The unexpected results from the Australian round of the 2018 ARRC has kept the status quo in the SuperSports 600cc title chase. The race to cinch the 2018 SuperSports 600cc crown will resume in earnest as the Asian contingent head to the Suzuka Circuit for Round 3 this June 1 to 3.
Despite missing out on his home race due to a schedule-clash with the WSSP, Ant West is still nominally in charge with the 45 points he picked up in at the season-opener in Thailand. In his absence, the cancellation of Race 1 following a series of red flag incidents, had worked in his favor as no points were awarded for the first race.
In Suzuka, the WeBike Ikazuchi Racing rider will be going toe-to-toe against the reinvigorated Yuki Ito. Following a disappointing season in 2017, the factory Yamaha rider is back with a vengeance. The best performer at The Bend Motorsport Park, his win had propelled him up the rankings to 2ndoverall with 42 points, three points behind West.
Both championship leaders are equipped with the 2017 Yamaha R6 this season. While Ito has notched up a couple of Suzuka wins during his ARRC career, West has had the more recent success with a double in 2017.
SuperSports 600cc Records At The Suzuka Circuit
|Year||Pole-Sitter||Race 1 Winner||Race 2 Winner|
|2013||Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman (Honda)||Shinichi Nakatomi (Yamaha)||Shinichi Nakatomi (Yamaha)|
|2014||Yuki Ito (Yamaha)||Katsuaki Fujiwara (Kawasaki)||Yuki Ito (Yamaha)|
|2015||Yuki Takahashi (Honda)||Yuki Ito (Yamaha)||Yuki Takahashi (Honda)|
|2016||Yuki Takahashi (Honda)||Decha Kraisart (Yamaha)||Yuki Takahashi (Honda)|
|2017||Ikuhiro Enokido (Honda)||Anthony West (Yamaha)||Anthony West (Yamaha)|
The time to beat will be 2’12.094s set by wildcard rider Ikuhiro Enokido during the 2017 qualifying practice.
Defending champion Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman struggled to find the right balance in the Australian round. Fighting to tame the finicky Ninja ZX-R6, it took almost herculean effort for the Malaysian rider to finish within the top-10. Azlan has dropped to third on the rankings but is still within shot of the championship lead with 38 points.
Behind Azlan, P4 to P9 on the standings are peopled by a slew of exciting names popping up on the Asian talent radar.
Ratthapong Wilairot is rocking his first season with the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team. He picked up his first podium of the season in Australia and is now 4thon the standings. Previously, Ratthapong’s best performance in the SuperSports 600cc class had been in 2015 when he ended his campaign in sixth overall.
Keminth Kubo continues to show improvements and is presently ranked 5thwith 27 points. While still a little erratic, team Yamaha Racing Asean’s decision to hone Kubo’s skills in the All Japan J-GP2 has helped stabilize the Thai rider’s aggressive streak.
Andi Farid Izdihar, returning after a 3-year stint in the Asian Talent Cup, is the best performing Indonesian rider in 6thoverall.
Thitipong Warokorn is still on the top-10. Warokorn won Round 1 as a wildcard, but his ranking will continue to drop until he makes another wildcard appearance in Round 6.
Team Hong Leong Yamaha Malaysia’s latest recruit, Mohd Ramdan Rosli, along with team Musashi Boon Siew Honda’s rookie Azroy Hakeem Anuar, has been highly impressive in the first two rounds. The two Malaysian youngsters are ranked 8thand 9threspectively.
The venerable Decha Kraisart, anchor for the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team, has had a bad start to the 2018 season. Decha has only finished one race out of three so far, and has dropped to 10thon the standings with 20 points.
As the ARRC heads back to familiar surroundings at the 5.8km Suzuka Circuit, other riders who had previously been tipped as title contenders will need to double down on their efforts to stay in touch with the chase. Tomoyoshi Koyama, Ahmad Yudhistira, Keisuke Kurihara, Taiga Hada, and Mohd Zaqhwan Zaidi are ranked 11thto 15threspectively.