The passing typhoon that soaked Suzuka Circuit on Thursday gave way to brightening skies on Friday morning, much to the relief of the 100 riders and their teams here for round 4 of the 2019 Asia Road Racing Championship.
The challenges and mystique of Suzuka draw racers like almost no other racing venue. Its curves and contours are as unforgiving as they are beautiful and a long list of experienced as well as new riders wrecked their machines and, in several cases, got themselves admitted to the medical centre as the red flags were shown four times on the first days.
ASB 1000 Zaqhwan on top despite crash
Honda Asia Dream’s Zaqhwan Zaidi was at his effortless best for most of free practice. Combining an sweet machine set-up with his extensive experience of Suzuka, he made getting around one of the world’s most difficult the circuits look easy. His best time of 2’09.874 was two hundredths clear of Yamaha Thailand’s Apiwat Wongthananon, who improved through the day and was good enough to top FP3.
The Malaysian headed the first two sessions from Yamaha Racing ASEAN’s Yuki Ito, then crashed heavily, without injury, in FP3. Ito himself had a hard crash in FP2, but managed to dust himself off and get his R1 straightened out in time for FP3. His best time in FP2 placed him third overall.
Fourth was Ratthapong Wilairot, whose acclimatisation to the R1 is improving exponentially, while Broc Parkes, who is no stranger to Yamaha superbikes and Suzuka Circuit finished fifth on the day with a best lap of 2’10.299.
Round three double race winner, Azlan Shah also improved through the day on the ONEXOX TKKR SAG BMW. His best of 2’10.849 left him seventh, sandwiched between wildcards Koji Teramoto, and Shinichi Nakatomi.
Australian Bryan Staring, making his third stand-in appearance for Kawasaki Thailand’s injured Thitipong Warakorn and his first ever appearance at Suzuka, wrecked his machine in FP1 and missed FP2 while it was being put back together. Nevertheless, his best time of 2’12.657 gave an indication that he’ll improve further in tomorrow morning’s qualifying session.
Wildcard Minamimoto pips Peerapong in free practice
AkenoSpeed Yamaha’s wildcard, Soichiro Minamimoto, stole the glory from runaway championship leader, Peerapong Boonlert, in free practice by clocking the fastest time of the day late in FP3 with a lap of 2’14.046, to lead by 0.061.
Wildcards grabbed plenty of attention in the first session, occupying second to sixth places behind Yamaha Thailand’s Supersport star. As the ARRC regulars acclimatised to the challenges of Suzuka, Ramdan Rosli got closest to Peerapong, taking the top slot in FP2, before finishing the day third with 2’14.540.
Another wildcard, Battle Factory’s Yuto Sano was fourth overall from Hong Leong Yamaha’s Kasma Daniel Kasmayudin. Andi Farid Izdihar was the next best of the ARRC visitors on 2’15.068 just ahead of Azroy Hakeem Anuar, Rheza Danica Ahrens and Afif Amran, who was tenth.
SIC Junior ZK Racing’s Adam Norrodin, on his first visit to Suzuka, spent the day finding his way around, recording his best time of 2’16.235 in FP3.
Fadly gets clear in free practice
Manual Tech KYT Kawasaki’s Andy Muhammad Fadly was fastest in all three free practice sessions today. Despite running with a maximum rev ‘equaliser’ cut of 500rpm, Fadly kept an advantage of more than half a second all day. His best time of 2’28.450 came in a red flag interrupted second session.
After a steady start in FP1, Astra Honda’s Irfan Ardiansyah finished second on combined times with a best lap of 2’29.382, which was 0.098s better than third-placed Rey Ratukore on the ONEXOX TKKR SAG Yamaha.
Fadly’s team mate, Aiki Iyoshi, was fourth in front of AP Honda duo, Muklada Sarapuech and Piyawat Patoomyos. Rafid Topan Sucipto, Awhin Sanjaya, Faerozi Toreqotullah and Sethu Rajiv completed the top ten.
Round three, race two winner, Tatchkorn Buasri, struggled to match pace of his team mates and crashed hard in the third session. The fastest wildcard was Otojirou Tanimoto with 2’32.501, which placed him 18th overall.
Akid snatches provisional pole from Wahyu Aji
UMA Racing Yamaha’s Akid Aziz kept the best until last in underbone qualifying this afternoon. ONEXOX TKKR SAG’s Wahyu Aji Trilaksana led most of the session, after banking a time of 2’37.133 relatively early on in what is starting to look like a return to form for the Indonesian.
Akid had shown good pace from the start, topping the first session on a drying track, while Team One for All’s Peerapong Luiboonpeng recorded the overall fastest lap of the day in FP2 with a lap of 2’36.723.
When it came to qualifying, what had been an advantage of more than a second for Wahyu Aji got nibbled away during the last few minutes by Haziq Fairues, McKinley Kyle Paz, Peerapong Luiboonpeng and Akid who eventually pushed Wahyu down to second. Peerapong finished third in front of Kyle Paz, Fairues, Aiman Azman, Wawan Wello and Affendi Rosli, all of whom were bracketed within the 1’37s.
HI REV SCK Honda’s 13-year-old Japanese rider, Gun Mie, was a few places further back in 12th on 1’38.555, while Adib Rosley was 15th and therefore the last rider through to Saturday morning’s Superpole competition, which determines positions for the first five rows of the starting grid.
Lap record holder and winner of last year’s race two at Suzuka, Gupita Kresna, only managed a 2’39.89 to qualify 22nd one place in front of Australia’s Travis Hall, who ran into the gravel during the session. Round three, race two winner, Ahmad Fazli Sham, also found himself further down the order than usual, in 18th.