Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman made a big comeback to the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship with a double victory in the season opener held at the Johor Circuit on April 1 and 2, 2016.
The Malaysian rider followed up his commanding performance in Race 1 with an unexpected change of tyre strategy. Even though the soft compound rear tyre netted him good results on Friday, Azlan opted for the hard compound for Race 2. With track temperature close to 55 degrees Celcius, the choice was disadvantageous at the start of the race.
Pole-sitter Zaqhwan Zaidi and Yuki Takahashi both opted for soft compound rears for Race 2. The MUSASHi Boon Siew Honda duo were quick to capitalize on their prime starting position on the front row. However, Azlan was never far behind. As the 16-lap race progressed, tyre wear rapidly became a serious issue. Takahashi was content to stay in third place, allowing the two Malaysians to battle it out in front of their home crowd. In trying to fend off constant attacks from an increasingly aggressive Azlan on the final lap, Zaqhwan committed a critical error on Turn 3. As Zaqhwan ran wide, Azlan raced through and held the lead right to the chequered flag.
Azlan brought the flag down at 24’56.627s, followed by Yuki Takahashi second with 24’57.612s. Zaqhwan recovered fast enough to squeak through onto the podium in third place.
Behind the leading trio, former Asia Dream Cup rider Gerry Salim rode an impressive ride in fourth place. The young Indonesian rider successfully edged out Tomoyoshi Koyama, Ahmad Yudhistira, Dimas Ekky Pratama and Anthony West.
Maximum points from Race 1 has Azlan leading the SuperSports 600cc title chase. Zaqhwan Zaidi is currently second overall with 32 points and Tomoyoshi Koyama’s consistency placed him third in the rankings with 31 points.
Azlan Shah: “I was playing it safe at the start. I had identified Turn 3 as one of the possibilities for an overtaking move. My patience paid off when Zaqhwan ran wide right on cue. This double win was unexpected and I have my new team to thank for it.”
Yuki Takahashi: “Today’s results was certainly better than Race 1. My performance suffered because I was only able to do one day of testing during the pre-season official tests. Because of that, I don’t have enough data with the new tyre and ended up making the wrong tyre choice in Race 1. To be honest, I really didn’t have any specific strategy in mind. I just wanted to follow Zaqhwan and push hard to overtake.”
Zaqhwan: “Of course I am disappointed. I had a good start and led the majority of the 16 laps. My mistake at Turn 3 was painful. I guess I would have to be satisfied with two podium finishes this round.”