■Race: 2016 Asia Road Racing Championship Rd. 2
■Location: Chang International Circuit, Thailand
■Date: May 7, 2016
■Race Condition: Dry
■Laps: 18 (81.972 km)
■PP: Md Zaqhwan Zaidi (1'39.434/Honda)
■FL: Md Zaqhwan Zaidi (1'40.307/Honda)
■Laps: 10 (46.320 km)
■PP: Apiwat Wongthananon (1'54.446/Yamaha)
■FL: Takehiro Yamamoto (1'56.622/Kawasaki)
■Date: May 8, 2016
■Laps: 18 (81.972 km)
■PP: Md Zaqhwan Zaidi(1'39.434/Honda)
■FL: Tomoyoshi Koyama(1'39.920/Honda)
■Laps: 10 (46.320 km)
■PP: Apiwat Wongthananon (1'54.446/Yamaha)
■FL: Soichiro Minamimoto(1'56.401/Yamaha)
SS600: Ito Finishes 14th/17th as Razali Finishes 16th/16th
AP250: Wongthananon Takes 3rd Consecutive Win, Pratama Gets First Podium in Race 2
The second round of the championship got underway at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand about one month after the opening round of the season in Malaysia. Just as in the opening round, the Yamaha Racing Team’s results were less than positive in the SuperSports 600 (SS600) class as Yuki Ito (#76) finished the two races in 14th and 17th and Md Fitri Ashraff Razali (#12) finished in 16th and 16th.
In the Asia Production 250 (AP250) class, Race 1 saw the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team’s Apiwat Wongthananon (#24) win his third race in succession—including the first two at the season opener—and in front his home crowd. In Race 2, Galang Hendra Pratama of the Yamaha Racing Indonesia team scored a personal-best finish of 2nd to stand on the podium. Another round of strong performances highlighted the great potential of the YZF-R25.
Racing in their home country, the YZF-R6-mounted Yamaha Thailand Racing Team's Anucha Narkcharoensri (#14) and Decha Kraisart (#24) fought amongst the lead group during the race. In the opening stages, Kraisart lapped in 2nd position behind Honda rider Tomoyoshi Koyama (#71) but crashed out on lap six, taking himself out of the race. It was his teammate Narkcharoensri that took over 2nd position, and he wasted no time in sticking right to the rear of Koyama and mounting a challenge for the lead. However, in the final corner of the last lap he gave up a number of positions and crossed the line in 14th, missing out on a podium finish in front of his home crowd.
Meanwhile, the Yamaha Racing Team’s riders faced a difficult start to the race. Ito (#76) had qualified in 16th and Razali (#12) crashed and injured himself during his flying lap and qualified in 20th, forcing them to face an uphill battle. However, both ran solid races right from the opening stages and were able to finish higher than their qualifying positions. Ito took the checkers in 14th while Razali finished in 16th. The best finishing Yamaha was that of Anthony Keith West (#13) in 5th position.
In the AP250 championship's season-opener, the Yamaha riders put on a display of their skill and the YZF-R25's prowess, and this weekend in Thailand was no different. The Yamaha Thailand Racing Team, which had swept the podium at the previous round in Malaysia, put on a strong display once again.
Peerapong Loiboonpeng (#14) was on pole. In Race 1, he was locked in a fierce battle for the lead with teammates Apiwat Wongthananon (#24), who took two wins at the opening round, and Anupab Sarmoon (#500), along with Kawasaki’s defending champion Takehiro Yamamoto (#1) and the other Yamahas as the group fought and swapped positions from the opening lap until the finish.
Among the group, Sarmoon held the lead for a long time in the opening laps but ended up crashing out of the race. The middle stages saw Yamamoto control the race from the front, but home crowd favorite Wongthananon came out on top of the intense battle to take his third consecutive victory, building on his double win at the opening round. Loiboonpeng then took 2nd, illustrating the pride and determination of the local riders. A 3rd-place finish by Honda’s Somkiat Chantra (#18) prevented another Yamaha podium sweep, but the second round of the season showed that the R25 and its riders were very much in good form.
The Underbone 130 (UB130) race saw Yamahas take the top four positions.
The next day, the conditions became scorching hot as the sun beat down on the circuit. In the SS600 race, Anthony West (#13) braved the heat and rode well. Narkcharoensri (#14) was the leading Yamaha rider in the early stages, but West slowly started to up his pace after coming across the line in 8th after the first lap. He was 4th by the middle of the race before climbing as high as 2nd. He then held on to 4th for the remainder of the race, before losing out on the last lap and finishing in 10th position. The top-placed Yamaha was that of Narkcharoensri. He had dropped as low as 7th at one point, but recovered to take 5th at the line.
Ito (#76) of the Yamaha Racing Team went from 18th on the opening lap up to 15th before conceding positions. He swapped places with Razali (#12) on lap 9, dropping down to 19th. Following that, riders further ahead on track dropped back and allowed the two to improve their positions, resulting in 16th for Razali and 17th for Ito.
Race 2 of the AP250 class was very similar to Race 1 the day before, with riders making aggressive passes and swapping positions throughout. The Yamaha Thailand Racing Team’s quality was evident once again at the front, but Yamaha Racing Indonesia’s Galang Hendra Pratama (#99), Akeno Speed WJR Racing Team’s Soichiro Minamimoto (#22) and Yamaha Finson Racing’s Kasma Daniel Kasmayudin (#127) also factored into the battle for the win. Victory eventually went to Kawasaki rival Yamamoto (#1), but young talent Pratama, who is highly regarded among the Yamaha riders, ran inside the top 3 for the entire race before taking his first ARRC podium with 3rd. Sarmoon (#500) had taken a 2nd-place finish ahead of Pratama but was later demoted to 4th for ignoring a yellow flag. That meant that Pratama became the top-finishing Yamaha with 2nd place and Loiboonpeng was 3rd. R25-mounted riders made up positions 2 through 9, and the gap from the winner to 7th-place Yusuke Nakamura (#33) was a mere 1.3 seconds—clear evidence of a close fight. The next round will be held between June 3rd and 5th at Suzuka Circuit in Japan, where expectations of another strong performance from Yamaha will be high.
Yamaha riders took it a step further in the UB130 class as the top 5 finishers were aboard Yamaha machines.
SuperSports 600 Class
Yamaha Racing Team
Yuki Ito (14th/17th)
“I had a pretty good pace in free practice, but after that I wasn’t able to find a good setup and we were only able to take two points, which was a disappointing result. The next round is my home round so I’d like to focus on somehow breaking into the top positions.”
Md Fitri Ashraff Razali (16th/16th)
“After my injury from the crash in qualifying I wasn’t able to ride the way I wanted to in either Race 1 or Race 2. The next round in Suzuka is a place I’ve ridden before, but I’ll still be asking my teammate Yuki for advice since it’s his home track and do whatever I can to improve where I finish next time.”
Michael Chai, Team Manager, Motorsports Development
“It was an extremely disappointing result for us. Fitri’s crash in qualifying meant he couldn’t ride how he usually does, but we also struggled with finding ideal machine settings right up until the last minute, so neither of them were able to show their true speed. Yuki is a rider with real talent, so we’ll be working on developing the machine in preparation for his home race in Suzuka where we hope to secure a great result.”
Asia Production 250 Class
Yamaha Thailand Racing Team
Apiwat Wongthananon (1st/5th)
“In Race 1, I rode according to plan and took the win, but I got a good sense of how strong my rivals were as well. In Race 2 I stuck with the lead group, but there were a lot of other fast riders there too. I’d planned to break into the top positions along with my teammates, but it didn’t work out that way. Even so, I’m glad that I was able to keep the overall points lead. I’m pretty confident riding at Suzuka, so I’ll be doing my best to win there.”
Theerapong Opaskornkul, Senior General Manager of Sales & Marketing Support
“We weren’t able to achieve our goal of finishing on the podium in every class, but in the AP250 class our riders finished in 1st, 2nd and 3rd between the two races and both our team and rider kept the points lead in the championship. In the SS600 class we certainly need to improve further, but in general I feel our teamwork was quite good.
“The overall level this season is high in the ARRC as compared to last season, which means the competition with our rivals has ramped up too. Our riders have improved since last season, and with Ui-san joining us the team’s level has gone up considerably. Decha isn’t just racing but also instructing the younger riders in the AP250 class, so their skill level is rising too. We’re planning on making even more progress as we prepare for the next round in Suzuka. Expect big things from us next time out.”
Yamaha Racing Indonesia
Galang Hendra Pratama (4th/2nd)
“Like last year, my goal for this year was to get on the podium and I was finally able to do it. I feel like I’ve made a step forward as a rider. Nakatomi-san gave me some great advice on precisely how to fix my weak points, which I think was a big part of my improvement. I rode at Suzuka last year, so I have a good sense of what it’s like. I’ll take good care of my physical and mental condition until then. After that, all that’s left to do is give it my best shot!”