The 2018 season of the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship began in Buriram. It ended in Buriram with a dramatic flourish. It had been a weekend of non-stop drama, particularly in the SuperSports 600cc category where six riders were in contention for the title. Of the six, Yamaha Thailand Racing Team’s Ratthapong Wilairot had the slimmest chance of taking the crown. He needed to win both races.
With a little bit of help from his senior team mate Decha Kraisart, 26-year-old Ratthapong successfully turned the tables and revived his title hopes with a win in Race 1. By then, four riders were in the chase for the crown and Ratthapong, Ahmad Yudhistira and Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman each needed to win Race 2.
Team orders within the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team were very much in evidence in Race 2. Decha Kraisart set the pace at the front in the first nine laps. At exactly the midway point of the race, right on cue, Decha moved aside for Ratthapong to come through. Decha planted himself firmly in second place to guard his team mate’s flanks and succeeded in ushering Ratthapong to his second win of the season with 30’00.360s. Decha settled into second place with 30’00.701s.
While the two Yamaha Thailand Racing Team riders romped unhampered to the finish line, Keminth Kubo from the Yamaha Racing Team ASEAN managed to get into Ahmad Yudhistira’s head and disrupted the Manual Tech KYT Kawasaki Racing’s focus and concentration. The young Thai maverick hounded Yudhistira mercilessly until Kubo himself overcooked Turn 3 and crashed out on Lap 9. By then, it was too late for Yudhistira to catch up to the marauding duo at the front. For the second time this weekend, Yudhistira settled for third with 30’03.332s.
With this win, Ratthapong confirmed himself as the 2018 SuperSports 600cc FIM Asian Champion with 141 points. Ratthapong’s win has ended a 7-year title drought for Thailand in the premiere class of the Asian series.
“It has been a very emotional day for me. My late father, Christmas Wilairot, was a top rider in this Championship during its early years but he never managed to win the Asian title. Today, winning this on our home track, makes the victory even more meaningful. I dedicate this title to his memory,” said Ratthapong in a post-race interview.
“Further, I thank my team mate Decha Kraisart. He has taken me under his wings since I joined the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team this year. He and the team members have all made me feel very welcome and I have been able to accomplish my best season in my career to date.”
Anthony West is second overall with 136 points. Ahmad Yudhistira has been propelled up the ladder to third overall with 131 points while Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman dropped to fourth with 123 points. Astra Honda Racing Team’s rookie rider Andi Farid Izdihar is ranked fifth with 117 points.
Webike IKAZUCHI Racing’s Randy Krummenacher picked up eight points from Race 1 and five points from Race 2, enough to keep the team at the top of the team rankings. The Webike IKAZUCHI Racing team were equal on points with Manual Tech KYT Kawasaki Racing, but broke the tie with their stronger winning record.