SS600: Ito 3rd in Race 1 Then 1st in Race 2 TO Take Over 2nd in Championship
With only two rounds and four races remaining in the 2017 Asia Road Racing Championship as well as a 25-point gap to the top, the wall that Yamaha Racing Team's Yuki Ito (#76) would need to conquer to win the title this season was an imposing one. But even so, Ito made his way to the Madras Motor Race Track in India believing in his chances for a comeback win. He and the team focused on finding the best machine setup for the race right from the free practice sessions, producing a package with the average pace to lap the low 1'42s. As a consequence, the settings were not optimal for qualifying and Ito placed 6th on the grid. But it was certainly a position capable of challenging for a good result.
Meanwhile, Ito's teammate Keminth Kubo (#64) put his fullest into each and every session, bettering his time in each before heading out to qualify. In the session, he gave absolutely everything in his final flying lap, clocking the only lap in the 1'40s to take his first pole position and place himself ahead of the top riders in Asia. He lined his machine up at the front of the grid for the races with ambitions of a top ten or podium finish.
With one of his trademark fast starts, Ito made up positions and slotted into 4th, but his teammate had lost positions, dropping down to 5th. However, neither was losing out to the leaders on pace and were able to hang with the lead group for the race. In the opening laps, Kubo channeled the same speed from qualifying and went on the offensive. He passed Ito to take 4th and then passed Yamaha Thailand Racing Team's Decha Kraisart (#24), putting him in 3rd position and in podium contention. Ito followed suit by putting himself into 4th position, but as the race entered the middle stages, positions remained unchanged as the lead group of six riders reeled off laps.
In the second half of the race, it was Ito who began making moves. He caught Kubo for 3rd and chased his rivals ahead and took 2nd. But the competition gave him no ground, instead retaking 2nd and dropping Ito back to 3rd. He put his remaining strength into a final push on the last lap, but it was not enough to improve his position and he took the checkers in 3rd. However, the championship leader, Kawasaki's Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman (#25), finished in 10th, bringing the points gap down and increasing Ito's chances of a comeback championship win. Kubo was unable to mix it up with the leading three machines, but came into the final corner of the last lap in what would be a season-best position of 4th. But it was not to be. In that very corner he lowsided and crashed out, ruining his chances. Luckily, he was not seriously hurt and was set to participate in Race 2 as planned.
Race 2 became a pivotal point for championship hopes. Yuki Ito (#76) finally took his first win of the season.
Race 2 became a pivotal turning point for Ito's championship hopes as he finally took his first win of the season.
Damp patches were still on track from the rain that fell during the second UB150 race when the SS600 race was scheduled to begin. But the air temperature was high enough that the track surface had begun to dry, and the decision was taken to delay the race in order to have it be fully dry.
The Yamaha Thailand Racing Team's Chalermpol Polamai (#65) took the holeshot. Ito found himself in 3rd position behind Polamai and Honda Race 1 winner Md Zaqhwan Zaidi (#21). Ito's mission to keep his championship hopes alive was simple but paramount: he had to finish in front of his title rivals. With immense pressure on his shoulders, Ito set about doing just that.
The battle for the lead saw Zaidi and Ito catch and get on terms with race leader Polamai before passing him and pulling out a gap, turning it into a two-way dogfight. From this point it was a tense affair as the two diced it up. Ito stuck right to the back of Zaidi, studying his opponent carefully and waiting for just the right opportunity to strike. That moment would arrive in the closing stages of the race, in the braking area for corner number eight.
In a brilliant display of riding skill, Ito lined his R6 up on the inside of Zaidi and backed it into the corner with a perfectly controlled slide to take the lead. He then proceeded to pull away from Zaidi with remarkable speed. Coming out of the final corner of the last lap, he put a clenched fist in the air for victory as he came across the line ahead of his rivals to take the win. Not only did he take his first win of the season, but he also took over second place in the championship with only a four point gap to leader Zaidi. December's final round of the season in Thailand awaits.
Ito's teammate Kubo underwent a medical check on the morning of the 24th to assess his condition after his fall in Race 1. The trackside doctors advised him not to ride and he sat out Race 2.
AP250: #99 Pratama Takes First Win in Race 2! Sarmoon 2nd in Race 1
This season's AP250 championship has seen Yamaha's rivals repeatedly show their speed, but this weekend in India, the YZF-R25-mounted riders staged a counterattack. Leading the charge was Yamaha Racing Indonesia's Galang Hendra Pratama (#99), fresh off his wildcard appearance at the Supersport 300 World Championship round in Portugal earlier this month (though he was forced to retire with a technical issue). He secured his first ever pole position in qualifying and in the race he was joined at the front by Yamaha Thailand Racing Team's Anupab Sarmoon (#500) as they battled for the win.
The race saw Honda's Tomoyoshi Koyama (#71) take the lead with Pratama following behind in 2nd. Sarmoon was 4th in the opening laps but soon made his way into 3rd, and then passed Pratama for 2nd. From that point on, Koyama, Sarmoon and Pratama battled it out at the front. Sarmoon made his way to the front several times only to be repassed by Koyama in what turned into an intense scrap for the lead. In the latter half of the race, Pratama began to fade back and the sole contenders for the win were narrowed down to Koyama and Sarmoon.
Sarmoon pushed his machine until the end and managed to close in on the leader, but was unable to make a pass stick and finished 2nd. Behind him, Pratama had lost ground but kept enough of a gap to 4th place that his position was not under threat, taking 3rd place at the checkers and his first podium of the season in a showing that seemed to blow away his frustration from the DNF in Portugal. Pratama's teammate Reynaldo Chrisantho Ratukore (#222) was involved in the battle for 4th but narrowly missed out to take 5th.
Rain began to fall just before the race. As all the bikes needed to be re-shod with rain tires, the grid quickly became a flurry of activity. A change in conditions always has an effect on riders' minds, but Pratama was relaxed as he lined up at the front of the grid. And when the lights went out, it was Pratama who grabbed the holeshot.
The race was shortened from 12 laps to 10 due to the rain. Pratama set faster times than the pack in the opening laps, allowing him to open a gap. Race 1 winner and racing veteran Koyama stayed in pursuit behind him, but Pratama's steady riding in the difficult conditions in the middle and closing stages was enough to keep the Honda rider at bay. Coming out of the final corner and charging toward the finish line, Pratama put a victorious fist in the air, ecstatic with his first ARRC win.
The AP250 class began in 2015, and although the Yamaha Racing Indonesia team has experienced periods of pause, their forward progress overall has been steady. Pratama has grown with the team as a regular rider over those three seasons, and this weekend he finally scored a long-awaited first victory.
Behind him, top-ranked R25 rider Sarmoon rode well. Though he was not close enough to be involved in the fight for the podium, he worked hard to secure his 4th place finish. He ran in 5th during the first half of the race, but in the second half he had fully acclimatized himself to the wet conditions and gradually upped his pace, taking over 4th by the checkered flag. He heads into the final round of the season retaining his grip on 2nd in the championship.
UB150: Yamaha Riders on the Podium in Both Races
In the UB150 class, five riders broke away to form a lead group. Three of them were aboard Yamaha machines and many expected a repeat of the previous round, which had seen an all-Yamaha podium in both races. The UMA Racing Yamaha Maju Motor team's Md Haziq Md Fairies (#26) was locked in the battle for the lead in the opening stages. But toward the end of the race, his rivals went on the offensive, causing a battle in which the order changed at a bewildering pace. In the end it became a race of survival, and Fairies took the checkers in 2nd to stand on the podium.
Race 2 developed in much the same way as Race 1 had. A lead group of six machines formed at the beginning, of which four were Yamahas. They all had their sights set on a podium finish and swapped positions furiously toward that goal. As the laps ticked off, the group began to gradually thin out. By the closing stages there were only three remaining in the lead group. Aboard Yamahas were the UMA Rasing Yamaha Maju Motor team's Md Akid Aziz（#13）and his teammate Md Haziq Md Fairies (#26) who had taken 2nd in Race 1. A crash in the final few laps saw the race red flagged, resulting in Aziz taking 2nd, with Fairies in 3rd.
Yamaha Racing Team
#76 Yuki Ito (3rd/1st)
"With Race 1, I really needed to push hard to catch up in the first half and ended up asking a bit too much of both my body and the tires. I got as high as 2nd near the end of the race, but I'd pushed too hard to get there and couldn't hold on to 2nd and ended up finishing 3rd. It was an important 3rd place, but also a frustrating one. In Race 2 the pace at the front was really fast after I got into 2nd, so I decided to just follow, take my time, and wait and see what would happen. With five laps to go I noticed the pace starting to drop off a bit, so I decided to try for a pass the leader while braking for corner eight, a place I know I'm good at. He's really good at braking late, but I still managed to get on the inside and pass. After that I was able to pull a gap at the front. It was really a perfect race. The final round of races will decide the championship. But the first priority for us will be to build up a strong base to be competitive in the races during the practice sessions and qualifying. We'll do our very best to end with a result everyone can smile about, so please lend us your cheers and support!"
Keminth Kubo (DNF/-)
"I think the intense training I've been doing every day is what led to my pole position and riding in Race 1. The fact that I haven't been able to get many decent results this season is what gave me greater motivation to work harder. After riding with the lead group in the race, I realized there are several things I still lack, like experience, tactics and so on. So I'd planned to use what I learned from the top riders in Race 1 to get myself on the podium in Race 2, but I was forced to sit out on doctor's orders. I'm extremely disappointed, but the next round will be in my home country of Thailand. I want to hold on to the confidence I've gotten from this round and stand on the podium for the first time at my home race!"
Team Manager Toru Koseki
"Keminth had been steadily improving his times throughout free practice, so I had a feeling he would do a good job, but to be the only rider to hit the 1'40s and take pole position was something special. What's more, in Race 1 he caught and passed Ito and was able to match the pace of the lead group. His crash on the last lap was a shame but it was different this time. It wasn't a rash move that led to a crash while trying to keep up as before, but rather he was aiming for the podium. So there's a different meaning behind it and this was a race worth noting. He was forced to sit out Race 2 for medical reasons, but he'll put everything he has learned here to use next time out in Thailand. I think he's gained confidence this weekend, so I'd like to see him finish out the season with another impressive performance. Of course, we'll continue to support him to our fullest ability. Meanwhile, Ito did a great job. In Race 1 he was just a bit short and finished 3rd. The team made various adjustments to the bike to improve it for Race 2, but more importantly, Ito went into the second race with the confidence to win. Looking at how he raced, it's pretty clear. He got into 2nd in the first half of the race, studied what the leader was doing, waited for the right opportunity and then pounced. It was really a perfect race; it's not an easy thing to put together and it takes a lot of skill to pull off. Ideally, I would have liked to see this kind of performance a bit sooner. We're now second in the points and we have a much more realistic chance of clinching the title. We've got a long break until the next round, but our team will be doing all we can to come into it fully prepared to fight."
Yamaha Racing Indonesia
#99 Galang Hendra Pratama (3rd/1st)
"It's my third year racing in AP250 and this was my first pole position. Above all I'm just really happy. I think it's partly down to my personal progress, but also undoubtedly thanks to the team's great efforts and our teamwork. In Race 1, I made several mistakes like running off track or nearly crashing from asking too much of the front. The other riders also made some clever block maneuvers and I ended up finishing in 3rd. Of course, I'm happy with my first podium of the season, but I feel like I could have done better so I'm a bit frustrated. I'm super happy about Race 2, though. It was a wet race and that can easily make riders nervous, but I'm pretty good at riding in the wet and I think another big reason I did well is that I was able to mentally prepare myself for it. I'd decided to try to get away and open up at a gap at the start, and the reason I was able to do it was because I was well prepared. The next round in Thailand is at a track where the local Thai riders are really strong. For that reason I know it won't be easy, but all I can do is aim for the podium."
Team Manager Wahyu Rusmayady
"This track's layout is quite similar to our local track in Indonesia, so it was easy for our riders to get to grips with it. We found a good setup quickly and were able to put on a strong performance from the start. I think it was many factors coming together--not least the progress our riders and mechanics have made--that contributed to the 3rd place podium in Race 1 and the win in Race 2. These results were won through the hard work of both our riders and every member of the team, and will give us a huge motivation boost going forward. For the last round in Thailand, we still have some things to work out with the bike, so we need to overcome them before then. We want to improve on the results we've had so far in Thailand and finish out the season with a strong showing."
Yamaha Thailand Racing Team
#500 Anupab Sarmoon (2nd/4th)
"We made solid progress with bike setup and with my riding as well throughout the weekend, and that showed with the 2nd place podium in Race 1. Koyama is one of the fastest riders in the championship, but I latched on to him and even passed him at one point. I finished on the podium but deep down I really would have liked to win it. Koyama blocks really well and in the end I couldn't get past, so the result is somewhat frustrating. Race 2 was wet and since I don't have a lot of experience in the wet, it was really tough. In the first half I couldn't keep up with the pace and dropped positions, but by the second half I had finally gotten used to it. But by that time the front three had already gotten away, so the best I could do was 4th. The next round is at home for me, so honestly I want to win at all costs."