- Asia Road Racing Championship Round 6, Thailand
- Supersports 600cc / Asia Production 250cc
- Date: 4 December, 2016
- Circuit: Chang International Circuit (4.554 km)
Azlan Shah Finishes Season Ranked 3rd Overall!
While most racing championships have already wrapped up their seasons, the Asia Road Racing Championship is a notable exception with Round 6, its final round, taking place this past weekend at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand.
Though the summer seemingly never ends in Southeast Asia, there was nevertheless a cool morning breeze that brought a chill to the inland part of Thailand where the Buriram circuit is located. Compared to the sweltering heat seen at Round 2, which also took place at this circuit, daytime temperatures around 25℃ made conditions much easier for the riders and teams to deal with.
Because it was the final round, there were quite a few wildcard entries: Chalermpol Polamai (Yamaha – ST600) and Tatsuya Yamaguchi (Honda) from the All Japan Road Race Championship, Hikari Okubo from the World Supersport Championship, and Bike ART Kawasaki’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin. How these wildcard riders would mix it up with the regulars was a point of focus for fans.
Ahmad Yudhistira, who showed good pace overall despite having suffered a major accident in Race 2 here at Round 2, and Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman, who took a 2nd place podium finish here, were both out to better their previous results and cap off their seasons with strong finishes. Their motivation showed in the free practice sessions as they wasted no time getting to work searching for the best machine setup.
Qualifying took place on December 2nd, the second day of the event. In it, the pace setters were the local Thai riders.
Polamai recorded a 1’38.547 to take pole position, while Kraisart (Yamaha) secured 2nd with a 1’38.569. Anucha Narkcharoensri (Yamaha) qualified 3rd with a 1’38.901 to make it an all-Thai front row.
Kawasaki’s Azlan Shah notched a 1’39.411 to qualify in 6th, while Yudhistira secured 13th with a 1’39.805. Wildcard Khairuddin’s qualifying lap of 1’40.134 placed him 21st on the starting grid, making the race a difficult proposition. However, Azlan Shah’s time put him close to the top, and Yudhistira’s time was achieved as he overcame machine trouble during the qualifying session, so both riders had a positive outlook heading into the races.
The third day of the event saw Race 1 get underway with the entire front row making great starts. The other riders too entered the first corner in nearly the same order as they had qualified. The Thai contingent had already broken away, but chasing them down were Yuki Takahashi (Honda), Anthony West (Yamaha), Azlan Shah and Dimas Ekky Pratama (Honda). The first big change at the front happened on lap 3. 4th placed Takahashi low-sided in the third corner and West lost several positions trying to avoid him as he ran off the track. This opened a big gap between the leading three riders and now 4th placed Azlan Shah. Azlan Shah was turning laps at a pace similar to the leaders, but not quite quick enough to close the gap. Behind him were Pratama, Yudhistira, Tomoyoshi Koyama (Honda), Md Zaqhwan Zaidi (Honda), West and Yuki Ito (Yamaha), who formed a group that jostled for position until the end of the race. Escaping that group was the double winner of the previous round, Anthony West. On lap 13 he caught up to Azlan Shah and passed him at the third corner on lap 15. However, Azlan Shah locked onto to the back of West and waited for an opening. In the last corner of the final lap, he squeezed into a gap to the inside of West, who had already moved to the inside to block such a move. His efforts paid off as he slipped past West to take the checkers in 4th. Meanwhile Yudhistira had been able to move to the front of the trailing group, but towards the end of the race his tyres began to lose traction and he eventually finished in 9th. Khairuddin ran into trouble and wasn’t able to up his pace, crossing the line in 15th. Fadly had a machine issue and was forced to retire from the race.
Kraisart took the win, followed by Polamai in 2nd and Narkcharoensri in 3rd to complete an all-Thai sweep of the podium.
December 4th marked the final day of competition in a season that had kicked off at the Johor Circuit in Malaysia six rounds and twelve races earlier.
As they had in Race 1, Kraisart and Polamai led from the front. Completing the first lap in 5th, Azlan Shah pushed at a blistering pace to get in touch with the leaders. By lap 3 he had closed in on the leading pair. The three riders then began to break away from the trailing pack. By the middle stages of the race Azlan Shah’s tyres had begun to go off, resulting in slides that made it difficult for him to stay with the two leaders. From that point he ran a lonely race in 3rd position. Behind him Yudhistira had caught up to the trailing group of Narkcharoensri, West, Pratama and Takahashi. But Zaidi and Koyama soon closed on Yudhistira, transforming the second group into a long procession. Zaidi and Koyama were competing for the championship with a narrow points margin, leading to an intense battle in the second group in the middle stages of the race. The head of the group, Koyama, then began to slow down and was eventually dropped back on lap 9.
As Azlan Shah ran a steady pace in 3rd, West, who had escaped from the trailing group, closed in on him, passing him on lap 12. Azlan Shah had already used up his tyres in the opening half of the race and was forced to manage a sliding bike as he skilfully hung on to take the checkers in 4th and improve his overall ranking to 3rd for the season.
Yudhistira entered the final lap in 6th, but an aggressive move from Narkcharoensri in the final corner pushed him wide, and after making contact with Pratama, dropped him down to 7th place. Wildcard Khairuddin finished 12th despite dealing with a chattering machine, while Fadly crashed out in the final corner of the first lap and retired.
|4||25||Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman||Kawasaki|
|5||13||Anthony Keith West||Yamaha|
|6||20||Dimas Ekky Pratama||Honda|
|7||21||Md Zaqhwan Zaidi||Honda|
|17||12||Md Fitri Ashraff Razali||Yamaha|
|3||13||Anthony Keith West||Yamaha|
|4||25||Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman||Kawasaki|
|5||20||Dimas Ekky Pratama||Honda|
|6||21||Md Zaqhwan Zaidi||Honda|
|11||27||Andi Farid Izdihar||Honda|
|16||12||Md Fitri Ashraff Razali||Yamaha|