Yamaha Thailand’s Anuparb Sarmoon goes into Round 2 at The Bend Motorsport Park as a fast moving target for a snarling pack of Asia Production 250cc (AP250) championship challengers.
Without any real Japanese or Malaysian contenders in the intermediate class this season, national battle lines have been drawn Thailand and Indonesia, as new waves of talent aim to follow the likes of AP250 graduates, Nakarin Atiratatphuvapat, Apiwat Wongthananon, Gerry Salim and Galang Hendra Pratama into Moto3, CEV Junior World Championship and World Supersport 300.
Anuparb earned his status as championship favourite after being the only Yamaha rider consistently able to run with the Honda CBR250RR in 2017. Salim ended up as a convincing champion, while Anuparb tied with Tomoyoshi Koyama on 188 points, ending up third because of two wins scored by the Japanese. This year the speed advantage of the Honda appears to have been neutralised and he took a win and a fifth in Round 1 to give himself a slender five point lead over Muklada Sarapuech and Rafid Topan Sucipto.
The ferocity of competition in AP250, where one second usually covers the top six to ten finishers, means that penalties, for exceeding track limits or dangerous riding, frequently affect results. Muklada was a case in point in Buriram, forfeiting five places in Race 1 for exceeding track limits at the final turn and losing three championship points for weaving in a separate incident. Astra Honda’s Indonesian prodigy, 14-year-old ‘Super’ Mario Suryo Aji also fell foul of Race Direction for exceeding track limits, dropping from fifth to tenth in Race 2. You don’t have to drill too far into the mathematics to see that keeping it clean can pay dividends.