■Race: 2018 Asia Road Racing Championship Rd. 1
■Location: Chang International Circuit, Thailand
■Date: March 3, 2018
■Race Condition: Dry
■PP: Md Zaqhwan Zaidi (1'38.469/Honda)
■FL: Thitipong Warokorn (1'39.283/Kawasaki)
■PP: Anupab Sarmoon (1'53.064/Yamaha)
■FL: Mario Suryo Aji (1'53.603/Honda)
■Date: March 4, 2018
■Race Condition: Dry
■PP: Md Zaqhwan Zaidi (1'38.469/Honda)
■FL: Md Zaqhwan Zaidi (1'39.213/Honda)
■PP: Anupab Sarmoon (1'53.064/Yamaha)
■FL: Peerapong Boonlert (1'53.868/Yamaha)
SS600: West Takes 2nd and the Race 2 Win as Kraisart Finishes 2nd and Ito 4th
The 2018 Asia Road Racing Championship season began roughly one month earlier than it did last year, and the opening round was held at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand, which is also set to hold its first MotoGP round this season.
With "ASEAN" added to their name, Yamaha Racing Team ASEAN makes a fresh start this season. With rider and machine development being the focal points of the team, riders Yuki Ito (#76) and Keminth Kubo (#64) will work toward those goals as they represent both Yamaha and the ASEAN region, strive to win the championship, gain experience and grow as riders. They are both models for young riders, but also strong rivals for each other as they contest the season.
The opening round, just as in the pre-season tests before, saw the team work to adapt to the new YZF-R6 and address issues over the race weekend. Under these circumstances, Kubo qualified in 7th and Ito in 10th. Once Race 1 was underway, the team's lead rider Ito ran off track due to a minor issue within three laps of the start and was forced to fight his way back from essentially last place. But even so, he quickly recovered his composure and began setting fast laps in the 1'39s, eventually taking the checkers in 12th.
Meanwhile, Kubo showed the progress he has made since last season. He came across the line in 12th after the first lap after a somewhat slow start, but steadily began to make up positions. By the middle of the race he had chased down the leading group and latched onto its back. As the race progressed he lost touch with the top three bikes, but then got mixed in the battle for 4th and at times was a high as 6th, but ran out of steam towards the end and lost positions. He still finished inside the top 10 with 9th, which was a major step up from his results last season.
The Yamaha Thailand Racing Team, constant frontrunners in the ARRC, is contesting this season with veteran rider Decha Kraisart (#24) and Ratthapong Wilairot (#56), who has been drafted into the team to replace the injured Chalermpol Polamai. With this being the team's home round, it was no wonder that the two riders qualified well, with Wilairot on the front row in 3rd and Kraisart in 5th. Both were poised to begin the race from favorable spots on the grid.
In the first half of the race, Kraisart was involved in the scrap for the lead, but crashed on lap 7 and had to sit out the remainder. Wilairot was keeping pace at the back of the leading group during the first half, before putting his true abilities on display in the second half. He contested 4th and swapped positions with his rivals several times as he battled for position before finally finishing 6th in his first race for Yamaha.
Md Ramdan Rosli (#32) and Kasma Daniel Kasmayudin (#127) of the Hong Leong Yamaha Malaysia team finished 14th and 15th, respectively while YZF-R6-mounted privateer Anthony West (#13) finished on the podium in 2nd.
The Yamaha Racing Team ASEAN showed forward progress from Race 1. Ito, who started from 10th on the grid, improved his position on the opening lap to 7th. Machine and rider were beginning to mesh well after the team had worked through the issues faced in pre-season testing, and as a result Ito was able to contest the race in the lead group.
In the middle stages especially, Ito climbed as high as 5th. But the lack of time on the bike began to show and small mistakes caused Ito to slip down the order. He also had difficulties re-passing when overtaken by trailing riders, so the race became one of perseverance. In the end, Ito managed to stick with the lead group and the two riders in front of him crashing in the last corner of the final lap lifted him two positions in the final order. Though he missed out on the podium, his riding in the opening round made it clear to his rivals that he has the speed to be at the front this season.
Kubo made a slight mistake in the fourth corner and found himself in 13th after the first lap. After that he kept the mistakes to a minimum and set a steady pace to recover to 10th. Crashes further up the field on the final lap and Kubo's own passes won him a few more positions. He came up short of his goal of hitting the top 5 by finishing 7th, but showed how much he has improved as a rider with top-10 finishes in both races.
Meanwhile, the R6 was dominating at the front as Anthony West (#13) rode a solid race from start to finish and improved on his 2nd place in Race 1 with a win in Race 2. Both Kraisart and Wilairot were locked in a battle with West to form the top 3 for part of the race. But the trailing riders went on the offensive, which cost Wilairot a position and eventually his race as he made contact with another rider in the last corner of the final lap. Kraisart benefited from this as he made up a position to finish 2nd and close out the opening round on a positive note.
AP250: Sarmoon Takes Race Win in Chaotic Season Opener as Sucipto Finishes 2nd in Race 2
The Asia Production 250 (AP250) class has produced young talent in recent years. Apiwat Wongthananon won the 2016 AP250 title and got the opportunity to ride in the CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship. Galang Hendra Pratama made a wildcard appearance in the World Supersport 300 (WSSP300) Championship in addition to his AP250 duties and won the race. He is now set to contest a full season in the WSSP300 class.
Leading the YZF-R25 charge this season is Anupab Sarmoon (#500) of the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team, just as he did last season when he finished 3rd overall as the highest placed YZF-R25 rider. He will be joined by other R25-mounted riders from Yamaha bases in the ASEAN region as they set out to make their way from Asia to the world stage.
Sarmoon has more experience in the class than most and made that fact clear with the pace he set in the practice sessions on the first day. He was inside the top 3 in all three of the practice sessions and qualified in pole position. Race 1 had 10 different machines dicing at the front, and Sarmoon was the lead R25 taking it to his rivals, which seemed to spur on his fellow R25 riders to aim for the podium.
Of these were Sarmoon's teammates Peerapong Boonlert (#45) and Kanatat Jaiman (#90), as well as Yamaha Racing Indonesia's fulltime lineup of rookie Richard Taroreh (#179) and M. Faerozi (#901), among the total seven R25 riders in the mix.
The race was a free-for-all right down to the final lap, where Sarmoon controlled the pace into the final corner and came across the line in 1st to take the win. Behind him, Boonlert finished 4th while Indonesian rider Rafid Topan Sucipto (#250) took 5th to round out an overall positive set of results.
Race 2 saw Yamaha's rivals mount a comeback. The lead group was narrowed down to 12 machines, and in the opening stages Yamaha riders were in contention for the lead. But by the middle of the race, the top 5 positions were all taken by other manufacturers, while the six R25s were all below 6th. Towards the end however, the R25s went on the attack and made their way forward to take on the front five.
The Indonesian and Thai riders in particular put up a strong fight as they forced their way into the top five and even took the lead before the scrap resumed. As it often does, the final corner was the scene of a major tussle as Sucipto of the Yamaha Yamalube KYT TJM WR Super Battery team forced his way into the top positions to take 2nd at the finish line, notching up a podium finish in the process. Jaiman on the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team, in his first full season of AP250 competition, took 3rd while Boonlert was 4th and Sarmoon took 5th. It was clear that new talents are emerging in the class as strong results were achieved from the free-for-all battle.
UB150: An All-Yamaha Podium in Race 1!
By the middle stages of the race, eight riders had formed the top group and they sliced and diced until the final corner of the last lap. Coming into that corner in the lead was championship contender Wahyu Aji Trilaksana (#60) on the Yamaha Racing Indonesia team, but there was a multi-bike crash that included Yamaha riders and others. Md Izzat Zaidi (#98) of the RCB Yamaha Y Y Pang Racing team managed to avoid the pileup and take the win, while Md Affendi Rosli (#36) of Team One For All took 2nd. Trilaksana managed to quickly remount his bike and make it across the line in 3rd, completing an all-Yamaha podium to start the season in excellent fashion.
There was a fierce scrap for the lead in Race 2, just as there had been in Race 1. Trilaksana latched on to the rear of the lead group and bided his time. Closer to the end of the race, he made his move and immediately jumped into the lead. He again came into the final corner of the last lap at the front, but rode carefully and kept the trailing riders behind him. This paid off and allowed him to take the checkers and his first victory of the season.
However, his riding on the straight leading up to the last corner resulted in him receiving a 20-second penalty to his final time, which changed his result to 9th overall and made Syahrul Amin (#199) of the Yamaha Yamalube SND Factory team the highest-placed Yamaha in 2nd.
The ARRC will head to Australia for the first time for Round 2, scheduled for the three days of April 20 to 22.
Yamaha Racing Team ASEAN
#76 Yuki Ito (SS600: 12th/4th)
"I ran wide on lap 3 because of a brake issue and fell back to 21st. I knew it would be almost impossible to catch the frontrunners, but I thought it would be important to gather data to help us for Race 2, so I concentrated on that and kept riding. This weekend has been our first with the new R6, so both myself and the team were still trying to get a full understanding of it. That, coupled with minor mechanical issues, made some things more difficult for us. But after running wide at the start, I settled down and had a consistent pace which showed itself in the lap times. I finished 12th, and while that isn't a result we can be satisfied with, we managed to take that experience into Race 2. I put what we learned in Race 1 into practice and gave my best, and the result was even better than I had hoped for, so I'm satisfied. To be honest, while I'm able to catch riders, I still can't make passes at the moment. But I really felt the potential of the new bike, so we'll work hard with testing from here to get a better grasp of the bike and come back stronger at the next round to aim for the win or the podium."
#64 Keminth Kubo (SS600: 9th/7th)
"We got some really solid results in the practice sessions, but in qualifying the top guys all set fast times so I qualified 7th. But that was the kind of result I was expecting, so I was really positive going into the races. I made a mistake at the start of Race 1 and dropped back, but I was later able to concentrate, hold a fast pace and recover positions. But the settings we changed just before the race caused the tires to wear down really quickly, and with just two laps to go, it became hard to control the bike and I lost some places. I was aiming for the top 5 in Race 2 and I got 7th, so I'm not satisfied with the result. There were reasons for this, such as me not quite being familiar with using the clutch on the new R6, which caused me to run wide in the corners and lose positions. But even so, I kept my mind focused on tire management and my times were consistent in the latter half of the race. I was able to pass Koyama (Honda) on the last lap to finish on a good note. I plan to improve my riding before the next round so I can shoot for a top 5 finish."
Yuji Saiki, Team Manager
"We have the new R6 this year and its performance has been enhanced in several areas. But we still haven't had many opportunities to ride it and adjust the settings, so we weren't quite where we needed to be and had some minor issues. But Kubo set the fastest time in the practice sessions and Ito rode at a steady pace in the 39s in Race 1. So while we're very confident in the bike's potential, it still feels a bit like we've only just arrived on the starting line. We've also changed the team structure and way of doing things, so we've got things running and our operations are now on track.
"In Race 1, Ito ran off track due to a mechanical issue and ended with a disappointing result, but as I said, the incredible way he recovered showed that both he and the machine are a frontrunning package. Kubo was able to execute his race strategy throughout the weekend with no crashes and clear improvement overall. In Race 1 he lost a bit of speed at the end of the race due to some setting changes, but still showed the results of the progress he's made.
"In Race 2, Ito finished 4th and Kubo 7th, both higher than they were in Race 1. To be honest, we started Race 2 with one unresolved issue with the bike, so considering their places on the starting grid and the current state of our machine, I feel that the results were satisfactory. As far as the issues we still have, it looks like we'll be able to solve them in testing so we should be in much better shape for the next round. The bike has a lot of potential as do our riders, so I think we'll be in the running for the win next time."
Yamaha Thailand Racing Team
#24 Decha Kraisart (SS600 Race 2: 2nd)
"In Race 1, I was falling behind the leaders so I got impatient, pushed too hard and crashed. Since I need to think about the overall championship, my main goal in Race 2 was to finish the race while trying to stay with the leaders. I made a few mistakes and shuffled positions a bit, but in the end, I got 2nd. As I'm trying to win the championship, a win would have been best but considering I also had a crash in Race 1 and in the warmup, I think this result was quite good. The next round will be a circuit that's new to me so it won't be easy, but I believe in our team so I think we can get a good result."
#500 Anupab Sarmoon (AP250 Race 1: 1st)
"This win was my first since the final round of 2016, so to be able to win at my first home race of the season was fantastic and I'm really happy. Last season we suffered a lot trying to catch our rivals' new models, but we've now developed our machine in response and I've worked to improve myself as well. The skills and teamwork of our entire staff were a huge confidence booster for me this weekend. At one point the lead group was even bigger than I thought it would be, so I was worried about unexpected accidents and other trouble, but I think the reason I won was that I stayed calm and focused so I could ride my own race right to the end. All in all, this turned out to be a great start to this season and our title challenge."
#90 Kanatat Jaiman (AP250 Race 2: 3rd)
"First of all, I'm really happy to have been included as a part of the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team, but I was naturally extremely nervous at the opening round here. The riders in this championship are at a really high level, and I couldn't ride how I wanted to in Race 1. But I still studied how others were riding and made adjustments to my own riding; I kept thinking and altering my riding style in the middle of the race. The fact that I could take a 3rd place finish in Race 2 was thanks to that I think. I'll be riding in Australia for the first time at the next round. I plan to learn the track, then improve my riding and aim to stand on the podium again."
Theerapong Opaskornkul, Senior General Manager of Sales & Marketing Support
"In the SS600 class, Decha crashed out in the important first race of the season opener, which was a major shock to us. But Decha didn't let that affect his mentality and managed to take a podium finish with 2nd in Race 2. This was Ratthapong's first race with our team and the primary aim was for him to get used to the bike. But he improved day by day and was able to contest at the front. He has podium potential so we're looking forward to what he can show us in the coming races.
"In AP250 it was a close proximity battle among more than 10 bikes, so I think it was a very difficult race for our three riders. Anupab did a great job of staying calm and using his skills to get the win in Race 1, and we were able to confirm that Peerapong and Kanatat can also battle it out on track. In race 2, our rivals had locked out the top positions until the second half. Anupab fought quite aggressively, but I think held back some as his priority is the championship title. In this kind of tough race, Kanatat was able to take 3rd. We knew he is a rider with a lot of talent, but to best his goal of finishing in the top 5 by a couple positions was fantastic and this race showed us we can expect more from him as the season goes on."