Who’s who and what to expect this season
As the excitement builds up over the upcoming ARRC-ASBK double-header at The Bend Motorsport Park this April 19 to 22, we’d like to steal a few moments to introduce the ARRC regulars in 2018.
Do remember that some of these names are patronymic in nature, especially the names from Malaysia and certain regions of Indonesia. With the exception of Japanese and non-Asian riders, the ARRC would refer to its riders by their given names.
Who’s Who In The SuperSports 600cc
From Australia: Anthony West, the 2018 Championship leader, requires no introduction. With GP and WSBK credits in his resume, West is a recognizable name in motorsports. However, at the time of writing, the Australian rider had yet to confirm if he will be able to make it for the second round at The Bend due to conflicting race schedules.
From Malaysia: Defending champion (and 2 times Asian champion) Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman is well known to Asian motorcycle racing fans. He was the first South East Asian to win the Suzuka 4 Hour Endurance in 2011. The Malaysian rider’s upward momentum continued in 2012 when he won the SuperSports 600cc title. The win led to his eventual Moto2 debut in 2013 where he would stay for another two seasons. Upon his return to the Asian series, Azlan won the SuperSports 600cc title again in 2017, and effectively ended a seven-year title drought for Kawasaki.
There are eight Malaysian riders in the SuperSports 600cc category this season, many of them upcoming young rookies. Azlan may be the only Malaysian in the leading group at Round 2 as Zaqhwan Zaidi may opt to race in the All Japan that weekend.
From Thailand: Yamaha Thailand Racing duo Decha Kraisart and Ratthapong Wilairot are expected to be among the top performers. Dark horse Keminth Kubo, with Yamaha Racing Asean, may be expected to pull out a surprise or two.
From Japan: Potential podium contenders from the Land of the Rising Sun include Tomoyoshi Koyama, Yuki Ito, and Taiga Hada. Koyama is making a 600cc comeback after spending the previous season in the Asia Production 250cc class. The former Moto2 rider was picked up by team MUSASHi Boon Siew Honda this year as part of the team’s mid-term strategy in preparation for the eventual introduction of the liter-class in the ARRC.
From Indonesia: Indonesia’s presence in the SuperSports 600cc in 2018 is predominantly made up of rookie riders. With talent development efforts revving up in Indonesia, a number of the top Indonesian riders have been sent to other selected regional championships. As such, youngsters Andi Farid Izdihar and Irfan Ardiansyah will be representing their country in the 600cc title hunt.
Who’s Who In The Asia Production 250cc
From Thailand: There has always been a very strong Thai presence in the Asia Production 250cc. When 2016 champion Apiwat Wongthananon (nee Peerawat Wongthananon) left for the Moto3 World Junior Championship, Anupab Sarmoon, Peerapong Boonlert, and Muklada Sarapuech stepped in to fill the void.
Yamaha Thailand Racing’s Anupab Sarmoon and Peerapong Boonlert were Suzuka 4 Hours champions in 2017. Representing the Honda camp, Muklada Sarapuech (AP Honda Racing Thailand) became the first woman to win an AP250 race during the season opener at the Chang International Circuit.
From Indonesia: Unlike the scenario in the SuperSports 600cc, there are eight Indonesian riders in the Asia Production 250cc. Rafid Topan Sucipto’s return to the ARRC will make for an interesting season. The 2012-2013 Moto2 rider was also the Underbone 115cc champion back in 2011. Now racing for team Yamaha Yamalube KYT TJM WR Super Battery, Rafid is ranked third on the championship leader after the first round. Rafid will partner with another experienced Indonesian rider, Anggi Setiawan.
Defending team champion Astra Honda Racing Team had once again opted for a 3-man strategy – Rheza Danica Ahrens, Awhin Sanjaya, and impressive young rookie Mario Suryo Aji. Only one round into 2018, and Mario has already earned himself a new nickname – ‘Super’ Mario – thanks to his spectacular performance at the Chang International Circuit.
Officialy from Yamaha Racing Indonesia, are two entries, Richard Taroreh and M. Faerozi. Kawasaki has a sole representative on the AP250 grid with Andy Muhammad Fadly.
From Malaysia: The AP250 class does not seem to be a part of the Malaysian racing arsenal. This is the one class where Malaysian teams and riders look to be struggling to get on pace. The best performer this year has been Hafiz Nor Azman from the CKJ Yamaha Racing Team.
International grid: Despite the dominance from Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, the AP250 class has one of the more diverse grids in the ARRC. Other countries represented include India (Sethu Rajiv and Anish Damodara Shetty), Vietnam (Cao Viet Nam), Japan (Suzuki Takashi) and Chinese-Taipei (Chiou Ke Lung)
Who’s Who In The Underbone 150cc
As expected, the Underbone 150cc class is mainly the battleground for the Malaysian and Indonesian riders. While any attempts to predict an eventual champion would be foolhardy in this particular class, there are a number of riders who would warrant a second look. Among them, the five Underbone champions who will be going head-to-head for the 2018 title!
From Malaysia: Championship leader Mohd Helmi Azman was an Asia Talent Cup protégé (2014 and 2015). This year, with the help of the SCK Rapido Hi Rev Honda Racing Team, Helmi looks determined to step out of the shadows. Other key Malaysian riders in the list are 2017 UB150 champion Mohd Akid Aziz, 2009 UB115 champion Mohd Affendi Rosli, and 2004 UB125 champion Ahmad Fazli Sham.
From Indonesia: The Indonesian squad features an exciting mix of talents in 2018. Fiery young debutant Syahrul Amin was the best performer in Round 1, but never discount the wily strategies from seasoned campaigners like 2016 UB130 champion Wahyu Aji Trilaksana, as well as 2014 and 2015 UB130 champion Gupita Kresna Wardhana.
From the Asean region: Underbone racing has taken off in a big way in South East Asia. Vietnamese rider Nguyen Vu Thanh will be racing for team Yuzy Honda Vietnam Racing Team. Equally exciting will be team UMA Racing Yamaha Maju Motor Asia Team’s wildcard rider, Mckinley Kyle Paz from the Philippines. Mckinley clocked impressive laptimes during the pre-season test at the Chang International Circuit and the Asian paddock had been wanting to see this talented young rider in action ever since. With UMA Racing’s rotating strategy of wildcards, Mckinley will be making his entry at the Australian round.