SS600: Kubo Claims First ARRC Podium as Ito Narrowly Misses 3rd
There was a long six-week gap between the previous round in Australia and this weekend's round in Japan. Yamaha Racing Team ASEAN's Yuki Ito (#76) qualified in 4th aboard his YZF-R6 with his teammate Keminth Kubo (#64) behind him in 5th. In front of the two was Ratthapong Wilairot (#56) of the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team in 2nd, lining up on the front row in a great position for Race 1.
The beginning of the race saw all of the riders engage in a close-quarters dogfight for supremacy, with Yamaha-mounted Wilairot, Ito, Kubo and Anthony West (#13) all featuring as protagonists in the battle at the front. Ito went on the offensive after finishing the first lap in 4th. His braking into the final chicane allowed him to better his position until eventually taking over the lead on lap 3 with Wilairot and West behind him to form a group of three Yamahas at the front. But the group's rivals would not remain silent.
By the middle stages of the race, Kawasaki's Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman (#25) and Ahmad Yudhistira (#33) began their counterattack. As the race wound down, the two had formed a 1-2 at the front with Ito trailing West in 4th and looking for an opportunity to attack. Ito made passes on West for 3rd on a number of occasions, but he couldn't make any of them stick in the end and came across the finish line in 4th. West held onto 3rd for a podium finish.
Meanwhile, Kubo's race took place behind the lead group in 5th. Just as the battle was heating up at the front, Kubo also found himself in the midst of a scrap for positions. He fell as low as 8th for a time in the latter stages, but persevered to take his best finish of the season in 6th, illustrating the progress that he is making with each race to close the gap to the leaders. Wilairot took 8th while his teammate Decha Kraisart (#24) finished in 11th with a still-injured wrist.
Looking to get payback for Race 1, the Yamaha riders pushed hard for the lead. This was especially true for Ito who made his way into 2nd on the first lap, but the race was red-flagged for a crash that happened soon after. Once the race was restarted, Ito again showed his speed in getting into 2nd on the first lap before passing Kawasaki's Kamaruzaman to storm into the lead on lap 2.
Ito continued to hold onto 1st position, but on lap 5 a major battle broke out. Kawasaki's Yudhistira managed to pass the Yamaha contingent for the lead, but Ito fought back the following lap, bringing West and Kubo with him to form an all-R6 top three. Lap 7 and lap 8 saw Ito, Kubo and West slice and dice for the lead several times before Kubo broke through to 2nd to start the final lap.
But Ito's thirst for a win was clear and he came through at the first corner leading the race. He did his best to ride defensively and keep the trailing riders behind him as he edged closer to the checkered flag. But in the second half of the lap his defenses began to falter. Kubo was the first to come through, followed by West. Before the finish line, Ito lost yet another position on the back straight to Yudhistira, dropping him back to 4th.
Kubo continued his strong ride and looked close to taking his first win in the series as he approached the final chicane, which had already produced plenty of drama over the course of the race weekend. It was there that West came up the inside of Kubo with a perfectly timed braking maneuver to slide into 1st. While this relegated Kubo to 2nd, it was his first-ever podium in only his second season in the ARRC. Ito meanwhile made a final attempt to pass Yudhistira before the finish line, lining up beside him into the final chicane. However, he just missed out on the podium in the drag to the checkered flag by a mere 0.03 seconds, taking 4th again.
AP250: Anupab Stages Stunning Comeback in Race 1 for 2nd
It proved to be another difficult weekend for Yamaha riders in the 250cc class. In every session they saw the gap to their rivals continue to grow wider. In qualifying, the situation they found themselves in was Reynaldo Chrisantho Ratukore of the ONEXOX TKKR Racing Team (#222) being the highest-placed Yamaha in 6th, with Yamaha Thailand Racing Team star Anupab Sarmoon (#500) behind him in 7th.
But in the race, Sarmoon put on an outstanding performance that belied his qualifying pace. Although Honda's Rheza Danica Ahren (#123) was able to escape at the front, the first half of the race saw Sarmoon get locked into a six-way battle for 2nd as the sole Yamaha rider in the group.
In the second half, as if spurred on by Sarmoon in front of them, Yamaha Yamalube KYT TJM WR Super Battery's Anggi Setiawan (#96), Sarmoon's teammate Peerapong Boonlert (#45), CKJ Yamaha Racing Team's Ahmad Afif Amran (#50) and Ratukore began to close in on the group until they all lined up behind to make it nine bikes in all vying for the podium.
By the closing stages of the race however, the sole Yamaha in the group behind the leader was once again Sarmoon as he entered the final chicane in 4th. While braking for the chicane, his rivals made mistakes, overshooting their lines or in some cases crashing, but the cool-headed Sarmoon completed the corner without incident, instantly jumping up through the order. He kept it smooth through the final corner as well to take a fantastic 2nd place finish after a long and challenging race.
As Ahren broke away at the front on his Honda at a blistering pace just he had in Race 1, the Yamahas got off to a good start with Ratukore slotting into 2nd with Sarmoon right behind in 3rd. But the group they were leading ballooned into a 14-rider train, with positions being chopped and changed regularly.
The R25 riders battled amidst this group for much of the race, often swapping positions during the latter half of the lap, but still had difficulty making any solid progress toward the leaders. However, in the middle stages of the race, two riders in front crashed out and bumped Sarmoon up to 3rd, giving the Yamahas a solid chance at the podium again.
But as the race approached its conclusion, the Yamahas could not get within striking distance the leaders out in front, their pace being too fast to make a pass. And once again the final lap saw the riders in a braking battle at the final chicane. In it, Ahmad Afif Amran (#50) of the CKJ Yamaha Racing Team improved his position to 4th while Sarmoon was in 6th, the pair narrowly missing out on the podium but taking top-10 finishes.
UB150: A Yamaha 2-3 in Race 1 with a Podium Sweep in Race 2
Just before the race start there was an accident which caused a delay, and as a result the race was shortened by a lap to make it a very short sprint race of just five laps. The opening few laps were hectic as is normally the case in the UB150 class, but the top group was soon made up of several Yamahas, including Yamaha Racing Indonesia's Wahyu Aji Trilaksana (#60). But in the latter half of the race, this lead group was caught by the trailing group, resulting in a frantic final few laps.
The last lap saw rival riders enter the final chicane in the lead, with the UMA Racing Yamaha Maju Motor Asia Team's Md Akid Aziz (#13) taking 2nd followed by the Yamalube SND Factory team's Gupita Kresna (#23) finishing in 3rd. Trilaksana was unable to reach the podium and took a 4th place finish.
Md Affendi Rosli (#36) of Team One For All got a rocket start and came across the line in 1st after the opening lap. But before long, Race 1 podium finisher Kresna and another rider closed in, making it a three-way battle for the lead. By the middle stages this group of three were caught by the trailing group to form a single group of over 10 machines, eight of which were Yamahas. The group diced for position, swapping places at nearly every corner of the circuit in a contest for the lead.
The race went on like this until the final lap, with no one able to break away from the pack. With each rider having an eye on a win, about ten machines flew into the final chicane side-by-side. With it truly looking like any one of them could take the victory, the tricky situation was managed best by Kresna, who was followed by Trilaksana in 2nd and Md Izzat Zaidi (#98) of the RCB Yamaha Y Y Pang Racing team in 3rd. They completed a Yamaha podium sweep for the third time in six races this season.
Round 4 is set to take place at the Madras Motor Race Track in India over the course of three days starting on August 3.
Yamaha Racing Team ASEAN
#64 Keminth Kubo (SS600: 6th/2nd）
"I couldn't focus well in the beginning of qualifying so I wasn't able to set a fast time, but I got better as the session went on and set my best time on my last lap. I was aiming for a position a little bit higher on the grid, so that was disappointing.
"There were a lot of battles in Race 1 and my bike wasn't set up for that so I didn't have the best drive coming out of corners. That made it tough to carry out a strategy and I ended up in 6th. We changed the setup for Race 2, so I went in confident I could fight on track. In the first half, I took my time and waited for chances to move ahead if one opened up. In the second half I put priority on conserving my tire so I'd be able to battle hard later while watching the front group from behind to come up with a strategy to take the fight to them. I focused more on my pace than my position in the second half, and then in the closing laps I flipped the switch and went for it and I came into the final lap in the lead. But to be honest, I was a bit nervous going into the chicane on the last lap and that led to West passing me.
"It was a race that reminded me that I still lack experience, but I'm still really happy with this 2nd place. I'm so thankful to everyone that has been behind me to get me to this point. I'll give it my best shot to get on the podium again at the next round in India."
#76 Yuki Ito (SS600: 4th/4th)
"Due to a crash on Friday, my qualifying started with a machine shakedown run. There were no issues, so I could set the top time in the beginning and confirm that I was close to riding at my ideal pace. After that I dropped down to 4th, so we put on a new tire and tried again, but the setup wasn't perfect so we ended up staying in 4th.
"But I had a good feeling already, so I headed into Race 1 feeling confident. I was riding well in the first few laps, so I started looking for everybody's strengths and weaknesses. But when a rider I didn't expect to see came past me, it threw off my rhythm and in the end I finished 4th. But the race itself was good and I could take a lot of positives into Race 2.
"Race 2 turned out to be a really frustrating one, though. I was passed by Keminth and Anthony on the last lap, so I planned to fight back in the final part of the track, but I made a mistake at the Spoon Curve that let Yudhistira through on the straight. I tried to attack around the outside at the chicane, but I couldn't keep it under control when I was on the limit and I ran wide. That meant I couldn't make a comeback and ended up 4th again.
"I was only thinking about winning at Suzuka, so two 4th places is frustrating. But the championship doesn't end at Suzuka and we still have three more races to go. I'm 3rd in the points now, so I think the real challenge for the title begins now. At the next round in India, I want to completely outrace my two main rivals and take back the momentum in the championship."
Team Manager Yuji Saiki
"Ito rode two strong races; he was with the frontrunners, looked on par with his rivals in the battles he had and I think he was able to show his true potential. But in Race 1 there was some contact with other riders and in Race 2 he got passed on the final lap, so with two 4th places, these were disappointing results both for Ito himself and the team.
"Keminth scored his best result ever in Race 2. I could feel that he was growing as a rider last season, but now that he has some numbers to prove it, I'm sure this will be a big confidence booster for him and I think it will translate into further progress for him. He approached the race weekend well, not crashing once and making steady progress by doing what he needed to do to move forward step-by-step. He still needs to work on his starts and I think this race illustrated the experience gap he has to some other riders, but I hope it will open up even more room for improvement. I think he'll really start to shine from here so we're looking forward to rest of the season.
"The next round is at a circuit both our riders go well at, so our goal is to win both races with both riders on the podium. We'll use the long gap to the next race to train harder and come out swinging in India."
Yamaha Thailand Racing Team
#500 Anupab Sarmoon (AP250 Race 1: 2nd)
"I was able to score a really good result today and it's all thanks to my team. Today, the other riders were really fast so it was a tough round, but I was able to get used to battling in a big pack in the practice sessions, so when it came to the actual races I was well prepared. For the chicane on the final lap, I tried hard to focus on just that and brake as late as possible to try and be in as high a position as possible. That worked out well and together with the unlucky crashes for my rivals, I was able to get a great result."
Theerapong Opaskornkul, Senior General Manager of Sales & Marketing Support
"With our rivals having really competitive machines this season, we've made a lot of modifications to our bike and managed to develop it further. But the reality is that we're still currently lacking in several areas compared to our rivals. We knew that ahead of time, so for Anupab to be running in 5th in Race 1 was some really impressive riding. Then on the last lap when a few rivals crashed out in the final chicane, while that was largely down to their mistakes, Anupab chose a great line to be able to come through and take a podium finish in 2nd."