Malaysian rider Zaqhwan Zaidi took top honours in Race 2 of the SuperSports 600cc class after surviving a wheel-to-wheel battle against compatriot Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman as the second leg of the 2016 FIM Asia Road Racing Championship wrapped up at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand.
The 21-year-old flew into the lead at the start of the race, with 20 fierce competitors hot on his tail. The MUSASHi Boon Siew Honda rider barely had time to settle into his racing as Ahmad Yudhistira, Tomoyoshi Koyama, Ratthapong Wilairot, and Azlan Shah made their presence felt in the leading pack. The battle for P1 raged on for the first six laps. Yudhistira was particularly aggressive but the arrival of Anthony West on Lap 7 distracted the Indonesian rider from his relentless pursuit of the lead. This allowed Zaqhwan and Azlan to carve out some daylight between them and the 5-rider battle for P3.
Meanwhile, Yuki Takahashi who was pushed wide at the start of the race, arrived at P3 after successfully overtaking 17 other riders in a determined 9-lap charge. Even as Takahashi stole the spotlight for his achievement, the battle at the front intensified.
Two laps to go and Azlan began to put pressure on Zaqhwan. However, learning from his experience at the Johor Circuit in Round 1, Zaqhwan was not so easily intimidated. Azlan took the lead at the hairpin corner during the final lap, but Zaqhwan was quick to slip through his defenses. Both riders were neck-to-neck through the last corner until Zaqhwan’s momentum carried him to victory with a time of 30’05.166s. An exhausted Azlan had to settle for second place with 30’05.950s while Takahashi rounded up the winning trio in third place with 30’07.239.
“I knew that my bike had the best pace and I tried really hard to pull away at the start of the race. That was impossible, so I quickly changed my race approach. During the closing stages of the race, I knew that Azlan was going to make a move at the last corner and I slammed the door on him just at the right time to disrupt his rolling speed and force him on the brakes,” said Zaqhwan.
Koyama’s victory in Race 1 and Zaqhwan’s win in Race 2 had brought the SuperSports 600cc title chase back to square one. Azlan still leads with 78 points but Zaqhwan is now only 1 point behind with 77 points. Koyama stands third with 69 points. Things are looking a little less tense in the team awards category. Strong performances by both Zaqhwan and Takahashi had placed team MUSASHi Boon Siew Honda at the lead with 91 points. Team BikeART Racing Kawasaki, having only Azlan to rely on, is now second with 78 points while Tomoyoshi Koyama had brought team T.Pro Yuzy Honda NTS with WoW into third position with 69 points.