Azlan Shah rose above a series of challenges in Race 1 to take a well deserved win in Race 1 at Chang International Circuit.
The race got off to a false start when green lights were mistakenly shown. The race was immediately red flagged and the riders brought back to the line for another warm-up lap and a restart to a race shortened by two laps to 16.
A determined Decha Kraisart capitalised on his pole position to take the holeshot and lead the first six in the order they qualified for the starting grid over the first few laps. Azlan Shah showed good pace behind, holding off the leader’s Yamaha Thailand team mate, Chalermpol Polamai and the second Manual Tech Kawasaki of Ahmad Yudhistira. These four opened a gap of three seconds to the chasing pack, which consisted of Zaqhwan Zaidi, Yuki Ito and Anthony West.
Decha’s race ended in a heart-stopping moment at the beginning of lap 7, when the front of his R6 tucked going into Turn 1, leaving him in the middle of the track. As he got up to find safety, he ran directly into the path of Zaqhwan, who had got clear of Ito and West. The Malaysian somehow missed him, running wide in the process and losing his hard won race position. Meanwhile, West got the upper hand on Yudhistira to create a comfortable position for himself in third place.
Back at the front, Chalermpol kept pushing the leading Kawasaki, briefly getting in front on lap 12, only for Azlan to snatch it back. The Thai rider made a bold lunge for the lead at Turn 4 on the final lap, but went in too hot and gave Azlan, who had not put a foot wrong, a clear margin to take to the chequered flag, Behind Anthony West, Yudhistira took fourth place, with Zaqhwan and Ito evenly spaced behind.
While the indomitable Decha will be kicking himself for losing a clear chance of victory, he will also be thankful for today’s lucky escape and is sure come back strongly for Race 2.