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Jun 24, 2013

More From This Past Weekend's Various Motorcycle Road Races

Alex Cudlin (1) on his QMMF Racing Kawasaki ZX-10R in Qatar.
Australia’s Alex Cudlin has taken 3-1-2 results in the final round of the Qatar International Road Race Championship at the Losail Circuit in Qatar over 21-22 June.

The Australian – who had already wrapped up his third straight Qatar title at the previous round of the championship – had various issues to contend with over the course of the weekend, ranging from machinery issues to increased local competition with Qatari riders out to impress in the final race meeting of the year.

This was to be Cudlin’s second race appearance on the Kawasaki ZX-10R after the team switched him from his Suzuki GSX-R last round, and despite qualifying third found the Kawasaki was suffering from severe front-end chatter, which the Taree local believed was costing him up to 1sec per lap.

Al Naimi (Honda CBR1000RR) scorched to pole position for race one with a lap of 2m02.997s to head BMW S1000RR rider Al Malki (2m03.061s) and Cudlin (2m03.192s). Row two consisted of Cudlin’s teammate Prinz (Kawasaki 1000cc) (2m03.305s), five-time Endurance World Champion Delhalle (Suzuki GSX-R1000, 2m04.305s), and Aziz Binladin (Kawasaki ZX-10R, 2m05.828s).

The final round of the Qatar championship would see three races run rather than the usual two to make up for the penultimate round’s cancelled race two, where a sandstorm at the desert track made conditions impossible to compete in.

Race one and Cudlin could do nothing about BMW-mounted Al Malki, who rode away to a 7s victory. Cudlin was second for the entire race except for the final lap, when Al Naimi snatched the position from the Australian in a slipstream pass on the line. Cudlin lamented chatter problems from the front of the ZX-10R as the reasons for his third place, however after a few adjustments for race two, he was right on the pace and engaged in a thrilling race-long duel with Al Malki.

The two riders sprinted clear of the field, with Cudlin holding the lead every lap but unable to pull out an advantage due to the superior straight-line speed of the BMW over his Kawasaki. Cudlin’s break would come when the two lead riders encountered lapped traffic with the Aussie able to slice his way through and gain a 0.5sec advantage over Al Malki with a just a few laps remaining. Cudlin would eventually stretch that lead to 3.2sec at the flag, with Prinz getting the better of Al Malki for second place to complete at QMMF 1-2. Cudlin could also be happy with the news that his race time of 30m56.491s was his fastest recorded for the QIRRC this season.

The final race of the 2013 QIRRC didn’t go to plan for Cudlin. A badly slipping clutch saw the Aussie swamped off the line, and he also experienced two false neutrals as he tried to regain position. He would finish lap one in 11th but stage a champion’s fightback to bag second place at the finish, 8.1sec down on race winner Al Malki. Prinz rounded out the podium in third place.

Despite not ending the QIRRC season on the top step of the podium, it had been a successful season for Cudlin as he returns to Australia a three-time champion of Qatar.

Alex Cudlin: “That was a pretty trying race weekend. The chatter issues from the front-end were horrible and we didn’t manage to work out what the problem was in the time we had. The team and I managed to reduce the chatter a little bit before race two but the clutch issue in race three ruined our chances there.

“But I can’t be too upset. I’ve had a great season and the team have worked really well. The competition is getting tougher all the time with guys like Al Malki and Al Niami really coming along in the latter stages of the season, and it says a lot about the improving qualities of the Qatari riders that some are really mixing it with the internationals that race in the series.

“I’ll be back in Australia for about six weeks, then head off to France as reserve rider for SERT (Suzuki Endurance Racing Team), so I’ll be ramping up my training and doing a fair bit of dirt track to keep myself sharp in case I’m needed for the team for the Le Mans 24hours.

“I’d like to say thank you to my QMMF team and all the officials in the QIRRC – they make me feel very welcome each time I come to Qatar to race and I hope to be back to go for title number four next season.”

1 A Cudlin Kaw 305
2 N Al Malki BMW 196
3 N Prinz Suz 192
4 M Al Naimi Hon 174
4 S Alsulaiti BMW 167