SS600: Kraisart Takes 5th in Race 1 while West Battles to 7th in Race 2
AP250: Wongthananon Secures Sixth Victory and Retains Points Lead
After Yamaha began to show its strength in the SuperSports 600 (SS600) class at the last round, the Yamaha Racing Team's star rider Yuki Ito (#76) was not able to take part in this weekend's races due to an injury he suffered in qualifying. The Yamaha Thailand Racing Team's Decha Kraisart (#24), who showed his mettle at the previous round by taking a race win, had a difficult weekend and was unable to reach the podium.
In the Asia Production 250 (AP250) class, Apiwat Wongthananon (#24), also on the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team, continued his show of authority in the championship, taking win number six for the season with his performance in Race 2 as he edged closer to securing the title. The young Yamaha riders who participated in Yamaha and Valentino Rossi's "Master Camp," a weeklong training program held in Italy with the goal of developing up-and-coming talents, showed the fruits of their labor as they ran solid races and highlighted their potential to do well in the season's remaining two rounds.
Race 1 (SS600)
In Round 3 of the championship, the Yamaha Racing Team's Yuki Ito (#76) finally made it to the podium with a 3rd place finish in Race 2 at Suzuka Circuit in his native Japan, a track he knows well. He was aiming for another podium at Round 4 this weekend, but a crash in qualifying left him in 10th position and with an injured left thumb. The injury was severe enough that he was unable to participate in both of the weekend's races.
In the first race, Yamaha Thailand Racing Team's Decha Kraisart (#24) formed part of a lead group of four, including rivals aboard Kawasaki and Honda machines, and the group ticked off laps at the front. But Kraisart was unable to match their pace and slowly lost ground. He didn't give up however, slotting into the chasing group along with Akeno Speed WJR Racing Team's Anthony West (#13), and pushed his machine with the goal of taking a strong finish. With five laps remaining, one of the riders in the lead group crashed out, giving Kraisart the opportunity to battle for 5th. He stayed at the front of the chasing group, hanging on to take 5th place at the checkers.
With teammate Ito absent, Md Fitri Ashraff Razali (#12) was the Yamaha Racing Team's lone competitor and he finished as the second-highest Yamaha in the race with 12th. Kraisart's teammate Anucha Narkcharoensri (#14) took the checkers in 13th. West, who had been fighting with Kraisart to finish near the front, was forced to withdraw from the race with a mechanical issue.
Race 2 (SS600)
With the Yamaha Racing Team's star rider Ito (#76) absent due to injury, it was another difficult race for Yamaha in Race 2. Kraisart (#24), who had been the only Yamaha rider able to run a similar pace as the leaders in Race 1, was battling for 5th in the opening stages before he ran off track. From there he returned to his pit box and subsequently withdrew from the race.
However, even in this difficult situation, Anthony West (#13) persevered, trying to get the most from his machine. Though he lost the lead group, just as in Race 1, he held his ground in the second group and diced with his rivals for position, and stayed on board to take 7th at the flag. Razali (#12) was after a better result than in Race 1, but could not achieve it, instead dropping one place back to 12th. Narkcharoensri (#14) followed him across the line in 13th.
Race 1 (AP250)
Aboard the YZF-R25, Yamaha riders had taken to the podium in all six races of the first three rounds of the season. At this round, along with securing another consecutive podium finish, attention was drawn to the progress of the five young riders who had participated in the YAMAHA|VR46 Riders Academy "Master Camp" organized by Valentino Rossi's VR46 Riders Academy and Yamaha Motor. With the goal of developing talented young riders, the five-day program was held in Rossi's native Italy between July 4th and 8th.
That progress was already on display during qualifying. It was especially obvious with local Indonesian rider Galang Hendra Pratama (#99), who qualified in 2nd and took the holeshot in Race 1. Before long, it was an all-R25 lead group with Apiwat Wongthananon (#24), Anupab Sarmoon (#500), and fellow Master Camp participant Imanuel Putra Pratna (#96). But a bout of machine trouble for Pratama on the first lap saw him fall down through the order before having to withdraw from the race.
The race saw current points leader Wongthananon (#24) and reigning champion Takehiro Yamamoto (#1) on the Kawasaki set the pace at the front. But they weren't able to escape from the lead group. In the second half of the race, Pratna (#96), who had also upped his skills at the Master Camp, took the top spot to lead the race. That proved to be the spark that ignited the battle at the front, which had been a stalemate until that point. It was an intense scrap, with the lead changing on almost every lap. Then on the final lap, Pratna and Sarmoon fought for the win but Pratna made a costly mistake by running off-line while Sarmoon also lost his position, ending with the top three spots going to Yamaha's rivals.
The result was the Yamaha group missing out on the podium, with the highest-placed R25 riders being Sarmoon in 4th, Pratna in 5th and Wongthananon in 6th. But the progress made at the Master Camp was there for all to see, raising expectations of a strong performance in Race 2.
Race 2 (AP250)
After missing out on the podium for the first time this season in Race 1 the day before, the Yamaha riders lined up for Race 2. Stealing the holeshot once again was 2nd place qualifier Pratama (#99). The lead group was then made up of mostly the same riders as it had been in Race 1, but almost half of the riders on the grid were able to run a similar pace during the first half of the race, resulting in a long line of bikes at the front as the laps ticked off.
That situation continued past the middle stages of the race. The protagonists of Race 1, Pratna (#96), Wongthananon (#24), Sarmoon (#500) were joined by Pratama (#99), Yusuke Nakamura (#33) and Master Camp participant Peerapong Loiboonpeng (#14), meaning that there were a large number of R25s still in contention. Because of this, slipstreaming became a very effective tactic and the order changed at a hectic pace as riders at the back would sweep to the front all at once after nearly every straight.
Even so, the number of riders in contention for the podium began to dwindle. Pratna, Wongthananon, Yamamoto, and Nakamura all eyed the final corner as where they would place their bets for the win. But on the final lap, it came down to the two riders who have already tasted victory this season: Wongthananon and Yamamoto.
Wongthananon was chasing down Yamamoto in front, but as if repeating what happened at Round 3 in Japan, he caught and passed him to score a brilliant comeback win, his sixth of the season. In doing so, he placed himself one step closer to securing the title.
Behind them, Pratna and Nakamura battled to take their first podium in the class. Pratna had 3rd position in the final corner, but lost to Nakamura in the drag race to the line by just 0.059 seconds.
The fifth round of the Asia Road Racing Championship will take place from October 1 to 2 at the Buddh International Circuit in India, which was built to host an F1 race in 2011.
Yamaha Racing Team
Md Fitri Ashraff Razali (11th/12th)
"I haven't been feeling well since I landed in Indonesia and I think that played a part in my not being able to achieve my goal of breaking into the top 10. But I think it was good that I could finish in the points even in such circumstances. There are two rounds and only four races left, but I'll do my best next time to get the top-10 finish I'm aiming for."
Yuki Ito (DNS)
"I fell during qualifying and fractured my left thumb, so I couldn't take part in either race. My pace wasn't bad in free practice, so I'm really disappointed but that's the way it goes. I'll do my best to get better before the next round in India so I can aim for the top once again."
Michael Chai, Team Manager, Motorsports Development
"It's a real shame that Yuki crashed because he's made progress with the suspension and his overall bike setup, and he was feeling pretty good. But that's racing; it can't be helped. Fitri didn't reach his goal, but if you take his physical condition into account, he did a good job and gained some valuable points for the team. We have a long break until Round 5 now, but we'll continue trying hard to achieve our goals, so please keep lending us your support."
Yamaha Thailand Racing Team
Apiwat Wongthananon (6th/1st)
"My machine wasn't working well for me in Race 1, so I couldn't run the race I wanted and we missed the podium. But after the race my team put in a lot of work on the bike to get it in good shape for Race 2. I knew it would be a close-quarters fight, so I stayed inside the lead group and watched how my rivals were riding very closely, trying to figure out just where to attack so I could take on any one of them at the end. But like all the races before, the battle on the final lap came down to me and Yamamoto. My bike was working really well, especially the engine, so I was able to pass him and take the win. I'm really happy to be back on the podium."
Theerapong Opaskornkul, Senior General Manager of Sales & Marketing Support
"The condition of our machine wasn't good in yesterday's race. But our mechanics worked late into the night and really improved the bike a lot. Apiwat is very clever with his racecraft and in Race 2, he got a handle on his rivals' tendencies and a good overall view of the situation before making his move on the last lap to take his sixth win of the season. In Race 1, Sarmoon took 4th and Peerapong got 5th in Race 2, so we kept our rider and team at the top of the standings. With Sentul being a track we normally don't go well at, I think our results were really positive this weekend."
Akeno Speed WJR Racing Team
Yusuke Nakamura (11th/3rd)
"I was 17th in qualifying so I just tried to push forward as hard as I could to reach the lead group. I was able to do it in Race 2 and I caught up to the leaders in the middle stages. I knew the last two laps would be critical, so I decided to calmly bide my time and watch to see what the other riders would do. Near the end I tried to push my machine as hard as I could, but I just couldn't make as much progress and I missed out on the battle for the win. But I did take 3rd, so I'm happy with that. I'm really grateful to my team and sponsors who have supported me up until now. Thank you very much."