The FIM Asia Supermoto Championship season opener race was held in Nakhon Si Chai, Thailand. Beautiful weather, wonderful circuit, optimum off-road section welcomed the 2017 FIM Asia SuperMoto Championship racers, official and fans last weekend.
17 riders from 13 countries including the biggest names in the Supermoto scene fought it out on asphalt and dirt to put themselves on the leaderboard for the season.
Race day morning began with a free practice round where riders took the circuit as though it was a real race, putting their best foot forward, but still kept their little tricks for the main show Sunday noon.
Top three spots during the practice session were dominated by top three contenders namely United Kingdom’s Lewis Cornish, returning champion Thailand’s Trakarn Thangthong and 2016 champion Malaysia’s Muhd Habibullah or better known as Gabit Saleh.
The rivalry was evident amongst the trio and it created a great racing atmosphere right from the very beginning.
In the end, it was Lewis who stole the top practice slot with the best time of 1:14.594, followed by Trakarn and Gabit at 1:15.565 and 1:17.019 respectively.
Moto 1 Race Report
Moto 1 started with the sun shining directly above the riders on their respective grid. The adrenaline fuelled excitement was clear on the faces of the fierce competitors.
Pole position starter Lewis Cornish stole the holeshot but was followed closely by all riders as the race started on a straight stretch tarmac road instead of the diversion to the first turn into the off-road section.
The most awaited corner, a tight hairpin turn immediately after a table top proved to be a challenge, as riders rushed into the tight turn, changing positions between them.
With Lewis setting the pace up front, Malaysia’s Gabit Saleh and Thailand’s Trakarn Thangthong were held second and third places barely one second away from the Lewis. After a few laps, Lewis opened the gap from the chasing duo. The battle for second turned furious between Gabit and Trakarn, whilst Lewis to continued to lead.
The top three positioning remained the same up to a few minutes before the end of Moto 1, Gabit lost his pace and Trakarn overtook the second seed. With inadequate time to steal the second spot, Habibullah concluded third in Moto 1.
Lewis leads Moto 1 with a total time of 22:236.002, followed by Trakarn and Gabit at 22:42.962 and 23:14.056 respectively.
Indonesia’s Farhan Hendro stunned the audiences with an outstanding performance in this race despite mechanical issues in Friday’s Free Practice and Saturday’s Qualifying round.
However, Farhan’s race on the track was not without some hard battle for his position. Japan’s Naoto Takayama and Russia’s Artem Teslenko tailed the Indonesian rider closely, but Farhan managed to further the gap with a full throttle on the straights and exact precision over the whoops and table top.
Farhan was tenth on the grid for Moto 1, but completed in the sixth place with a total time of 23:55.446.
Similar to Farhan, Philippines’ Kenneth San Andres showed significant improvements in his performance on the track. Being a lapper during the Qualifying burned his passion to uplift his status, putting his best foot forward for Moto 1. Kenneth concluded with 17 laps and a total time of 23:10.666.
The second Malaysia’s ace Khairi Zakaria started the race threatened by Dutchman Marcel Van Drunen. The duo competed and exchanged position multiple times until Khairi lost his pace at the first off-road section, giving Marcel the opportunity to steal the spot and widen the gap.
Another unfortunate incident stumbled upon Japan Takashi Sasaki when a machine malfunction took his chance to compete. The Japanese were seen riding his bike leaving the track in seventh by a large disappointment.
Moto 2 Race Report
The second race witnessed high intensity on the track as Lewis stole the show with the second holeshot of the day.
His familiarity of the circuit over the two days of practices was at the tips of his finger, riding through the track ahead of all riders. Lewis comfortably rode his way to victory, winning at least five seconds ahead of the first runner-up, Thailand’s Trakarn Thangthong.
“It was a very technical track. Most of us were using slick tyres to race the track. With the triple dirt section, it feels more like a motocross track instead. I made multiple mistakes in Moto 1 but reduced it in Moto 2. I believe Trakarn and Gabit made mistakes as well, which gave me an advantage to the race,” said Lewis.
“I was fortunate when Gabit hit on a hole at the third dirt section. That was when I passed him. He grew so much since our last faced off in 2015. I enjoyed riding with all the riders, and hopefully, I can perform better in Indonesia,” said Trakarn.
Lewis and Trakarn rode smoothly as the Gabit and Marcel pursued a battle for the final podium spot, blocking any other riders from moving forward in their position.
The goose chase between the Malaysian and Dutchman continued with multiple high risk overtakes on tight corners. Neither was giving up for the third podium spot. The dirt section was always the game changer for the duo, deciding on who leads upon exiting the off-road sections. Lap after lap of their battle soon became the fan favourite.
It was until the final two laps during the race, Gabit mistakenly took a detour off course, receiving a penalty that immediately drops his dreams for a podium, a blow to his team and his confidence for the season.
“My front and rear brake malfunctioned, and I lost control of my bike. This makes it even harder for me to maintain my pace, especially on this track. Alongside with Marcel eyeing on me, I tried my fullest to ensure that the best performance is delivered in this condition,” said Gabit.
Gabit landed the sixth spot in Moto 2, clocking a total time of 24:20.495.
However, the Malaysia’s dream was not trashed when his counterpart, Khairi Zakaria, took a stunning turn. Khairi has attempted to close the gap with Marcel, but his efforts failed as he continues to make a mistake at the transition and off-road section. Khairi landed fourth in Moto 2, finishing nearly two seconds behind Marcel with a total time of 23:50.924.
Instead, Japan’s Naoto Takayama outperformed on Moto 2, with controlled skills and speed that led him to complete the circuit in 24:07.549, landed him the fifth spot in the second race.
His Japanese counterpart, Takashi Sasaki, who had a machine malfunction in Moto 1 finished the course in Moto 2. However, it was a safe play on track instead of sliding at corners and speeding on the straight tarmacs.
Newcomers Indonesia’s Farhan Hendro and Philippines’ Kenneth San Andres underperformed with a slower pace and less control on their bikes, giving them the final results of the seventh and eighth spot with a total time of 24:26.555 and 23:35.442 respectively.
“It was a perfect and successful race. We would like to congratulate the Asia Supersports Group, FMSCT, all the partners and all the riders. The opening round of the season was exciting, and everything was in order. The track is probably one of the most challenging tracks in the season’s history, but all safety aspects were taken into consideration,” said Stephan P. Carapiet, FIM Asia Safety Officer.
The 2017 FIM Asia SuperMoto Championship will continue in Jogjakarta, Indonesia on 7 and 8 October 2017.
FIM Asia SuperMoto Championship is promoted by Asia Supersports Group, a consortium of three companies namely Bikenation Motorsports Sdn Bhd, Trade My Superbike and E-Plus Global Sdn Bhd; sanctioned by FIM Asia and FMSCT; and supported by Malaysia Major Events, a division of Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (an agency under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia), Malay Mail, Kelab Blogger Ben Ashaari and TX Sports.
Moto 1 Race Result:
|Pos||No.||Name||National||Laps||Best Time||Total Time|
|4||17||Marcel Van Drunen||NED||18||1:15.169||23:31.190|
|8||12||Kenneth San Andres||PHI||17||1:18.520||23:10.666|
|13||720||Lin Chin Pei||TPE||16||1:18.960||22:40.996|
|DNF||102||Tsang Wai Kei||HKG||13||1:30.587||23:46.389|
Moto 2 Race Result:
|Pos||No.||Name||National||Laps||Best Time||Total Time|
|3||17||Marcel Van Drunen||NED||18||1:15.223||23:48.316|
|8||12||Kenneth San Andres||PHI||17||1:20.493||23:35.442|
|13||720||Lin Chin Pei||TPE||15||1:25.411||23:32.197|
|DNF||102||Tsang Wai Kei||HKG||13||1:32.737||23:45.547|
|3||17||Marcel Van Drunen||NED||18||20||38|
|8||12||Kenneth San Andres||PHI||13||13||26|
|12||720||Lin Chin Pei||TPE||8||8||16|
|17||102||Tsang Wai Kei||HKG||0||0||0|