Yamaha Teams Keep Up Momentum with Strong Performances in Every Class
Round 2 of the Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) got underway beneath Thailand's blisteringly hot sun, and Yamaha riders continued to feature well in each class as they had in the opening round of the season. In the SuperSports 600 (SS600) class, the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team showed their speed as they took podium finishes in each race in front of their home crowd, and in the Asia Production 250 (AP250) class, it was the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team yet again showing their strength with Anupab Sarmoon (#500) taking 2nd and 3rd in the two races, recording a run of four consecutive podium finishes. In Race 2 of the UB150 class, young riders from Indonesia and Malaysia showed their talent as they swept the podium.
SS600: Polamai and Kraisart Split 2nd-Place Podiums
Two weeks after the previous round in Malaysia, the "Grand Prix Circus" that is the ARRC gathered en-masse at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand. The schedule for the race weekend was a day earlier than normal as the event coincided with Thailand's New Year's festival of Songkran. Qualifying and Race 1 were held on Friday, April 14th and Race 2 on Saturday, April 15.
This was a home race for the Yamaha Racing Team's Keminth Kubo (#64). Kubo is still not well known in his native Thailand as his racing career has been based in Japan. As such, one of his goals at this event was to show that he could run alongside Asia's top riders and make his presence known. Another goal was to take the checkers both races and pick up valuable points, as he had unfortunately failed to finish both races of the opening round. His teammate Yuki Ito (#76) came to Thailand hoping to carry over the momentum he had found at the opening round in Malaysia, and was aiming for podium finishes and ultimately race wins.
A strong contingent of racing veterans were also determined to put in strong performances under the Thai sun, like the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team's Decha Kraisart (#24) and Chalermpol Polamai (#65), and Anthony West (#13), who was contesting his first ARRC race of the season as he is also competing in the World Supersport Championship. With the extra motivation of being in front of their home crowd, the two Thai riders in particular showed their speed and knowledge of the track, with Kraisart securing pole position and Polamai taking 3rd position in qualifying. After jetting across the world from the World Supersport race in Aragon, Spain to Thailand, West qualified on the second row in 6th. Behind him was Ito in 9th and Kubo in 15th. Kubo would need to chase down the more experienced riders ahead of him in order to secure a result.
As the 600cc machines blasted off the starting line to start Race 1, local rider Kraisart took the holeshot to the cheers and applause from his home crowd. Kawasaki's Azlan Shah (#25) and Polamai chased after him, but Kraisart left no gaps for them to attempt a pass and he set a quick pace at the front. But the bad luck that had plagued him at the previous round made another appearance; Kraisart lowsided, ending his race prematurely.
This lit a fire under Polamai in 3rd. He quickly began to close the gap to the riders ahead of him, eventually latching onto their rear tyres and soon coming through to the front. He was unfortunately re-passed before the finish line and relegated to finishing 2nd, but he had succeeded in taking an important podium at the team's home race.
Ito made up places from his spot on the grid at the start and was running with the second group from the front. With some luck from the leaders crashing out, at one point Ito had climbed as high as 3rd position. Following that he was locked into a battle with two other riders, including West, during which he had an issue that caused him to overshoot the corner and eventually lose touch with the group. The battle for 3rd was then left to West, who secured a 3rd-place finish, joining Polamai to make it two Yamaha riders on the podium.
Behind them, Ito and Kubo both took top-10 finishes. Ito could not quite reach the podium and ended the race in 6th, while Kubo finished an ARRC race for the first time this season in 10th. Both wrapped up a busy Friday determined to do better in Race 2 the following day.
The first half of Race 2 became a heated six-way dogfight, with Yamaha riders Kraisart, Ito and West among its protagonists. In the opening laps it was Kraisart who was on the move. Despite riding with a swollen wrist from his fall in the first race, he made passes stick one after another until he took the lead on lap 4. Race 1 winner Shah was able to stick with him on his Kawasaki, and the two were locked in a duel at the front for the rest of the race.
Four riders, including Ito and West, were contesting 3rd place slightly farther back. The racing was tense as the group sliced and diced at the end of the long straight, attempting to outbrake one another into the corner. Coming out on top in the end was West. He controlled the battle for 3rd before making another charge to take the lead, passing Kraisart on lap 14 to grab the top spot. From that point the battle for the race win really began to heat up. Three riders were in with a chance on the final lap. They scrapped with each other, all looking to be in the ideal position on the approach to the final corner.
Though he later said that he had zero feeling in his wrist, Kraisart braked extremely late to take the inside line for the lead by force. Cheers rang out from the stands, but soon turned to disappointed cries: Kraisart had overshot the corner. West and Shah were able to take the inside line and took 1st and 2nd place as Kraisart picked up 3rd. Ito, who had been fighting for 4th, lost out and took the checkers in 6th again.
Kubo came from 11th on the first lap to steadily make up positions until he joined the three-way battle for 7th. He had taken a fall during a battle at the opening round, but this time he kept his cool as he fought for positions. Though he could not secure 7th, he notched up a welcome single-digit finish with 8th. With this ride, the ARRC rookie demonstrated steady progress and growth that will be vital to his success in the championship.
However, Anthony West's 3rd and 1st place results were discounted from the championship due to a post-race scrutineering issue. Subsequently, the results were amended such that every rider below 4th in Race 1 and all riders in Race 2 had their positions improved by one. Also, though Polamai took an excellent 2nd-place finish in Race 1, he was judged to have jumped the start in Race 2 and was given a ride-through penalty, and he finished the race in 13th.
AP250: Sarmoon Takes 2nd and 3rd for Four Consecutive Podiums
After letting victory slip their grasp in the opening round, the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team was looking to make a comeback here at their home race, but the team's main rivals would also be fighting fiercely to take another consecutive win.
Riders aboard the YZF-R25 all made great starts. The Yamaha Thailand Racing Team's Anupab Sarmoon (#500), his teammate Peerapong Loiboonpeng (#14) and Yamaha Racing Indonesia's star rider Galang Hendra Pratama (#99) were joined by three other machines from other manufacturers, forming the lead group in the race.
However, the pace of the leaders was clearly hard to follow for many and Pratama was the first to lose touch with the group. By the middle stages, Loiboonpeng had fallen away and towards the end, only Sarmoon remained at the front, sandwiched between three other rivals.
With it now 3-on-1, Sarmoon was at a clear disadvantage. As could be expected, Sarmoon fought hard to hang onto 2nd but he eventually fell back to 4th. It was the first time in the race he had been outside the podium positions, but Sarmoon wasn't about to let things end that way. With the cheers of the local crowd spurring him on, Sarmoon again went on the offensive and fought back in the final two laps to retake 3rd. On the final lap he rode well, protecting his lines through the corners and working his way into 2nd. Though he narrowly missed out on the win, he took his third podium out of three races following the season opener.
Sarmoon's teammates finished farther back in their battles for positions, with Loiboonpeng taking 7th and Peerapong Boonlert (#39) finishing 8th. Pratama crossed the finish line in 9th.
Race 2 also began with fast starts from the R25 riders. With Sarmoon taking the holeshot, four of the top six were aboard R25s, but the number of contenders for the lead would thin out rapidly in the opening laps. Honda's Takehiro Yamamoto (#11) and Rheza Danica Ahrens (#123) were joined by Yamaha-mounted Sarmoon at the front, opening a gap to the trailing riders and setting up a scintillating battle for the win that went right down to the wire.
There were no major developments in the first half of the race as Yamamoto led Sarmoon and Ahrens. The second half saw Sarmoon give up the 2nd position he had worked hard to protect, dropping him a place to 3rd.
The three machines at the front were evenly matched so it was difficult for any to claw out an advantage, but Sarmoon had not given up on a race win. On the last lap he rose to 2nd, but was soon re-passed. He managed to take back 2nd and did everything to protect his position, laying it all on the line in the final corner in a last-ditch effort to keep it to the line, but it was not to be as Ahrens managed to get around him before the checkers. Even so, standing atop the podium once again gives Sarmoon a 100% podium finish rate for the season so far.
Six machines vied for 4th place, among them four R25s. Yusuke Nakamura (#33) took 5th while Pratama took 6th.
Many promising young Yamaha riders compete in the UB150 class, and in Race 2 they put on a strong display of their potential by sweeping the podium.
As always in UB150 class races, positions changed on every corner of every lap. In the midst of this swarm however, Yamaha Racing Indonesia's Wahyu Aji Trilaksana (#60) kept himself inside the podium positions by riding a steady race. The final corner of the final lap in these races where riders do everything to win and it is often fraught with machines clashing and riders falling. Trilaksana avoided the chaos to take his first win of the season. Malaysian rider Md Akid Azizof (#13) of the UMA Racing Yamaha Maju Motor team took 2nd, and 3rd went to Team One For All's Md Hafieenaz Md Ail (#54), also from Malaysia. In Friday's Race 1, Tengku Amirul Haffiruddin (#18) of the RCB KAGE Motobatt Yamaha YY Pang Racing team finished on the podium in 3rd.
Yamaha Racing Team
#76 Yuki Ito (5th/5th)
"I thought that if I could get a good start in Race 1, I could stick with the leaders. I was able to get past people in the race and got as high as 3rd. I had some issues after that, but I tried not to push too hard to avoid falling. I overshot a couple corners but kept it upright, so that was good. But I'd be lying if I said I'm not at all frustrated. I had an even better feeling in Race 2, but everybody else was fast, too. What I was losing on compared to the lead riders in particular was managing the tyres, so I need to think about how to improve in that area with this machine. Another thing I need to reflect on is my qualifying result. If I could just start the race a little farther up the grid, I wouldn't need to push so hard and my chances of winning will go up. That's something I'll definitely work on improving, so I can take the win at Suzuka."
#64 Keminth Kubo (9th/7th)
"I DNF'd at both races at the opening round, so my number one goal for this weekend was just to finish. I came in 10th in Race 1 [amended to 9th] but I'm satisfied with that. To try for slightly better results in Race 2, we worked on improving issues we found with the bike's settings in Race 1. I could feel the improvement in the morning warmup, so I went for it in the race and got 8th [amended to 7th]. I felt like this was also a good result. I was in a three-way battle today and I was able to ride and think calmly, watching the other riders' lines and looking for a chance to make a pass. I went for it a bit too early and it didn't work, but I learned something from that. Including my All Japan races, this was my third straight weekend of racing so I've learned and grown a lot in a short amount of time. I plan to keep moving forward so that I can be fighting in the top group by the last round."
Team Manager Toru Koseki
"Kubo didn't finish either of the races last time, so the goal was for him to finish both this weekend. Without finishing races, it's impossible to grasp his level within the ARRC and that makes it very hard for him to progress to the next step. For him to take two finishes within the top ten this round was great and they're acceptable results for the team. We want this to be the starting point for him to aim even higher.
"Ito's results last year were very hit-and-miss, but he's consistently stayed in good form since the season began at the last round. But one thing he's not been able to produce so far is the fast one-off lap needed for qualifying, and this is something I feel both he as a rider and we as a team need to work on going forward. At the next round in Suzuka, we'll strive to deliver strong performances both in qualifying and in the races. Then we plan to continue improving so we can be in the title fight from the Indonesia round onward."
Yamaha Thailand Racing Team
#24 Decha Kraisart (DNF/2nd)
"I hurt my wrist when I fell in Race 1, so after about the halfway point in Race 2 I had no feeling at all in my wrist. In the latter half, West got involved and it turned into a really tough battle, so instead of worrying about positions, it took all I had just to keep up a fast pace and not crash. Only at the last corner on the last lap did I flip on my 'racer switch,' because I really wanted to win at my home round. The end result didn't go as planned, but I still finished the round here without any regrets. The next round in Suzuka is where I won last year and it's a track I have a lot of confidence at. I feel like at the very least I can shoot for a podium, but honestly I want to win."
Theerapong Opaskornkul, Senior General Manager of Sales & Marketing Support
"Decha fell yesterday while he was leading the race, but Chalermpol came through to take 2nd for us. Today however, Chalermpol had a jump start so we missed out on that opportunity, but this time it was Decha who took 2nd. He hurt his wrist yesterday, but fought through the pain and gave it his all to try and win today, which I think really moved all the fans. The next round is at Suzuka and both of our riders have a wealth of experience at the track, so I think they'll be able to turn some of this weekend's frustration into positive results."
Yamaha Thailand Racing Team
#500 Anupab Sarmoon (2nd/3rd)
"I'm frustrated that I couldn't win, but looking at the racing and the results, things definitely weren't bad. I raced as best I could and I'm glad I made it to the podium both times. With the battle at the final corner of Race 2 in particular, though the result wasn't a success, I gave it my all to try and come out on top so I'm satisfied. These results also give me strong motivation to keep aiming higher. My goal for Suzuka is again to reach the podium, but of course the top step would be the best."
Theerapong Opaskornkul, Senior General Manager of Sales & Marketing Support
"In both races, Anupab had to battle with our rivals by himself. We knew it would be like this going in from how the last round played out, but their machines were fast and they also made very few mistakes, so I think Anupab had a tough time. There were a lot of fans here cheering us on and it was our home race, so we wanted to win. But looking at the championship, there is almost no gap between Anupab and the leaders now, so I think our results have been quite good. The issues we have to tackle for the next round are clear, but I know our main rivals will steadily get stronger as well. I know it won't be easy to beat them, but we'll certainly do our best to try."
Yamaha Racing Indonesia
#60 Wahyu Aji Trilaksana (DNF/1st)
"I was near the rear of the starting grid in Race 1, so my strategy was to push hard from the start. I was able to slipstream well and my machine was in great shape, so I was able to battle at the front but I overused the bike a bit too much, which caused an issue and meant that I had to retire from the race. For Race 2, my team did a thorough check of the bike and I felt great in the race. I think that's what led to this result. I'm new to the team this season, but the environment is great and everybody supports me 100%. To repay that support I want to get great results at Suzuka, too."
Team Manager Wahyu Rusmayadi
"Race 1 didn't end so well, but we overcame it to take the win in Race 2, and I feel that's because our rider as well as our team as a whole has the potential and skills. This is our first victory, so I'm really happy. But we've only taken the first step toward winning the championship. I think if the rider, the machine and our team can continue to improve, we'll be able to put a championship title within our sights. This is only the beginning. Meanwhile, we're having a difficult time in the AP250 class. The bike has gotten better between rounds one and two and even between races, but it still isn't enough. I think our bike and rider both need to improve before we can really bring the fight to our rivals, so we'll not let up and keep working hard."