SuperSports 600cc defending champion Mohd Zaqhwan Zaidi picked up the first win of the season as the 2017 FIM Asia Road Racing Championship kicked off at the Johor Circuit on April 1, 2017.
The 22-year-old Malaysian rider had gone from strength to strength as the first round progressed at the 3.86km circuit. Zaqhwan earned the right to start the first race from the coveted pole position when he delivered on his promise of a new lap record with a time of 1’30.612s. Subsequently, a good start in Race 1 gave the MUSASHi Boon Siew Honda rider the holeshot.
However, Decha Kraisart of Yamaha Thailand Racing quickly made his presence felt when he successfully challenged Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman and then took the lead from Zaqhwan on Lap 3. The Malaysian rider was contented to shadow his Thai rival for the majority of the race. Zaqhwan only made his move on Lap 10, and succeeded in taking the lead from Decha. Behind the duelling leaders, 18-year-old Taiga Hada gave a remarkably solid performance as he picked his way up the field to arrive within the leading group.
On Lap 12, Decha tried to get on the outside of Yamaha Racing’s Yuki Ito, only to run out of tarmac and dropped to fourth position. With Decha gone, Hada quickly caught up with Zaqhwan but could not find a way past his more experienced rival.
Zaqhwan led the pack to the finish line with a time of 24’48.515s while a grinning Hada skipped up to the second podium spot with a total time of 24’49.254s. In third place, Yuki Ito signalled the possibility of a strong Yamaha comeback with a time of 24’52.067s.
“Decha was very strong at the start of the race. When he got into the lead, I found it very difficult to retaliate. So I decided to hang back, manage my tyres, and bide my time for the perfect opportunity. Once I overtook Decha on Lap 10, I switched mental gears in order to remain constant and focused on my riding. I was really shocked when I suddenly realized that Hada was right behind me. Luckily, that was during the closing laps of the race and I was able to keep my win,” said Zaqhwan.