ARRC: Sarath Kumar scores in 600cc, Rajiv Sethu has tough 250cc run at MMRT
The Indian Asia Road Racing Championship kick-started on Friday with the practice sessions at the Madras Motor Race Track – with the series making a return to the South Indian circuit after a gap of four years.
Racing in the premier SuperSport 600cc category, the lone Indian Sarath Kumar improved on his timings, as well as the top speed across the three sessions.
The Indian remained 15th, but made up nearly three seconds on his best times, while RAMA Honda by NTS T.Pro Ten10 outfit riders Taiga Hada and Sena Yamada were eighth, ninth & 11th and 10th, 13th & 12th respectively.
The qualifying on Saturday morning saw Kumar finish 14th for Race 1, as Yamaha Racing’s Keminth Kubo took pole ahead of Musashi Boon Siew Honda of Md Zaqhwan Zaidi & Hada. The other Rama Honda of Yamada was 13th, just ahead of Kumar.
The first race in the penultimate weekend in sunny conditions saw a huge battle in the front involving four riders in the early stages of the 16-lap race.
Just after the halfway mark, the fight came down to three riders when Yamaha Thailand Racing Team’s Decha Kraisart crashed out leaving Zaidi, Hada and Yamaha Racing’s Yuki Ito in the fray.
In the end, Zaidi managed to control the proceedings and take the win under red flag after Kubo crashed out on the start/finish line. The lead Rama Honda of Hada was second, as Ito completed the Top 3.
Behind, for Kumar, it was once again seeing through another race finish as he continued his learning curve in the SuperSports 600cc category. The Indian was classified 12th to register his best result of the season.
With rain not falling anymore, the race started under overcast but dry conditions at MMRT on Sunday - as riders opted for slick tyres, with dry race line already appearing on the track.
The start of the shortened 10-lap race saw Zaidi into the lead while Ito slotted himself in second, as the two started to pull away from the rest of the field.
The two upfront continued to get away with Ito pressuring Zaidi for the race lead, which the Malaysian eventually took with three laps remaining.
Zaidi stuck behind him, but Ito had enough buffer to win by 0.865s to put himself in contention of the title heading into the finale. Hada completed the Top 3, after he consolidated his speed to keep the bike in one piece to see the chequered flag.
For Kumar, points was almost gauranteed as all he had to do was to finish the race with only 14 riders starting the race. The Indian made a good start and was up to 12th in the opening few laps.
However, a recovering Azlan Shah in his Kawasaki caught up with Kumar and cleared him for 12th - with the Indian ending up 13th in the end. Yamada also made progress to finish eighth.
It is tight at the top in the riders' standings with Zaidi (138) leading Ito & Hada, who are tied on points (134) with one round remaining. Yamada is 13th with 51, while Kumar is 20th with 16 points.
The teams' standings has Rama Honda in third, but tied on 140 points with fourth placed Yamaha Racing - 15 points behind the leaders Manual Tech KYT Kawasaki Racing.
Asia Production Cup 250cc
In the Asia Production Cup 250cc category, Rajiv Sethu made significant improvements in both time and speed across the three practice sessions.
The Indian finished 20th, 18th and 17th respectively - improving his times by nearly 14 seconds. His RAMA Honda teammate Tomoyoshi Koyama was 13th, first and ninth respectively.
The qualifying on Saturday morning had Yamaha Racing Indonesia’s Galang Hendra Pratama take a close pole from Koyama, with Yamaha Racing Indonesia’s Reynaldo Chrisantho Ratukore completing the Top 3. Meanwhile, Sethu qualified 18th.
The first race under sunny conditions saw Rama Honda’s Koyama leapt into the lead at the start while battling with pole-sitter Pratama and Yamaha Thailand Racing Team’s Anupab Sarmoon in the early stages.
As the 12-lap race progressed, the lead battle was between Koyama and Sarmoon with the duo exchanging places for few laps of wheel to wheel racing.
Eventually, it was Koyama, who took his first Asia Production 250cc class win in his outfit sponsor’s home race, with Sarmoon settling for second. Pole-sitter Pratama rounded off the Top 3.
Meanwhile, Sethu started the race from 17th and lost chunk of positions in the early stages to drop to 21st in the order, before going on the recovery mode. The Chennai-born rider moved up by two places, in the end, to finish 19th.
The second race on Saturday morning took place under wet conditions in Chennai as rain hardened between races - with riders going for wet weather tyres.
The lead battle had Pratama and Koyama tussling for the race win as the Indonesian kept his nose ahead of the Japanese in the tricky conditions.
After 10 laps of racing, Pratama eventually took the win by 0.905s over Koyama, while Sidrap Honda Ikazuchi Racing Team's Takehiro Yamamoto completed the Top 3.
Behind, Sethu made a decent start battling for a position in the Top 15, but the Indian had to pull out to retire midway into the race on Lap 5.
With only one round remaining, Astra Honda Racing Team's Gerry Salim leads the riders' standings, with Sethu's teammate Koyama in third - just one point behind Sarmoon. The teams' battle has Rama Honda in third - also one point behind Yamaha Thailand Racing Team.
After five rounds in the 2017 season, the championship now heads to the season-finale during the December 2-3 weekend at Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand.