Title chase heats up as Broc Parkes leads ARRC’s return to China

Yamaha Racing ASEAN’s Broc Parkes arrives at Zhuhai International Circuit for ARRC round five out of seven with 150 points from eight starts and a respectable lead of 27 points in the Asia Superbike 1000 class over ONEXOX TKKR SAG’s Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman and a further eight ahead of third-placed Zaqhwan Zaidi. It is ARRC’s first visit to China since 2012.

While the championship fight in ARRC’s premier category has widely been regarded as a contest between the consistency of Australia’s endurance racing exponent and the mercurial brilliance of Azlan Shah, there is much more to the story that will bubble up to the surface in China.

Parkes has made the best of his inaugural season in the series, scoring good points at the less familiar venues of Sepang and Chang, and taking 45 points away from each of his ‘home’ races at Tailem Bend and Suzuka. The seven year gap since ARRC was last at Zhuhai makes circuit knowledge a neutral factor for this round, but the championship returns to Malaysia then Thailand to complete the season, which opens the door for the Australian’s Asian rivals.

Azlan is looking forward to round five perhaps more than most, having just confirmed the official support of BMW Motorrad after bagging three wins for ONEXOX TKKR SAG against four factory-backed Yamahas and Honda Asia Dream Racing with SHOWA’s Zaqhwan Zaidi.

Another significant challenge to the championship leader’s results in China will come from Kawasaki Thailand’s Thitipong Warakorn, who returns after missing the last three rounds after sustaining a career-threatening back injury just one week after leaving Sepang on top of the standings following a brace of second place finishes. The 29-year-old former Moto2 rider is not yet fully fit, but has recently won two rounds of Thailand’s domestic series, which augurs well for his successful return to international duties. Parkes’s team-mate, Yuki Ito, should also be back on form after fracturing his ankle last time out at Suzuka. The injury was not enough to stop the lion-hearted Japanese rider from finishing third in race two and he can never be ruled out.

Further opposition from Thailand comes from Yamaha Thailand’s Apiwat Wongthananon and Ratthapong Wilairot, both of whom have been climbing the learning curve of racing in the litre class. Apiwat scored two third places at Chang International, while Ratthapong had a best result of fourth at Suzuka.

The ASB 1000 grid is boosted by six wildcards from the Chinese superbike series, with former World Superbike racer, Mark Aitchison, expected to disturb the regulars, together with Japan’s Masahiro Shinjo, Canada’s Dan Kruger and three more Chinese wildcards.

Zhuhai International Circuit, with its long straights and tight corners will provide plenty of mechanical and physical challenges. The track length is 4.3 kilometres and it runs clockwise with nine right and five left turns. The finish line lies halfway along the 900 metre home straight, which could play into the hands of some of the more experienced campaigners in tight last lap battles. Weather could also play a part, with the likelihood of rain increasing from Friday through to Sunday.

Supersport 600cc: can Kasma catch Peerapong?

Having demolished and demoralised his rivals with seven wins and a third from eight starts this season, Yamaha Thailand’s Peerapong Boonlert could equal or beat Katsuake Fujiwara’s class record of eight 600cc wins in a season at Zhuhai.

The only rider with enough swagger left to challenge the 21-year-old Thai is Hong Leong Yamaha’s Kasma Daniel Kasmayudin, who arrives in China with a recent morale boosting second place finish in the Repsol CEV Moto2 series. His 98 point tally from six starts have netted him 98 points and second place in the standings, albeit 93 behind the leader. Astra Honda’s Andi Farid Izdihar is third in the standings and the best of the Honda riders so far. Adam Norrodin, on the SIC Junior ZK Racing Yamaha, has shown flashes of brilliance, but appears to lack the self-belief he needs to convert his talent into a meaningful, race long challenge.  The Musashi Boon Siew Honda pairing of Azroy Hakeen Anuar and Helmi Azman lie fourth and fifth. On a power circuit like Zhuhai, Honda-mounted Andi, Azroy and Helmi, as well as AP Honda’s Passawit Thitiwararak and Kritchaporn Kaewsonthi, could find themselves struggling to match the speed of the Yamahas.

The Supersport grid is boosted by six Chinese riders eager to test themselves against Asia’s emerging stars. Ma Sai of China Yamaha MAXpeedingrods Racing team heads the list and makes his third appearance in ARRC, having scored points with 13th and 11th place finishes at Chang International. The other wildcards are FS.D Racing’s Ou Jin Bin, Chen Hong Yan and Chan Yan Hang and the TS Kawasaki pairing of Ao Leong Fu and Sha Juntong.

AP 250: Honda contenders take aim at Fadly

Manual Tech KYT Kawasaki’s Andy Muhammad Fadly left round four at Suzuka with a 23-point championship lead thanks to a win and a third place. AP Honda’s Muklada Sarapuech, widely regarded as the young Malaysian’s main title rival, faltered in Japan, coming only fifth in race one and crashing out of contention in race two. Meanwhile, Astra Honda mounted their most serious challenge of 2019, with Irfan Ardianyah taking a brace of second places and Awhin Sanjaya winning race two. That has left the two Indonesians tied in second place on 104 points, seven ahead of Muklada. Fadly’s team-mate, Aiki Iyoshi, who started the season brightly, has had just two sixth place finishes from his last four starts and lies fifth on 88 points.

The AP 250 class, which uses an ARacer control ECU, imposes rev cuts of 500rpm at a time on any rider who gets more than 25 points clear of anyone else in the top five of the standings. Of the three riders – Fadly, Muklada and Iyoshi – currently carrying ‘first equalisers’ of 500rpm, Fadly seems the least affected. His speed on the fast sections of Suzuka certainly suggests that Manual Tech engineers have done some clever mapping to offset the reduction in maximum revs.

Technical factors aside, Astra Honda will be looking to capitalise on good recent recent form, with Awhin, Irfan and Lucky Hendriansya all very much in the hunt. They will doubtless also be plotting to make life difficult on track for Muklada, who bounced back from her round four disappointment by becoming the first female winner of the Suzuka 4 Hours less than two weeks ago. Her team-mate, Tatchkorn Buasri, should be fully fit after some back problems and able to give Muklada some tactical help in the event of an Indonesia v Thailand showdown.

Wildcard, Zhou Sheng Jun Jie, is a welcome addition to the AP 250 entry list and a welcome returner to ARRC. The Chinese rider competed in the Asia Dream Cup (ADC) from 2012 to 2016, finishing seventh in the series in his final year in part thanks to a double podium at Sentul. He re-acquaints himself on track with 2015 ADC champion, Muklada and Honda Racing India’s Sethu Rajiv. Zhou will be aboard the WUYANG Honda CBR250 RR and surely aiming for top ten finishes at his home circuit.

Underbone 150: Wawan aims to stay ahead of the pack 

The raucous bark of the 29 highly tuned 150cc four-stroke singles slated to be at Zhuhai is eagerly anticipated in China after ARRC’s seven-year hiatus. In a class where two-thirds of the field regularly has a chance of winning races, consistency is the key to championships and it’s SND Factory Racing Rapido’s Wawan Wello who’s shown the way so far in 2019, having amassed 71 points from six starts, as underbones were not on the card in Australia.

Wawan is 12 clear in the standings from UMA Racing duo of McKinley Kyle Paz (Philippines) and 2017 champion, Akid Aziz (Malaysia), who have 59 apiece. Team One for All’s Affendi Rosli and Peerapong Luiboonpeng, together with ONEXOX TKKR SAG’s Ahmad Fazli Sham, are also within striking distance, having scored more than 50 points so far. Meanwhile, 13-year-old Aldi Satya Mahendra, who sensationally won a wet race two at Suzuka, has shown what a force to be reckoned with he is and, with rain forecast, could be called upon to work his slippery surface magic once again. Honda Racing Vietnam’s Nguyen Vu Thanh returns to the fold after injuries sustained in a startline crash at Chang International in round three.

Although track knowledge is unlikely to be much of a factor after such a long absence, it’s worth noting that Affendi, Adib Rosley (RCB Accentwire Yamaha YY PANG Racing Team) and Rozaiman Said (Cardinals Racing Team), all raced here last time out in 2012.

Other riders to watch out for include double champions, Gupita Kresna and Wayhu Aji Trilaksana, along with Richard Taroreh, Fernando Masato, Amirul Ariff Musa, Syharul Amin, Wahyu Nugroho, Haziq Fairues and Izzat Zaidi.

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