Amidst all the anticipation surrounding the ASBK-ARRC double-header at The Bend Motorsport Park, many hardcore Australian fans are expressing the most excitement about the prospect of seeing Underbone racing in Australia for the first time and, in particular, to seeing the Asian series’ ultimate version of the sport.
After a slew of time and points penalties in Round 1, Underbone teams head to Australia determined to ensure that riders take back control of their own finishing positions and points allocations from Race Direction.
In this age of health and safety, the raw appeal of these highly tuned 110kg, 170kph miniature missiles can be traced back to the purest roots of the sport: buy a motorcycle from your local dealer, strip it down to its nuts and bolts, go shopping for the trickest go-faster parts on the market and then put it all back together as a barking mad street or track weapon. Superstock regulations are not welcome here.
And it’s not just the machines. The sport’s bantamweight pilots exude the same raw attitude, the best of them becoming professional and racing for money in their home countries as well as in ARRC. The few, like Zulfahmi Khairuddin and Hafizh Syahrin, who pass on through to the world stage are exceptions. Underbone racing is a professional sport in its own right.
For these reasons, bringing the genre into the controlled environment of international motorsport can bring about a collision of two worlds, or at least a culture clash: street racer meets safety officer; Billy the Kid meets Sheriff Pat Garrett.
It is a stand-off that ARRC have been managing since 1996 and one that has resulted in 22 years of spectacularly close racing. On occasion the street racer tendencies break through the thin blue line, creating havoc among time keepers as Race Direction imposes penalties that change the results that were flashed up from transponders. Outside Race Control, sullen, leather-clad miscreants hang around, waiting to be admonished by the Safety Officer; in pit lane trophies already awarded move from one garage to another.
The first round in 2018 was one such occasion, with, among others, three former champions being punished for infringements that will affect the outcome of championship.
Most notably, Yamaha Indonesia’s 2016 champion, Wahyu Aji Trilaksana, who is normally imperious at Chang International, was penalised in both races for changing direction too many times and, in Race 2 for causing two other riders to crash on the approach to the final turn on the last lap. He was deducted three championship points in Race 1 and received a 20 second penalty that dropped him from first to ninth place in Race 2. In total that is a forfeit of 21 points, almost the value of a race win.
After having an appeal against his Race 2 penalty turned down by the FIM Asia Jury, Wahyu went away determined to re-boot his title challenge, so many expect to see him respond with the style, craft and determination that earned him the respect of the ARRC paddock, as well as his championship trophy.
Going back to the form book, SCK Rapido’s Helmi Azman showed good pace throughout Round 1, winning Race 2 and taking a three point lead over Race 2 winner, Izzat Zaidi, who is in turn three points ahead of another former champion, Affendi Rosli, who had a three point penalty for dangerous riding in Race 1. Here we go again …
There are at least another five potential race winners in the field, among them the defending champion, Akid Aziz, who left Thailand with just 14 points and SCK Rapido’s Fakhrusy Syakirin Rostam.
Locky Taylor joins the regulars as a wildcard. He previously rode an underbone during Asia Talent Cup selection and will be in the SCK Rapido Hi Rev garage for the weekend. The team provides top class machinery for wildcards and word is that the 17-year-old has had his leathers re-coloured to match the bright yellow Honda.
The Australian crowd and ARRC’s millions of followers will consume and enjoy whatever the Underbone 150s serve up at Tailem Bend. Meanwhile, the priority for Wahyu Aji and other leading protagonists will be to win back control of their championship chances and make sure that the positions in which they cross the line do not get changed by Race Direction.