Yamaha Thailand Racing Team handed out a lesson to their rivals in the Suzuka 4-Hour Endurance 2018 today, to take another victory in the support class for the iconic Suzuka 8 Hour race. In doing so they reaped the rewards of the meticulous preparation, strategy and talent that have become familiar to the team’s fans. It was a truly faultless display in the face of a variety of challenges that they adapted to with apparent ease. Riders, Anuparb Sarmoon and Peerapong Boonlert, were consummately professional throughout, more than justifying their selection to defend their 2017 title.
AP Honda, following their fourth place finish last year, fielded two exciting new riders, Warit Thongnoppakun and Piyawat Patoomyos, who are emerging from their academy system. Yamaha Thailand took pole position, while AP Honda qualified ninth.
A typhoon blew heavy rain in for the start of the race, to present early challenges and opportunities for the 62 bike line up. Anuparb converted Yamaha Thailand Racing Team’s pole position into a safe-looking lead through the first few turns, before being caught by a hard charging Makoto Yoshikawa on board the Ohkito Hiromu Honda, who came through from his 15th place starting position to take the lead. He streaked away at the front, completing Lap 2 with a lead of seven seconds. Warit Thongnoppakun, starting for AP Honda Racing Thailand also got away well and settled in behind his compatriot in third place.
By Lap 3 Anuparb had got the measure of the wet Suzuka asphalt and began to reel in the leader. He took his time to execute a clean pass on Lap 8 and steadily moved away. Warit also caught the Japanese rider, relegating him to third at the start of Lap 12, followed by Tommy Salim on the Indonesian Astra Honda, to make it a non-Japanese 1-2-3 for most of the first two hours. Peerapong put in a strong second stint to extend Yamaha Thailand’s lead, while Piyawat did a solid job for AP Honda.
The track was dry by the half-way mark, so Anuparb and Warit went into their second runs on dry tyres. Problems arose for AP Honda soon after the second stop, when Warit picked up a stop-and-go penalty for passing under yellow flags, which dropped them back to seventh position.
The safety car slowed down proceedings on three occasions during the second half of the race, hampering AP Honda’s fight-back to leave them in seventh at the chequered flag.
Yamaha Thailand used the safety car time well, giving Anuparb a third run to take the team to their second consecutive Suzuka 4-Hour victory by a margin of 1’17s over MOTO BUM Honda, who were another 10 seconds clear of the Teruru MotoUP RT Honda. Astra Honda came in fourth, almost one lap down on the winner.
Anuparb and Peerapong will be back in action next weekend for ARRC Round 4 in Chennai, India, so will no doubt be spending the flight recalibrating in preparation for battle in the Asia Production 250 class.