ground-breaking double-header with the Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK), Australian fans will get to see how Asia’s best riders get to grips with the newly opened Bend Motorsport Park, near Adelaide in South Australia. It will also be the first time in ARRC’s 22-year history that the series has held a round outside of its own continent.
Thailand’s contenders go into the second round of the series on a high after taking five podium position with five different riders in six races when the season opened at Chang International in March.
Even without Tingnote Thitipong, who took the Supersport Race 1 victory as a wildcard, there is plenty of potential to bring even better numbers back from Australia.
IN SUPERSPORT 600 both Decha Kraisart and Ratthapong Wilairot will be expecting good results for Yamaha Thailand. Decha crashed out of the lead in Race 1 in Buriram and finished second to Anthony West in Race 2, so will be focused on finishing both races as well as being one of the fastest riders on the grid.
The team’s shock new signing, Ratthapong, quickly got used to the YZF-R6, recording personal best lap times at his home circuit and qualifying in third place. He finished in a solid sixth in Race 1, and improved further in Race 2, only to be taken out by Zaqwan Zaidi, who, in an impossible last corner lunge, denied the Thai rider a likely second place.
The quality of Yamaha Thailand’s machine preparation, overseen by GP125 legend, Youichi Ui, should get both riders to the podium at least once.
Yamaha Racing Asean’s Keminth Kubo took a leap late last season year in both speed and self-belief. In Thailand the 19-year-old out-qualified senior teammate, Yuki Ito and finished ahead of him in Race 1. Keminth seems to improve every time out and looks a good value bet for a top three finish.
Their podium opportunities are further enhanced by absent friends, namely championship leader West, who will be contesting World Supersport Round 4 at Assen and Zaqwan, who will be racing in Japan’s JB1000 championship in preparation for ARRC’s switch to 1000s in 2019.
AP Honda’s Thai-Japanese rookie pairing of Passawit Thitivararak and Keisuke Kurihara started well at the first round and will be looking for further progress in Australia.
The toughest competition for all five Thai riders will come from Manual Tech KYT Kawasaki’s Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman, his teammate, Ahmad Yudhistira, Honda riders, Tomoyoshi Koyama, Taiga Hada, Andi Farid Izdihar, as well as Yamaha Asean’s Yuki Ito.
ASIA PRODUCTION 250 TITLE favourite, Anuparb Sarmoon, goes to Australia with a slender five point lead over AP Honda’s Muklada Sarapuech. The Yamaha rider banked 36 points from a win and a fifth place at Chang while Mukalada, who crossed the line second in Race 1, was dropped down to seventh for exceeding track limits and had three championship points deducted for dangerous riding. She came back strongly to take a clean and clever victory in Race 2, but will be well aware that the 14 point total forfeit in the first race of the season could come back to haunt her in December, when ARRC returns to Buriram for the final round of 2018.
Anuparb has two strong teammates in Peerapong Boonlert and Kanatat Jaiman. Peerapong, with whom Anuparb shared the 2017 Suzuka 4 Hour Endurance victory, opened his ARRC account for 2018 with two fourth places. Kanatat, who stepped up to AP250 after winning the R2M Open 400 Championship in 2017, showed what he is capable of by finishing ninth in the leading group in Race 1 and by taking a superb third place in Race 2.
Muklada’s AP Honda teammate, Kritchaporn Kaewsonthi, also made a strong debut in this hotly competitive class, qualifying second a taking a best finish of sixth in Race 1.
In the absence this season of serious Japanese or Malaysian contenders, the main competition for all five of Thailand’s intermediate class stars comes from a new wave of fast young Indonesians, including Yamaha’s Rafid Topan Sucipto and Richard Taroreh, Astra Honda’s Mario Suryo Aji, Rheza Danica Ahrens and Awhin Sanjaya and Manual Tech KYT Kawasaki’s Andy Fadly.
Free Practice begins on Thursday 19th and racing finishes on Sunday 22nd with Supersport 600 Race 2, which is scheduled to start at 12:15 Thai time. Wroommm!! will be reporting from pit lane throughout the four days.
Images courtesy of Asia Road Racing Championship