FUJIWARA TOPS FIRST DAY OF PRACTICE
Kawasaki ace rider Katsuaki Fujiwara topped the first day of practice in the season opening leg of the 2014 PETRONAS FIM Asia Road Racing Championship. Held at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia this weekend (April 18 to 20, 2014), Fujiwara set the benchmark for the 24 riders who make up the premiere class SuperSports 600cc grid.
Fujiwara clocked 1’05.793s while Md Zamri Baba stopped the clock at 1’05.814s on his first official outing with team MUSASHi Boon Siew Honda Racing. Zamri’s former team mate, Yuki Ito, clocked 1’05.842s – marking him as the third fastest rider of the day. Indonesian upcoming rider H A Yudhistira and Makoto Tamada rounded up the top five.
Adding spice to the 2014 competition, the tyre rules are once again revamped for the SuperSports 600cc class. Still racing on the Dunlop Unbeaten-03, this year, the teams and riders are given the choice of soft or medium rear compounds in addition to the availability of wet tyres. However, each rider will be limited to a maximum of 6 sets of dry tyres per weekend.
There will also be the additional factor of gamesmanship as the new rules permit for the changing of tyres during the qualifying practice on Saturday – a fact which may see lap times dropping even further. As of now, after the second free practice session, the top 15 riders are all lapping within one second of each other.
Class leader Fujiwara has reported that he is leaning towards the medium compound as opposed to the soft compound.
“We were practicing on the medium compound for both FP1 and FP2. One of the objectives of today’s practice was to test for the durability of the tyres. I managed to do 30 laps on a single tyre during the afternoon session and that gives me confidence that the pace will be fast for the duration of the 25-lap race,” said Fujiwara.
Fujiwara was not the only one who chose to go with the medium compound. The top four riders – Md Zamri Baba, Yuki Ito, and H A Yudhistira – all picked the same option. Meanwhile, the Ratthapong Wilairot, Tomoyoshi Koyama, Jakkrit Swangswat and Peerawat Wongthananon went with the soft tyre option during the second free practice. The four riders finished 7th to 10th respectively.
QUICK START FOR MALAYSIAN RIDERS IN SEPANG
The home track advantage always shows up early in the Underbone category of the PETRONAS FIM Asia Road Racing Championship. Racing on a familiar track, and with plenty of data to support their work, it came as no surprise when the Malaysian riders dominated the first day of practice in the Underbone 130cc category.
Norizman Ismail set the pace with 1’21.682s followed by former team mate Mohd Affendi Rosli with 1’22.048s. Norizman’s new team mate, Ahmad Fazrul Sham who is a wildcard rider this weekend, clocked third fastest with 1’22.217.
The fastest Indonesian rider was Gupita Kresna Wardhana who checked in 4th fastest in FP2 with 1’22.391s. Meanwhile, defending champion Hadi Wijaya is clearly biding his time. Hadi clocked 16th in FP1 and 13th in FP2. But Hadi’s qualifying and race strategies are well known by now, preferring to wait until the last minute before unleashing his full potential. As such, it would come as no surprise to see a sudden comeback by the wily veteran on qualifying day.
In other developments, Japanese team Honda RSC’s first foray into the Underbone category saw their sole rider Kazuki Masaki pacing in at 11th in both FP1 and FP2. The 14-year-old’s best time of the day was 1’23.205s. Masaki’s benchmark would be the best time of 1’23.351 he clocked at Sepang last year when he was racing with team Harian Metro Y-TEQ SCK Honda. Given the change in cubic capacity from 115 to 130cc, Masaki and his new team will now have a benchmark with which to work out a qualifying and race strategy for the talented young Japanese rider.
A second Japanese rider enters the championship this season – Taiga Hada who races with T. Pro Yuzy Honda. Hada gave good account of himself when he jumped from 17th fastest in FP1 to 7th fastest in FP2 with a time of 1’22.870s.
KHAIRUL TAKES CHARGE IN ONO'S ABSENCE
With 2013 Asia Dream Cup Champion Hiroki Ono departed to the Spanish National Championships, Malaysian rider Khairul Idham Pawi is eyeing his chance for a dominating season this year.
The young rider who finished fourth overall in his debut year with the Asia Dream Cup scholarship class took charge of the first practice session held at his home track – the Sepang International Circuit. Khairul took the provisional pole with 1’21.006s, more than half a second ahead of newcomer Teppei Nagoe from Japan who posted 1’21.746s.
Indian riders Sumit Loucs Toppo and Arunagiri Prabhu clocked 3rd and 4th fastest respectively with 1’21.943s and 1’21.950s. Like Khairul idham, both Sumit and Arunagiri are second-year riders in the Asia Dream Cup.
“I crashed out midway through the practice session, just after completing my flying lap. Because of that, I lost my opportunity to improve on my time. Nevertheless, I am satisfied with the condition of the machine. My target would be to obtain the double podium this weekend and for that to happen, I need to improve on my riding style,” said Khairul.