■Race: 2016 Asia Road Racing Championship Rd. 03
■Location: Suzuka Circuit, Japan
■Date: June 4, 2016
■Race Condition: Dry
■Laps: 9 (52.389 km)
■PP: Yuki Takahashi(2'12.343/Honda)
■FL: Dimas Ekky Pratama(2'12.508/Honda)
■Laps: 8 (46.568 km)
■PP: Takehiro Yamamoto (2'29.338/Kawasaki)
■FL: Apiwat Wongthananon (2'29.619/Yamaha)
■Date: Jun 5, 2016
■Laps: 15 (87.315 km)
■PP: Yuki Takahashi(2'12.343/Honda)
■FL: Decha Kraisart(2'13.093/Yamaha)
■Laps: 8 (46.568 km)
■PP: Takehiro Yamamoto (2'29.338/Kawasaki)
■FL: Apiwat Wongthananon (2'29.847/Yamaha)
SS600: Kraisart Takes His First Season Victory! Ito Takes 3rd in Race 2
AP250: Wongthananon Does a Double and Makes it Five Wins
The Yamaha Thailand Racing Team in the SuperSports 600 (SS600) class is comprised of a veteran rider who honed his skills as a regular contender in the ARRC and the All Japan Road Race Championship, and a young gun who carries the team’s hopes and expectations for the future. The team secured Yamaha’s first win of the season in the class this weekend. Also, after repeated trial and error over the last two rounds, Yuki Ito (#76) on the newly formed Yamaha Racing Team finally demonstrated his potential with a 3rd place podium finish.
In the Asia Production 250 (AP250) class, Apiwat Wongthananon (#24), also on the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team, took his first-ever victory in Japan in Race 1, then followed it up with another win in Race 2 to claim five wins for the season so far. He is in a strong position to win the championship after dominating the first half of the season.
Yuki Ito (#76), who has had a difficult first two rounds of the season, decided to bet everything on a comeback at his home round where he is well-experienced. But after Friday’s practices, his times had yet to materialize and was only able to qualify in 12th position. He headed into Race 1 still not having shown his true potential.
Feelings of unease and high expectations were present as Race 1 got underway. Decha Kraisart (#24) battled for the lead with a group featuring reigning champion Honda’s Yuki Takahashi (#1). Meanwhile, Ito (#76) got a good start and jumped up into 8th position, but from prospects turned bleak from there as the lead group pulled away from him. But on lap 5, Anucha Narkcharoensri (#14) had a crash that red-flagged the race and forced a restart. The restarted race would be an extremely short 5-lap sprint to the finish.
Grid positions for the restart were the same as the rider positions on lap 4 and the race began again. As could be expected in a short sprint race, the top group was made up of seven bikes with Kraisart (#24) once again having a firm grip on the lead. He would come past on the straight while his rivals got ahead of him in the corners. This back-and-forth pattern played out until the final lap. Kraisart was in 2nd and tried to retake the lead in the braking area for the chicane, but his real push for the win would come in the last corner. He made a dramatic pass by rolling on the throttle to rocket past on the outside to come through to take his first victory of the season.
Ito took advantage of the restart by changing his machine setup during the brief interval before lining up on the grid. It was a change for the better; he got away with the top seven and proceeded to improve his position and finish in 5th. The final rider standing for Race 1 was then determined by the aggregate times between the pre-restart and post-restart races, which left Ito in 6th overall but it was still his first top-six finish. His performance gave him a major confidence boost and changed his unease into anticipation for the future as he made a big step forward.
Ito’s teammate Md Fitri Ashraff Razali (#12) qualified in 20th position and finished the race in 19th.
A dramatic race also unfolded in the AP250 class. The Yamaha Thailand Racing Team, which had a firm grip on the championship race after the first two rounds of the season, saw their position threatened by three Japanese riders aboard Kawasakis. The only YZF-R25 rider to made strides against the locals was the winner of the previous three rounds, Apiwat Wongthananon (#24).
There was a large group of riders at the start of Race 1, but as the laps ticked off they began to separate until it was Wongthananon against the three Kawasakis at the front. He was completely outnumbered but held strong as he showed his strength and skill, taking the fight down to the last lap, just as in the SS600 race.
The battle for the win was between Kawasaki’s Takehiro Yamamoto (#1), who had started the race from pole position, and Wongthananon (#24). It came down to a braking duel at the chicane, where Wongthananon put on a fine display as he slowed to make a perfectly timed lunge up the inside of Yamamoto. He then held on to the lead through the final corner and narrowly held off a final dash to the line by Yamamoto. In doing so, he took his fourth win of the season and once again highlighted his prowess on the R25.
On the following day, Yuki Ito (#76), who had shown signs of a return to form in Race 1, made good on that prediction in Race 2. He crossed the line in 8th after the end of the opening lap and began to push his machine even harder. He used slipstreams on the straights to pass up the inside into the chicane as he worked his way up the order, as if releasing all of his pent-up frustration out on the track.
The fight for the lead was once again between the two riders who had shown the most speed in Race 1 the previous day: Kraisart (#24) and Honda’s Takahashi (#1). Kraisart was faster down the straights while Takahashi was quicker through the corners as they competed in a breathtaking duel. As the two diced it out, Ito (#76) was rapidly closing in until he reached them and made a pass for 2nd. Takahashi (#1) seized the opportunity to take 1st as the two Yamaha riders followed. However, drama was about to unfold at the same place it already had several times in the weekend—the final chicane. Kraisart (#24) tucked the front under heavy braking, taking himself out of contention. Then exhaustion from his strong push in the opening laps caught up with Ito (#76) as he dropped back to 3rd position near the end of the race.
Even so, Ito fought to keep 3rd and crossed the line there, taking his first podium of the season in the process. He took advantage of his home-circuit knowledge and put the difficulties of the previous four races behind him as he made his SS600 rivals and the young Yamaha riders in the AP250 class aware of the Yamaha Racing Team’s potential. The team’s comeback is just beginning though, as they will strive for constant podium finishes to further improve their position as a top Yamaha squad in the series. Razali (#12) got as high as 17th before finishing the race in 19th position.
Like the previous day, yet another fantastic battle would be seen in the AP250 class. Race 1 had been a 3-on-1 fight, but Race 2 would be a 1-on-1 duel between local Japanese rider Yamamoto (#1) and this season’s 4-time race winner Wongthananon (#24). The opening few laps would see riders swapping positions, but from lap 3 on, there would be no movement at all at the front. Yamamoto (#1) would lead Wongthananon (#24) by less than a second all the way until the ending stages.
It came down to the final lap at the only point on the circuit where either one could claw out any advantage. That point was once again, the same place that victory had been decided in Race 1—the final chicane. Judging by the events of Race 1, Yamamoto (#1) had surely predicted that the chicane would be the deciding point yet again. For Wongthananon (#24), it was a one-time chance to put everything on the line and go for the win.
The much-awaited climax played out at the expected point and the victor was decided in an instant. Wongthananon (#24) slid his rear tire to get the bike turned to take the inside of Yamamoto (#1) and kept the top spot to the finish to take his fifth win of the season aboard the YZF-R25. The remaining R25 riders put on a strong showing as well with front-row qualifier Imanuel Putra Pratna (#96) taking 4th and Anupab Sarmoon (#500) taking 5th place as Yamaha-mounted riders scored positive results to cap off the first half of the season.
The next round of the ARRC will be Round 4 at the Sentul International Circuit in Indonesia held from August 5th to the 7th.
Yamaha Racing Team
Yuki Ito (6th/3rd)
“In the course of the week, the bike got better and better. That helped me ride with confidence in the races, especially in Race 2, I was happy because my understanding of the machine progressed, I could ride how I wanted to again and all the efforts of the entire team led us to a good result. But this doesn’t mean I’m satisfied and I feel that the most important work still lies ahead. The reality is that it takes everything I have just to keep up with our rivals. From here on I’ll be able to apply myself a bit more fully, so I can race while thinking about managing the tires, and deepen my understanding of the machine further, so that in Indonesia I can aim for a better result—no, a win. I hope people will continue to cheer for me.”
Md Fitri Ashraff Razali (19th/19th)
“My aim this time was to finish in the top 15 and get some points, but unfortunately, the different climate here in Japan affected my physical condition after I arrived and I went through the whole week with a light cold. By the third day of the week, my condition wasn’t improving and I couldn’t ride well either so my results suffered. My goal for the next round in Indonesia will be the same. I’ll do my best to finish in the points.”
Michael Chai, Team Manager, Motorsports Development
“Yuki got results this time that really restored his confidence. I think it was due largely to the progress we’ve made with the bike like setup. I’d say it’s partly Yuki’s growing understanding of the machine and partly the efforts of the mechanics who put Yuki’s feedback into tangible improvements. Fitri wasn’t feeling good physically, but I hope he will continue to learn a lot from his teammate and gain experience. Our goals for the next round are for Yuki to at least get on the podium and for Fitri to take some points. I hope people will continue to give us their support.”
Yamaha Thailand Racing Team
Decha Kraisart (1st/DNF)
“Before this round, I crashed while qualifying for my All Japan Championship race and couldn’t enter it, so I really wanted to win here. I fell in Race 2, but I was glad that I was able to win as I’d hoped in the Race 1. I was able to take the win because the team did a perfect job of setting up the bike. It was especially fast on the straights, so I was able to battle on even footing with the local Japanese riders. In the race I won, the number of laps had been reduced, so I was confident that I would have the strength to race hard all the way, but I think the biggest reason I was able to win was the machine’s performance. The next round will be at Sentul, which is a circuit that I like, so I’ll be going for another win.”
Apiwat Wongthananon (1st/1st)
“I’m so happy to take my first win in Japan. But despite the bike performing well and my confidence, it was still very tough racing because of how strong my main rival is. Watching him ride, I felt that my only chance of winning would come in the chicane. I believed in myself and went for it in both races, but since it was an all-or-nothing chance, I really felt the pressure. Still, I was able to control the bike perfectly from the hard braking to the rear-wheel slide and ride through to the finish. I honestly felt more of a sense of relief that I’d pulled it off instead of happiness. This round brought me my fifth win, but the joy of winning never diminishes. In the three coming rounds I’m going try just as hard to keep winning.”
Theerapong Opaskornkul, Senior General Manager of Sales & Marketing Support
“In the SS600 and AP250 classes together, we got three podium finishes and I think this is thanks to the hard work of everyone on the teams. Everyone did everything they could without ever giving up, and Decha and Apiwat were able to feel that support. Although Decha made a mistake and retired from the second race, I feel that his win in the first race here at Suzuka, which is in effect an away circuit for him, was really a magnificent feat that encouraged many of his teammates by the way he rode. As for Apiwat, he was flawless in taking those two beautiful wins. This increases his lead in the AP250 class and we’ll continue to look for more wins. In the SS600 class we finally have one win and we’ll now look to work on things like physical conditioning to further narrow the gap with our rivals. Finally, these wins offer further proof of how fast Yamaha’s R-Series bikes are and our team will continue to work together to show more users the potential of these bikes. Please look forward to our results.”