■Race: 2018 Asia Road Racing Championship Rd. 02
■Location: Bend Motorsports Park, Australia
■Date: April 21, 2018
■Race Condition: Dry
■PP: Yuki Ito (1'56.591/Yamaha)
■PP: Rheza Danica Ahrens (2'08.039/Honda)
■FL: Mario Suryo Aji (2'07.705/Honda)
■Date: April 22, 2018
■PP: Yuki Ito (1'56.591/Yamaha)
■FL: Kasma Daniel Kasmayudin (1'56.716/Yamaha)
■PP: Rheza Danica Ahrens (2'08.039/Honda)
■FL: Mario Suryo Aji (2'07.285/Honda)
SS600: Ito Takes First Win of Season as Yamaha Riders Sweep Podium
Nearly a month and a half after the opening round in Thailand, Round 2 of the Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) made its way to The Bend Motorsports Park for the first time, a new stop on the calendar from this season. Located about 100 km from Adelaide in South Australia, the second round of the series was held over a relatively long four-day race weekend.
Yuki Ito (#76) of Yamaha Racing Team ASEAN was in fine form right from the first day, showing the steady progress he and the team have made with the new YZF-R6 after the first race with it at Round 1. He topped the timesheets in all three free practice sessions and qualified in pole position in a dominant performance that put his rivals on notice. Meanwhile his teammate Keminth Kubo (#64) was consistently near the leaders by the end of the second free practice, but he had a crash in Free Practice 3 prior to qualifying, which threw off his rhythm and was a factor in him qualifying in 12th.
Ito kept the momentum going in Race 1, slotting into 3rd as the race started before taking over the lead on lap 3 and quickly opening up a gap on the trailing riders. However, on lap 4 Ito crashed, causing the race to be red-flagged. While the race would be restarted, Ito and the bike were not ready in time to rejoin. Also, the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team's Decha Kraisart (#24) had a previously injured right wrist that he felt did not have enough strength to last the race, so he chose to withdraw.
The race was restarted and would take place over just 9 laps, but another crash a few laps in brought the red flag out once again. The race was thus cancelled altogether with no points or finishing order recorded.
The previous day's crash had resulted in a medical check for Ito, but once he was cleared to race, his mechanics worked tirelessly to get the R6 ready. Once again, Ito lined up at the front of the grid. Ito was in 3rd off the start again, but his strong form over the weekend was still very much alive. Like the day before, it was only one lap before he took the lead and began controlling the race from the front, reeling off laps on his way toward victory. But the red flag came out again, this time for a rival rider who had crashed, forcing Ito to try to make a break yet again.
It was an 8-lap sprint this time and the restart saw an all-R6 lead group with Hong Leong Yamaha Malaysia's Kasma Daniel Kasmayudin (#127) followed by the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team's Ratthapong Wilairot (#56) in 2nd and Ito behind them in 3rd.
Ito passed Wilairot on lap 3 and soon locked onto the rear of Kasmayudin and began to apply pressure. One lap later, Kasmayudin ran off track and promoted Ito to the lead. Ito then opened a steady gap to Wilairot, once again leaving him to run alone at the front. He rode without taking any risks to keep the lead to take his first victory of the season, overcoming the difficulties of his Race 1 crash and illustrating the progress he has made since the opening round.
Behind him, Wilairot also opened up a big gap to his pursuers and secured a 2nd place podium in just his second ARRC round aboard the R6. Furthermore, despite starting from 7th on the grid, Hong Leong Yamaha Malaysia's new recruit Md Ramdan Rosli (#32) picked off some of the top riders in the SS600 class one by one to slot into 3rd by lap 5. Following that he put space between himself and the riders behind to secure 3rd and complete a podium sweep for Yamaha and the R6.
Before the first red flag came out, Ito's teammate Kubo was unlucky to have a crash happen in front of him, forcing him to take evasive action and lose positions in the process. This meant that he was 13th on the grid for the restart, but he ran a solid race to bounce back and finish in 5th. Kasmayudin was leading the race after the restart but ran wide and had to regroup, managing to finish 8th. All in all, six R6s finished in the top 10, completing a strong showing for Yamaha at the ARRC's debut in Australia.
AP250: Anupab Finishes 4th in Both Races
After taking solid results at the opening round in Thailand, Yamaha's AP250 class riders were heading into this weekend's Australian round looking to continue that trend. But in qualifying, the Yamaha Yamalube KYT TJM WR Super Battery team's Rafid Topan Sucipto (#250) qualified as the top Yamaha in 4th while points leader Anupab Sarmoon (#500) of the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team qualified 5th.
The first half of the race saw a lead group of five riders form which included Sarmoon, but the pace of the front two was too fast and they got away, leaving Sarmoon to battle for the rest of the race with the remaining three for 3rd. It was an intense fight and Sarmoon was able to take over 4th for a time, but unable to break through to 3rd. He came into the final lap down in 5th and managed to make a pass to take 4th in the entry to the final corner, after which he tried to make one last move for 3rd but was a step too far, resulting in a 4th place finish.
AP250 class rookie Anggi Setiawan (#96) of the Yamaha Yamalube KYT TJM WR Super Battery team placed 7th, while Sucipto finished 8th and Yamaha Racing Indonesia's M. Faerozi (#901) took 9th. With the addition of the CKJ Yamaha Racing Team's Ahmad Afif Amran (#50) in 10th, there were five Yamaha riders in the top 10.
The early stages of Race 2 saw the Yamahas get off to a good start and hold onto the top positions, but it was not long before their rivals fought back. Sarmoon, Sucipto, Amran and Setiawan rose to the challenge, but could not match the pace of the two at the front and the race unfolded much like Race 1 with a battle for the final podium spot. However, the Yamaha riders were unable to run the race as they had hoped.
Even in this challenging situation, Sarmoon pushed his R25 hard to try for a podium finish. But on lap 8, an on-track incident brought the red flag out and the race was declared over based on the riders' positions on lap 7. This meant Sarmoon took 4th and Setiawan 6th, meaning no Yamaha riders were able to climb the podium steps.
UB150: Two Race Wins and Five Podiums in All
In the first few laps of Race 1, the lead group was reduced to five with three Yamaha riders among them, one of whom was Yamaha Racing Indonesia's Wahyu Aji Trilaksana (#60). As is often the case, the final lap was decisive, with several riders coming into the final corner in close proximity. Emerging the victor was Md Izzat Zaidi (#98) of the RCB Yamaha YY Pang Racing team. Together with his Race 1 win at the opening round, this marked his second victory of the season. Trilaksana finished in 3rd, a mere 0.021 seconds behind the 2nd place finisher.
The Yamaha contingent absolutely dominated in Race 2. There were eight Yamahas in the top 10 in the early laps before the UMA Racing Yamaha Maju Motor Asia Team's Md Haziq Md Fairues (#26) pulled away from the rest with a rival, making it a two-rider showdown for the win. Fairues was in 2nd for a time before the lead rider had a mechanical issue on lap 5 and had to retire. This gave Fairues the lead, where he ran unopposed until the finish. His wildcard teammate Mckinley Kyle Paz (#123) also managed to break away from the group and cruised alone to 2nd place. The final podium spot was also filled by a member of the team as Md Akid Aziz (#13) won out in a dogfight at the last corner, making it a podium sweep for the UMA Racing Yamaha Maju Motor Asia Team. In all, there were Yamaha riders in five of the available six podium positions for both races, illustrating Yamaha's strength in the class. Trilaksana unfortunately made contact with another machine under braking in the second half of the race and was forced to retire.
The next round will be held in Japan at Suzuka Circuit for three days starting on June 1.
Yamaha Racing Team ASEAN
#76 Yuki Ito (SS600: - /1st)
"My crash in Race 1 happened when a huge gust of wind came just as I was riding over a small bump in the corner. Luckily there was no major damage to myself or the bike, but it was very disappointing because I was leading the race. Then in Race 2 the red flag came out while I had a good lead so that really frustrated me, and to be honest I was still frustrated right up until the restart. So once I got into 3rd with the restart, I reminded myself to ride calmly and smoothly, and wait to see how things played out. After I got into 2nd behind Kasma, his pace was really fast so I wasn't certain about keeping that up, but I noticed him starting to get tired and make mistakes, so I could relax a bit. Last year in Suzuka I got two 2nd places which wasn't what I wanted, so I want to go with this momentum and take pole position and do a double to bring myself closer to taking the title this season."
#64 Keminth Kubo (SS600: - /7th)
"It was tough starting from 12th on the grid, so all I was thinking about was trying to move forward. I made a mistake on lap 3 and almost ran off the track, but besides that I think I did everything well and got my best result yet. This is a 'what if,' but if I hadn't made that mistake I think I had the pace to aim for the podium. If you look at my All Japan and ARRC results so far this season I think I'm slowly starting to build up speed and confidence. If we can get the right settings and other things in place for Suzuka, I think I'll be in a good position to try for the podium again, so please keep an eye on me at the next round."
Team Manager Yuji Saiki
"Ito took the top time in every practice session leading up to the races. Kubo crashed in FP3 and upset his rhythm, which resulted him taking 12th in qualifying, but his times were still definitely not bad. Taking that into consideration and looking at everything overall, this proves to us that the issues we found in the opening round have been resolved and that we have a bike that can challenge for wins. That's why we were really looking forward to Race 1, but the conditions worsened with the heavy wind, the falling track temperature, etc. Ito crashed out while running alone in the lead and the two red flags ended up cancelling the race itself.
"In Race 2, though it was a wild race, Ito still got to the front during the first half, managed the gap to the others and brought the bike home safely for the win. Kubo had a bad grid position for the restart as he had to avoid a crash in the race before it was stopped, but his pace was not far off the leaders and he recovered well to finish 5th. It taught him a lot he can use in the coming rounds.
"To get closer to achieving the team's goal of winning the title this year, getting another win at Suzuka will be crucial. That is mostly up to Ito, but for Kubo, I hope to see him maintain a good flow of proceedings throughout the weekend and figure out what he needs to do to keep growing, and we'll continue to support him to that end. Going forward, I want to improve our teamwork and competitiveness.
"We also have the mission of highlighting the R6's potential and at this round we swept the podium, really showing just how good the standard R6 is. At the next round in Suzuka as well, we'll continue supporting our riders and show how strong Yamaha is across the board."
Yamaha Thailand Racing Team
#56 Ratthapong Wilairot (SS600 Race 2: 2nd)
"First, I'm really happy I was able to finish on the podium with 2nd. This was an important podium for me, but also for Yamaha. The new R6 was brought into the series on a much bigger scale this year and it's really competitive. I think that's why we were able to get such a great result in just the second round of the season. I have to thank Yamaha, the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team and all the other support I've been given with the opportunity to be here and get such a positive result. It will be my first time to ride Suzuka on the R6, but I know it's a very competitive package, so I'll aim for the podium again."
Theerapong Opaskornkul, Senior General Manager of Sales & Marketing Support
"Ratthapong headed into the races having qualified in 7th place, but it's only been three races since he joined the team and started riding the R6. He's already well acclimated to the team and the machine, and he's made some big steps forward. Race 1 was cancelled due to red flags, but in Race 2, until the first red flag and also after the restart, he was within aiming distance of the podium and ended up taking 2nd. He showed us both his skills and a strong racing spirit. He also proved that he's one of the fastest young Thai riders. I think he'll make further progress at the next round in Suzuka and continue to take podiums this season."
Hong Leong Yamaha Malaysia
#32 Md Ramdan Rosli (SS600 Race 2: 3rd)
"To be honest I'm really surprised with this result, but even more than that I'm happy because we had had some machine issues, but the team pulled together and gave it their best and I rode full-out until the checkered flag. That's why I think we were able to get this result. The next round will be my second visit to Suzuka after last season, so I'll give 100% in the free practices, qualifying and of course in the races so we can aim for another result like we had this weekend."
Team Manager Sean Wong Hong Siong
"We actually were dealing with a minor machine issue this weekend, so I'm really surprised at Ramdan's result. He scored a podium here, but his teammate Kasma was also able to run at the front, so I feel like the races here have been something of a breakthrough for our team. I'm glad we were able to contribute to a strong overall showing for Yamaha at this event. But our two riders are still growing, so at the next round in Suzuka I want them to show everyone once again how much potential they have and get some great results."