ARRC makes its tenth trip to Buriram this week for round three of the 2019 championship. It also sees ARRC’s debut at Chang International of Asian Superbikes (ASB), which this year replaces Supersport 600s as the series’ premier class.
Not only has ARRC has raised its game with the litre category, which has attracted more motorcycle brands and riders from beyond Asia, but it has rebooted and refreshed the three existing classes in ways that are illuminating the region’s rising stars and the teams that are pushing them to the limits of their potential.
In all, 83 riders from 13 countries will be present for round three.
ASB 1000: can anyone grab a second win in round three?
With two rounds and four races done, ARRC’s new premier class has seen wins from four different riders and four different manufacturers. In Sepang, Azlan Shah took the ONEXOX TKKR SAG BMW to an historic race one win and Honda Asia Dream Racing’s Zaqwan Zaidi won a wet race two. In Australia, Kawasaki Thailand’s replacement rider, Bryan Staring, claimed race one and Yamaha Racing ASEAN’s Broc Parkes took race two.
Thitipong Warakorn, who left Sepang at the top of the standings after a brace of second places, was badly injured a week later in the World Superbike round at Chang International and missed round two. This weekend he will be cheering on his replacement from the pit box as the back injuries he sustained continue to heal.
Staring and championship leader Parkes are both making their first appearances in Buriram, though their teams both have plenty of data to help them get up to speed quickly. Parkes’s team-mate, Yuki Ito knows his way around the circuit’s 4.55km and 12 turns, while Kawasaki Thailand team manager, Katsuake Fujiwara, won the first ever ARRC premier class race there in 2014.
There are four riders on the grid with ARRC Supersport race wins at Chang International. Yamaha Thailand’s ASB1000 pairing of Ratthapong Wilairot and Apiwat Wongthananon have two 600 wins apiece, as does Azlan Shah, who grabbed a double here to clinch his 2017 title, while Yuki Ito has a single win and is capable of beating anyone on his day.
That said, the two Australians have the advantage of experience when it comes to racing superbikes and this is likely to tip the scales in their favour, despite the superior track knowledge of the Asian contenders.
Looking beyond those most likely to climb the podium, Kawasaki Thailand’s Chaiwichit Nisakul, who has competed for two seasons for the team in Thailand’s national superbike championship and Victor Racing’s Indonesian star, Ahmad Yudhistira, will be looking for, and expecting, good results. Meanwhile the striking Ducati Panigales of TJ Alberto and Jonathan Serrapica should continue to improve as the team scrambles up the technical learning curve of making these Italian beauties go faster. TJ in particular has looked promising so far and, with such a high speed track favouring Ducati, could well edge closer to the top five finishers this weekend.
Supersport 600: Pressure builds on imperious Peerapong
Yamaha Thailand’s Peerapong Boonlert goes to his home race with four race wins, a perfect score of 100 and a lead of 49 points over closest rivals, Andi Farid Izdihar and Azroy Hakeem Anuar. That advantage reflects faultless machine preparation and team management, the rider’s outright speed and ability to withstand pressure, as well as the absence of two key rivals in round two.
As ARRC sets up in Buriram, the likelihood of Peerapong extending his perfect record is challenged by the competition edging closer in their race times and in the confidence that is bringing them. ARRC watchers also point out that, during his time in Asia Production 250s, his best results at Chang International were the brace of fourth places he claimed at round one in 2018.
That is unlikely to prey on Peerapong’s mind. As an AP250 rider, his job was to support the title bid by team-mate, Anuparb Sarmoon. In 2019, as Yamaha Thailand’s sole supersport rider, he is carrying the team’s full pride and ambition and the mantle fits him perfectly. As a double Suzuka 4 Hours winner, speed and consistency on the deep blue R6 are second nature to him and he will be as calm and focused as ever at Chang International.
At the front of the queue looking to disrupt Peerapong’s progress are Kasma Daniel Kasmayuddin (SIC Junior ZK Racing) and Adam Norrodin (Hong Leong Yamaha), who return from the CEV Moto2 duty that kept them away from round two. Fellow Malaysians, Azroy, Ramdan Rosli, Helmi Azman and the impressive Afif Amran join them in the chase, as does Indonesia’s Andi Farid.
Another rider looking to make an impression is AP250 2018 champion, Rheza Danica Ahrens, who has quietly been acclimatising to his CBR 600RR, while AP Honda Racing Thailand’s Passawit Thitiwararak and Kritchaporn Kaewsonthi will be under pressure for better results in front of Honda’s army of home fans.
The dark horse, however, is round two sensation, Javier Orellana Malloy. The Spaniard destroyed his Victor Racing Yamaha in FP1 at The Bend Motorsports Park, missed most of practice, qualified 11th and then carved his way through to second in race one. He looked like repeating the feat until a crash ended his race two challenge. He clearly enjoyed his first ARRC outing, bonded well with the team and will be out to plunder as much silverware that he can get his hands on in Buriram.
A welcome ARRC debutant at this round is China Yamaha Maxspeedingrods Racing’s national ST600 champion, Ma Sai.
Asia Production 250: rev limits to balance results in round three?
Always a ferociously competitive class, AP250, adopted a single ECU in 2019 to enable tighter technical control by adjusting rev limits to prevent runaway winners. Now, three rounds into the 2019 title chase, the effects should begin to bite.
Here’s how the new rules work. First the rev limit for each manufacturer is set, based upon the rpm at which each of the three competing manufacturer’s engines make their peak power. Data from round one saw them set the limits at 14,900 for Yamaha, 14,750 for Kawasaki and 14,600 for Honda.
Next rev limits for any rider with more than a 25 point lead over other competitors in the top five are reduced by 500rpm. Further cuts of 500rpm take effect if advantages reach 50 and 75 points. Once applied, the reduced rev limits remain for the rest of the season.
The first rider to have a 500 reduction applied was Manual Tech KYT’s Andy Fadly after winning race one at round two in Australia. Fadly crashed at turn one in race two, so the effect has yet to be seen. That race was won by his team-mate, Aiki Ioshi, which put him 30 points clear of fifth-placed Awhin Sanjaya and means that he also starts round three with a 500rpm cut.
Given Fadly’s crash last time out, the current standings are free of the ‘equaliser effect’ and show Iyoshi on 68 points from Fadly on 65 and Muklada Sarapuech third on 61. Lucky Hendriansya is next on 44, ahead of fifth placed Awhin, who has 38.
Technical tweaks notwithstanding, it was Fadly and Muklada who began the season as the expected title rivals. They were quickly joined by Japanese newcomer Iyoshi, while Astra Honda’s trio of Lucky, Awhin and Irfan Ardiansyah have shown that they can match the three favourites on a good day. Other riders knocking on the door and ready to exploit any effects of rev limit reductions are ONEXOX TKKR SAG’s Muzakkir and Nazirul Izzat, Indonesia’s Reynaldo Ratukore and Mukalada’s AP Honda team-mate, Tatchakorn Buasri, who scored his first AP250 podium in Australia. Yamaha Thailand’s rookie pairing of Suttipat Patchaeetron and Sawapol Nillapong will be out for point scoring finishes, as will Idemitsu Honda Racing India’s Sethu Rajiv and Senthil Chandrasekaran and Honda Vietnam’s ever-improving Cao Viet Nam. Miu Nakahara makes a return to ARRC as United Oil’s replacement rider, after competing in the Underbone class in 2018.
After skipping the Australian round, snarling, wheel-to-wheel mono action is back for Buriram, with a 30-strong grid. A quick look down the entry list shows 16 riders capable of winning and any predictions based on what happened in Sepang back in March completely futile.
With the class having long been primarily a battle between Indonesian and Malaysian underbone exponents, the championship table has taken on a new look this year with the UMA Racing Yamaha Philippine Team’s McKinley Kyle-Paz and Fernando Masato occupying the top two places after the first round at Sepang.
They will again be among the front-runners, but hounded by, among others, former champions, Wahyu Trilaksana, Gupita Kresna, Akid Aziz and Affendi Rosli. Rosli’s Team One For All stablemate, Peerapong Luiboonpeng, is the sole Thai representative in the class and another potential winner. Teenagers, Travis Hall from Australia and Gun Mie from Japan, have already earned their spurs in the class and will be well worth watching.
It will be the bark of the underbones that gets proceedings underway at 08:00 local time on Friday 31st with the first free practice session. The action will be streamed live on Facebook throughout the weekend and on TV. You can watch the live stream here on bikeandrace.com on Saturday and Sunday.