Wildcard Wongthananon Scores Upset Victory as Ito Crashes Out
The Yamaha Racing Team's Yuki Ito (#76) put it all on the line for the championship. In 2014 he finished as the runner-up in the SS600 class, losing the title crown by just a single point. In his second year on the Yamaha Racing Team, he once again found himself with a chance to take the title. From the first day of the race weekend, Ito put everything he had into preparing for his title challenge and working methodically on bike setup. In qualifying, the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team showed its strength on their newly acquired YZF-R6s, especially VR46 Master Camp attendee and CEV racer Apiwat Wongthananon (#22) as he took pole position. Ito qualified 7th, placing him on the third row of the grid. While it wasn't the best position, what was more important was that he still qualified in front of his championship rivals.
At the start of the race, Ito got away with the leading five bikes, but soon found himself fading backward and part of the trailing second group. But the other contenders for the championship were still behind him, so if he could maintain his position he had the chance of retaking the points lead. Ito remained in 7th position for a time, but recovered a bit of his rhythm in the middle stages and together with the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team's Decha Kraisart (#24), worked to reel the top five back in.
However, the unexpected was about to occur. Ito overshot the final corner on lap 14 and then crashed at the first corner of lap 15. A mechanical issue had been the culprit. With that, Ito was forced to retire from the race. But all was not lost, as the gap to the leader was a mere 10 points. A path to the championship crown still remained.
Meanwhile, a fierce battle raged amongst the top five of Wongthananon, his teammate Chalermpol Polamai (#65), Anthony West (#13) of the Akeno Speed Racing Team, and Kawasaki's Thitipong Warokorn (#100) and Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman (#25).
The first half of the race saw the lead change a number of times, and for a while it looked like any one of the leaders could be in with the chance of a win. But closer to the end, it became a duel between Wongthananon and West for the win. It was West who held the advantage on the final lap, and he looked to be on his way to taking the checkered flag. Though there wasn't a big difference between them, anyone who saw the two would have thought that West looked likely to win. But it happened in the final corner; Wongthananon slipped his machine on the inside of West before standing it up beautifully to get on the gas and cross the line in 1st. The fantastic feat sent the entire team wild with exhilaration. West finished 2nd while Polamai just missed out on the podium in 4th. Warokorn finished 3rd.
Ito's teammate Keminth Kubo (#64) qualified in 14th and started his race from the 4th row of the grid. He wasn't able to make up any places at the start, and was lapping in 13th or 14th before finishing two places higher than his qualifying in 12th.
After having retired from the race the previous day, Ito was left with a 10-point gap to the championship leader heading into the final race of the season. He made up positions at the race start and was in 6th at the end of the first lap, just where he needed to be. But the lead group headed by Wongthananon were difficult to catch and Ito got caught up in an intense scrap in the early stages.
In the second half, the chance to win the championship was still there, if only Ito could make a recovery and retake positions. But his times lagged and the gap to the leaders grew. The final lap saw him caught and passed by his rivals before he finished in 9th. In the end, a come from behind championship victory proved elusive.
Wongthananon took another victory, giving him a double win for the weekend. After getting the holeshot, he quickly set a fast pace and pulled away from the trailing riders. He set consistently quick laps and was soon running alone at the front, after which he continued to ride safely and went on to take the checkers with his lead unchallenged. Though he was only a wildcard rider, he kept the championship regulars at bay to take a consecutive win, adding another jewel to the crown of the new YZF-R6's debut season.
West finished 2nd in both races while Polamai was 4th and Kraisart 6th, as Ito's teammate Kubo took 16th in the final race of the season.
AP250: Local Hero Sarmoon Secures 2nd Place in Race 1
Since the opening round, the YZF-R25 contingent had given up several race wins to their rivals, but at the previous round in India, they mounted a comeback as Yamaha Racing Indonesia's Galang Hendra Pratama (#99) notched up his first race win. Here at the final round as well, the R25 contenders were on par with their rivals.
Local star and Yamaha Thailand Racing Team ace Anupab Sarmoon (#500) took pole position in a proud demonstration in front of his home crowd. He then featured in the battle for the top positions throughout the race.
After Sarmoon got the holeshot, he set a quick pace for the first few laps and the only other rider able to match him was Honda's Tomoyoshi Koyama (#71). The two soon pulled away from the front group, after which Sarmoon retained control of the lead as he reeled off consistent laps.
It was in the middle stages of the race when Honda's Rheza Danica Ahrens (#123) upped his pace, and he had caught the two at the front as the race was nearing its end, turning it into a three-way battle. The 2-on-1 situation certainly wasn't to his advantage, but Sarmoon kept both riders at bay as he held the lead in a resolute show of riding skill. But he was unable to stop the advance of Ahrens, who came through to win leaving Sarmoon to finish 2nd and narrowly miss out on taking his first victory of the season.
Further back, Sarmoon's teammates Peerapong Loiboonpeng (#14) and Peerapong Boonlert (#39) fought bravely. They came out on top of their group with Loiboonpeng in 6th and Boonlert in 7th. Pratama, having won a race at the previous round in India as well as the last race of the Supersport 300 World Championship, got caught up in an accident during qualifying the day before and sustained an injury which forced him to miss this race.
Seeking to blow away his frustration after Race 1, Sarmoon again rocketed off the line and set a fast pace in the lead. But Koyama was again able to stick with him. The opening stages were a carbon copy of Race 1, but in Race 2 the two riders had built up a 6-second gap to the trailing group by the halfway point, making it clear that the fight for the win would be between only the two of them.
Thereafter, the lead changed from corner to corner and lap to lap, but there was no decisive move yet. The fight inevitably came down to the last corner of the last lap. Koyama came into the corner with the lead. As Sarmoon had come up short of the win in Race 1, he decided to go all out this time. As predicted, Sarmoon shot up the inside of Koyama and got in front, but in doing so he ran the corner wide, losing him some speed. Koyama brought his bike through on a straighter line and maintained his speed which allowed him to slide past Sarmoon on the run down the straight. Sarmoon missed his chance, instead ending his season with another 2nd place finish in Race 2.
In the 7-8 bike strong trailing group, Sarmoon's teammates held onto the top positions as a hectic battle took place. Just as with the front two riders, the final corner proved a battleground as Loiboonpeng held on for 4th and Boonlert took 5th. In addition Pratama, who had been prevented from riding for medical reasons the day before, made a comeback for Race 2 and finished in 9th. In the championship results for the season, Sarmoon finished the season as highest-ranked R25 rider in 3rd, followed by Pratama in 6th.
UB150: Wahyu Wins Race 1!
The "lead group" was made up of nearly every rider on the grid for the first few laps, but several crashes and subsequent dropouts began to narrow down the field. Yamaha Racing Indonesia's Wahyu Aji Trilaksana (#60) persevered and not only made it through the initial treacherous laps, but stayed in the top positions in the midst of a heated battle as racers traded spots back and forth. After taking the lead on the final lap, Trilaksana skillfully held off his attackers to cross the line for the win, his third of the season. Other notable Yamaha riders included Md Haziq Md Fairies (#26) of the UMA Racing Yamaha Maju Motor team, who finished in 3rd.
The final race of the season would be a showdown between two Yamaha riders: Md Akid Aziz (#13) of the UMA Racing Yamaha Maju Motor team, and Trilaksana, who was out for a second successive championship win. Between the two of them, Aziz had a considerable 24-point gap, but even so, Race 1 winner Trilaksana did not give up and fought hard to try and take another win. In the race, as Trilaksana got involved in the scrap for the lead, Aziz tried to avoid pushing too hard and instead latched on to the back of the group as he clicked off laps. While Trilaksana finished on the podium in 2nd, Aziz took 8th place, which was enough to lift this year's championship crown.
Yamaha Racing Team
#76 Yuki Ito (DNF/9th)
"I went down in Race 1 with a mechanical issue. It was a very, very costly crash, but I was still only down 10 points from the leader as I'd done a good job building up points this season. In the second half of Race 1, I started to close down the lead group and was able to get close enough to put them in my sights, so I hadn't given up on the title chase at all. As I lined up for Race 2, I planned to focus on Apiwat and aim for the podium. I was in good shape from the start until I got up to about 5th or 6th, but after that I couldn't ride how I needed to and all I could do was try to hang onto my position. That's down to my own lack of ability, and looking back on it only leaves me frustrated. Not only did I miss out on the championship, but I couldn't even ride how I wanted to. I'm going to think long and hard about what it takes to win a championship so that this season doesn't end with nothing but regrets. I want to turn this experience into a positive and come back stronger next time. A big thanks to everybody for their support this year."
#64 Keminth Kubo (12th/16th)
"At the round in India, I was able to get a good overall feeling, but my crash there somewhat dented my confidence. On top of that, I couldn't find the best setup for the bike in time for Race 1. I still tried to push on despite the situation, but it was a really tough race right until the end. For Race 2, we swapped out the engine for a different one but we hadn't checked it thoroughly enough and that didn't work out very well for the race. Of course I gave it my best shot, but I would gain a position then lose a position, over and over. Looking back at the season, my only good ride was in India, but compared to the first race of the season, I feel like I've become a completely different rider. Physically, mentally, in skill, my way of thinking, everything's changed. But having too many crashes remains my biggest point to improve on. If I have another opportunity next season, I'd like to get results better than this season and become a regular podium challenger."
Kouji Kawabe, Motor Sport Strategy Division, Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.
"In Race 1, Ito had upped the pace and was catching the leaders when he was hit with a mechanical issue, resulting in a disappointing end to the race. It's always difficult to maintain concentration after something like that, but both Ito and the team showed no signs of giving up and put their full efforts into Race 2. But in the end, we finished in 9th and missed out on the championship. Looking back on the season, the results show that there were definitely ups and down in our results. Still, we made a comeback at round five by taking the win and showing we had the potential to do so. We put all of our energy into trying to win the championship, so it wasn't only the rider but also the team that missed out this season.
"As for Kubo, he had been fast in India so we were expecting him to finish in the top positions here at the final round. Although some mechanical issues were a contributing factor, he wasn't able to achieve a result to really put the finishing touch on his season. But as he has said himself, I feel like he's made tangible progress this season. But the fact remains that he had a lot of crashes. Though he's only just started his racing career and that can't be helped, I'd really like him not to waste this experience and instead use it to grow.
"Finally, thank you so much to our sponsors, suppliers and fans for your support this year. We will be back next season to continue our challenge for the title."
Yamaha Thailand Racing Team
#22 Apiwat Wongthananon (1st/1st)
"Winning Race 1 was a surprise even for me. I was happy just to be able to race at this event and at this circuit, so to win the race was just the icing on the cake for me. Of course, being a racer, the higher the finishing position the better, and the podium was my goal because I knew both the team's skill and the potential of the bike were high. I also think this result comes from my time in the CEV championship this year where I learned a lot about bike setup and racecraft. Of course the races weren't easy by any means. I knew the last corner would be my chance so I continued to push as hard as I could and I think that played a big part in taking the win. We managed to fine-tune the settings even more during the warmup session for Race 2, so I headed out with a lot of confidence. I could keep my focus while I was riding and the bike and conditions were perfect, so my times were fast and I was able to break away at the front. Though it was only two races, I did learn a lot and I plan to put that to good use in future races."
Theerapong Opaskornkul, Senior General Manager of Sales & Marketing Support
"Our rider and machine were perfect! First of all, Apiwat has gotten even stronger since last season. After participating in the VR46 Master Camp with Yamaha and the VR46 Riders Academy, and then riding for the VR46 Master Camp Team this year, he's worked hard, learned a lot and grown as a rider. In particular, his ability to set up the bike has improved and he's able to ride in a very clever way. He ran away in Race 2, but in Race 1 he had a fantastic last lap that really showed his improvement. It was obvious that he can now come up with a strategy then coolly execute it during a race. He's still young so I think he'll only get better from here; he's a very exciting prospect as a rider! Looking at the season as a whole, I can't say we've achieved the best results as a team. Next season we'll likely have the new R6 from the opening round and we'll carefully select riders with great potential, so we'll be out to win the title next year."
Yamaha Thailand Racing Team
#500 Anupab Sarmoon (2nd/2nd)
"The truth is that I couldn't really take the fight to my rivals in the beginning. But as the season progressed, I've slowly but surely gotten to the point that I can fight with them. That's thanks to the team revamping the machine and me working on improving my own skills with the help and input from more experienced riders. In Race 1, the team gave it their absolute all and I also used every last bit of strength I had. But there was still something lacking; it was how I put together the last lap. I hadn't planned well enough what to do in order to finish in the lead. In Race 2, the last corner of the last lap turned into a braking contest with Koyama, so I had the perfect opportunity for revenge. While I did get ahead, the pass carried me wide and while it was only just a bit, I had to bleed off speed and that cost me the race win. I think it tells me that I still have places to improve. I plan to ride in the AP250 class again next season and I'll definitely be aiming to make up for this season's frustration."
Theerapong Opaskornkul, Senior General Manager of Sales & Marketing Support
"It was the smallest gap, but we barely missed out on the win in both races. But both I and the team are really proud of Sarmoon's riding as he never gave up. I think all the fans that came to watch us today felt the same thing. Our rivals this season were on new and improved machines and because of that, we had a lot of trouble at the start. But in the second half, we got on par with them and were able to be competitive. Some of that was thanks to weight regulations being changed, but just as we saw today, Sarmoon was able to scrap with a seasoned veteran like Koyama, so he's greatly improved as a rider as well. We'll make all the necessary preparations for next season and come out swinging as we try to take the title."