West, Rheza and Helmi lead the way to India for Round 4

The Asia Road Racing Championship is setting up at Madras Motor Race Track, near Chennai, India, for Round 4 this weekend. Last year ARRC served up edge-of-the-seat action and drama from Friday to Sunday and is sure to do so again, with the Supersport 600 and Underbone 150 title fights finely balanced and reputations at stake in all three classes.

Renovations to the track that made the 2017 round go so well, such as the new pit building and hospitality and media centre, have been completed and are expected to make the forthcoming round an even better experience for teams and organisers. Most important, though, is that the track renovation that was in place last year means that riders and technicians have base settings to work from that will help them get onto a race pace quickly.

The design of the circuit, which opened in 1984, is perfect for close motorcycle racing. Running clockwise, it is 3.7 kilometres long, 11 metres wide and, officially, has seven right and five left turns, although there are another four kinks that require a change in direction at anything above walking pace. There are no long straights, which means that the 600s only get as high fifth gear, so it is physically demanding for the riders.

Supersport 600

Championship leader, Webike Ikazuchi Racing’s Anthony West, makes his debut at the circuit, having skipped the Indian round in 2017. He goes into the second half of the season with 84 points from two wins, a second and a third from four starts, after he missed his home round in Australia due to World Supersport commitments. The former GP winner won’t be hampered for long by a lack of track familiarity and will be as difficult to beat as ever when the red lights go out on Saturday and Sunday.

Defending champion, Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman is 12 points behind West, with 76. Next on the ladder is the Yamaha Racing Asean pairing of Yuki Ito and Keminth Kubo. Both riders went well at the track last year, with Ito finishing third and first and Kubo notching his first pole position in the class. It was a step-up that 19-year-old Kubo has moved on from, most notably with his superb second place in Round 3 at Suzuka. Azlan’s Manual Tech KYT team-mate Ahmad Yudhistira is also hitting strong form and expecting to have the Indonesian flag hoisted in his name during the weekend.Rheza Danica Ahrens,

Also among the 10 or so realistic podium contenders are MuSASHI Boon Siew Honda’s Zaqwan Zaidi and Tomoyoshi Koyama, Taiga Hada, on board for Idemitsu Honda Racing India by T.Pro Ten10 and Yamaha Thailand’s Ratthapong Wilairot and Decha Kraisart.

Rookies already proving their potential are Hong Leong Yamaha’s Ramdan Rosli and Kasma Daniel Kasmayudin, Astra Honda’s Andi Farid Izdihar and MuSASHI Boon Siew’s Azroy Hakeem Anuar.

Asia Production 250cc

Rheza Danica Ahrens scored double wins in Rounds 2 and 3, to give him 123 points, 21 more than his 14-year-old Astra Honda team-mate, Mario Suryo Aji, who is next on the ladder. Yamaha Thailand’s Anuparb Sarmoon lies third on 92 and is the only other rider realistically able to tilt at the title.

While battles for positions behind Rheza have been as hard fought as ever in the class, the ARRC Technical Committee have agreed new minimum weight limits to improve competitiveness as follows:

Honda CBR250RR and 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 250R

Minimum motorcycle weight                      135kg

Minimum weight including rider                200kg

Yamaha YZF R25 and Kawasaki Ninja 250R

Minimum motorcycle weight                      130kg

Minimum weight including rider                 195kg

The move is enhanced by introducing the combined weight of rider and machine, which is used to good effect in Moto2 and Moto3.

The top three championship positions notwithstanding, there are nine other riders capable of finishing in the top three at Madras, so the intensity of competition will burn as fiercely as ever.

A notable absentee is AP Honda Racing Thailand’s Mukalada Sarapuech, who is still recovering from the wrist injury she sustained in the in the Turn 1 horror crash at Suzuka she had with team-mate, Kritchaporn Kaewsonthi, who was lucky to walk away unscathed. In line with a policy we often see from AP Honda, another emerging talent coming through their academy system, Tachakorn Buasri, is being given the opportunity to step into one of the world’s most competitive middleweight arenas as Muklada sits this one out.

Indian fans will be cheering on two of India’s most exciting young riders, Anish Shetty and Rajiv Sethu, who are looking to grab headlines at their home round.

Underbone 150cc

As ever, Underbone 150s are too close to call, although the mid season championship standings show that SCK Rapido Hi Rev Honda’s Helmi Azman and RCB YY Pang’s Izzat Zaidi at the top with 94 and 93 points respectively and two wins apiece to add to some consistent good finishes. Next up are 2016 and 2017 champions, Wahyu Aji Trilaksana and Akid Aziz on 72 and 71 points, both of whom had disappointing starts to the season. Charging up behind them is former double champion, Gupita Kresna, who found his form at Round 3 in Suzuka, taking a third place and a win for Yamaha Yamalube SND.  Fakhrusy Siyakirin Rostam, who is a threat anywhere, took a convincing pole position and the Race 1 win last year, before crashing out in Race 2, so will be in the mix with at least another five riders.

Three other entries add further interest, boosting the number of entries to 20 and rider nationalities to seven. Australian, Travis Hall, lines up once again for SCK Rapido Hi Rev Honda, after impressive outings in Australia and Japan and will be looking to add race-craft to his natural speed. Popular Filipino, McKinley Kyle Paz, returns to the class for UMA Racing Yamaha after scoring a sensational podium at his debut in Round 2, while Japan’s Miu Nakahara will be contesting the rest of the season for United Oil M-Mate Racing, following her point scoring introduction to Underbones at Suzuka last month.

The action begins early on Friday morning and can be followed all the way through to the final races on Sunday on the ARRC Facebook page, with races also being shown on TV networks throughout the region.

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Editor in chief: Paolo Gozzi, italian journalist engaged in motorcycling from early ’80.

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