Close battles likely in third round of Asia Road Racing

August 5th, 2011 - 4:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Aug 5 (IANS) The third round of the 2011 PETRONAS Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) for two-wheelers to be held here over the next two days will be the toughest of the season so far with the return of ace Yamaha riders from Thailand Chalermpol Polamai and Decha Kraisat after recovering from injuries.

The Thai stars presence would mean that championship leader in the premium Supersports 600cc class Katsuaki Fujiwara, winner of the previous four races in the two rounds, will have to work that much harder to sustain his winning momentum.

Polamai fractured both his wrists during the opening leg at the International Sepang Circuit in Malaysia and had to undergo surgery while Kraisat injured his right palm in a crash while racing in the All-Japan championship a week before Round 2 in Indonesia.

Fujiwara, representing the Manual-Tech BEET Kawasaki Racing team, was stretched to the limit in Malaysia by Thai pair while in Indonesia, the 36-year old Japanese won a close battle with compatriot Toshiyuki Hamaguchi (Moto-Rev India) and Malaysians Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman (Boon Siew Honda Racing Malaysia) and team-mate Fadli Imamuddin from Indonesia.

Fadli, who is fifth in the championship, has benefited after switching from Yamaha to Kawasaki this season and has been improving with every outing highlighted by a third place finish in the second race of Round 2.

Meanwhile, two third places and two seconds reflected 27-year old Azlan’s consistency with the Malaysian in second on the leaderboard behind Fujiwara. Azlan is coming into the Chennai round high on confidence after his win in the 34th Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Road Race at the Suzuka Circuit, Japan.

Also to be watched is Doni Tata Pradita (Yamaha Indonesia Racing) who is currently third in the championship after delivering consistent results in the previous two rounds and is keen to make for his non-finish in Chennai last year when the races were marred by heavy rains.

Last year’s winner here, Youichi Ui, the 28-year old from Japan, will also be in contention and looks determined to get his campaign going. He is currently sixth in the championship with 37 points.

From India’s perspective, 41-year old Hamaguchi, now in seventh place with 33 points, will be leading the Moto-Rev India challenge after a slow start to his campaign that saw him finish fourth in Sepang and third in Indonesia.

Hamaguchi’s team-mate, Krishnan Rajini, the Indian champion though has his task cut out as he will be astride a stock Yamaha of 2008 vintage. “This bike is at least a second or two slower than the front runners, but since I know the track, I hope to deliver a good result here,” said Rajini.

In the Underbone 115cc class, the field is wide open. Indonesian Rafid Topan (Yamaha CKJ TJM) leads the Championship standings with 75 points, followed by Malaysia’s Shahril Izzuwan Mohd Noor on 56.

Only 16 years old, Topan has shown impressive pace with pole positions in both Malaysia and Indonesia while winning three of the four races.

In contrast, the 23-year old Noor has not exactly set the track alight this season after finishing second behind Topan in the opening round, but failed miserably with a sixth place finish on his home circuit in Indonesia where the field was packed with local wild card entries.

Defending champion Hadi Wijaya from Indonesia is in third spot with 46 points. The Kawasaki NHK Rextor Manual Tech rider won the championship on debut last year with three wins and six podium finishes to underline his prowess although at 32, he is not exactly getting any younger.

Wijaya has only two podium finishes this season and he would be on the throttle here to improve on that record.

Thus, going into the weekend, event that has qualifying sessions Saturday and the double-header races Sunday has the ingredients of high octane action that includes Honda’s single make series, the Asia Cup of Road Racing, provided the rains stay away.

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