The biggest news to hit the Asian paddocks in the run-up to the 2018 Asia Road Racing Championship so far had been the news of the impending return of Gupita Kresna Wardhana.
The Indonesian rider has confirmed his comeback with a new team – SND Racing. Countryman Syahrul Amin will be his flanksman as Gupita attempts to re-establish himself among the top ranks of Underbone racing.
Who is Gupita Kresna Wardhana?
Two names loomed large during the 130cc era of the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship (2012 to 2016). These were Hadi Wijaya and Gupita Kresna Wardhana. Back then, the two were team mates with Kawasaki’s Manual Tech team. This was before Manual Tech’s successful bid for the premiere class crown in 2017.
The two riders won back-to-back titles in the Underbone 130cc category. Hadi Wijaya took the honours in 2012 and 2013 before the baton was passed to Gupita in 2014 and 2015.
In 2014, Gupita won the title by a 49-point margin ahead of Taiga Hada (yes, the same Taiga Hada who was in title contention for the SuperSports 600cc championship in 2017). During that year, he picked up 1 win and 6 podiums out of 12 races.
In 2015, Gupita ended his campaign in dramatic fashion when he literally ran for his title at the final sprint at the Losail International Circuit.
Although Gupita had only left the ARRC for two short seasons, much had changed in the Asian heritage category. For one, the Underbone 130cc had been discontinued and replaced by the Underbone 150cc.
The 28-year-old Gupita will also be coming back to a much younger grid. The average age of the riders in the Underbone class had been dropping steadily over the past two years. As of 2017, the average age was 21.6 years.
Although the age factor could be negligible for a rider of Gupita’s calibre, he is likely to have his hands full with feisty teenagers with a no-holds barred approach to racing.
Controversial Team Mate
While 2018 will be the first full season for Gupita’s team mate, Syahrul Amin in the Asian series, the younger rider is not an unknown factor in the world of Asian racing. He has been celebrated as a fast rider but often criticised for his lack of sportsmanship. Syahrul was suspended for a few months in 2017 for his ‘pull-no-punches’ style of racing.
Taking The Trophy Home
Undergone racing had always been the purview of the Indonesian riders. Since 2004, there had been nine Indonesian champions in the Underbone category. Beginning with M. Fadli Immammuddin (2004), Doni Tata Pradtia (2005), Gilang Praam Sukma (2006), Wahyu Widodo (2007), Owie Nurhuda (2008), Hadi Wijaya (2010, 2012 and 2013), Rapid Topaz Sucipto (2011), Gupita Kresna Wardhana (2014 and 2015), and finally Wahyu Aji Trilaksana (2016).
In 2017, Wahyu Aji Trilaksana, frequently the sole Indonesian rider on the grid, eventually lost the title to Mohd Akid Aziz. Gupita and Syahrul Amin’s presence on the 2018 grid is expected to balance out the two opposing forces, leading to an even more exciting championship in 2018.