ZAQHWAN SCRAMBLES AHEAD OF LOCALS IN FREE PRACTICE

Friday’s free practice at Sentul International Circuit initially went as expected, as Astra Honda’s Andi Farid Izdihar and Irfan Ardiansyah, together with Manual Tech KYT Kawasaki’s Ahmad Yudhistira, locked out the top three slots on the timing screens in the first two sessions.

Then MUSASHI Boon Siew Honda’s Zaqwan Zaidi spoiled the neighbourhood party by barging his way past first past Yudhistira, then Andi Farid, with a lap of 1:30.424 to end Free Practice 3 almost two tenths ahead of the Astra Honda man. Looking at combined times, Yudhistira was next on 1:30.682. The next four fastest all clocked their best times in the second session. Irfan was fourth for the day with a 1:31.029, from Yuki Ito, Taiga Hada and Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman, whose best round was 1:31.422. Behind Azlan were another five riders in the 1:31s: Keminth Kubo, Decha Kraisart, Kasma Daniel Kasmayudin, Tomoyoshi Koyama and Ratthapong Wilairot, who did his best time of 1:31.704 in session 3. The Yamaha Thailand rider had been running close to the top in the first session, before destroying his YZF-R6 and dislocating his shoulder in crash at the fearsomely fast Turn 2. He sat out the lunchtime session in the Medical Centre while his bike was being rebuilt before coming back with a strong run in Free Practice 3.

All the above-named riders can be expected to improve their times by around half a second in Saturday morning’s qualifying session as they target Zaqwan’s 2017 pole winning 1:29.628.

With championship leader, Anthony West, sidelined by his provisional doping test suspension, and Joe Francis absent and Patrick Li absent, Webike IKAZUCHI have drafted in South African World Supersport winner, Sheridan Morais, and New Zealander, Liam Taylor MacDonald. Morais was the quicker on day one, getting round in 1:33.327, as he found his way with the bike and the unique challenges of Sentul’s track surface.