As the curtains come down on the 2017 season of the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship, Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman triumphed over a season of blood, sweat and tears to lift the second SuperSports 600cc title of his career.
The Manual Tech KYT Kawasaki Racing rider overcame the disadvantage of multiple crashes, and rode through the pain to craft a final magnificent comeback. He was 10 points adrift of championship leader Zaqhwan Zaidi at the start of the season finale but boosted his chances with a fifth place finish in Race 1.
As the riders lined up for Race 2, the final race of the 2017 season, Azlan had cut the margin to half, trailing Zaqhwan by only five points.
Polesitter Apiwat Wongthananon of team Yamaha Thailand Racing improved on his race start and quickly established a lead at the front of the pack. With Apiwat racing like a blue streak at the front of the group, Azlan was left fighting for third place against Chalermpol Polamai, Anthony West and Thitipong Warokorn. He maintained a third place position for the majority of the race but dropped to fourth when he was overtaken by Chalermpol on Lap 14.
But the cohesiveness of the Kawasaki strategy came together in a big way for Azlan. While Ahmad Yudhistira worked to hassle Mohd Zaqhwan Zaidi in midfield, marquee-mate Thitipong Warokorn acted as an able rear guard for Azlan in the second pack.
A last lap push brought Azlan flying past Chalermpol at the closing minutes of the final race and he succeeded in claiming the third spot on the podium in 29’59.060s. Azlan was 5.9 seconds adrift of Apiwat who clinched the double victory in 29’53.158s. Anthony West finished second in the race.
“Our team worked really through the night to prepare a third engine for me. My thanks to them for not giving up. It was really a tough situation to overcome. I just knew that I had to finish as high as possible. At the same time, I had to save my tyres for the end of the race. Luckily, the strategy worked and I was able to overtake Chalermpol at the final lap,” said Azlan who shed tears of happiness when he realized that he had won the title with 155 points. The last time Kawasaki had won the Asian title was in 2011 through Katsuaki Fujiwara.
Azlan’s closest rival for the title, Zaqhwan (MUSASHi Boon Siew Honda), was seventh across the chequered flag. Consequently, he dropped to second overall with 153 points. Taiga Hada (RAMA Honda by NTS T.Pro Ten10) finished eighth in the race and completed his third SuperSports 600cc season third on the championship rung with 149 points. Yamaha Racing’s Yuki Ito was ninth across the finish line and dropped to fourth overall with 141 points.
Azlan’s win also confirmed team Manual Tech KYT Kawasaki Racing as the 2017 SuperSports 600cc Team Champion with 182 points.