Asia Road Racing Championship 2019
Round 6 – Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia
With Barry Russell
ASB 1000 championship leader, Broc Parkes, knew the heat would be on for Round 6 of the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship at Sepang. As the home race for his two main title rivals, Zaqhwan Zaidi and Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman, keeping them at bay for two races was always going to be a big ask.
With Loris Baz as his stand-in for YART in the 2019/20 Bol d’Or, the Australian was giving his full attention to consolidating and building on his 188 points total – and the 35 point lead over Zaqhwan – that he took to Malaysia.
Asia Superbike Free Practice
Two Malaysian riders on very different bikes and with very different styles took control of free practice. It was the smooth riding Zaqhwan on the Honda Asia Dream with Showa SP2 who ended up quickest on combined times after stopping the clock at 2:06.502 in Friday’s final session. Meanwhile, the hard charging Azlan on the ONEXOX TKKR SAG BMW led FP1 and FP2 and recorded his best time of 2:06.665 early in the day’s final session.
Yamaha Thailand’s Apiwat Wongthananon impressed again and was placed third ahead of championship leader, Broc whose best time was 2:06.919. Ahmad Yudhistira took the privateer Victor Racing Yamaha to a strong fifth in front of lap record holder, Thithipong Warakorn, who was battling flu as well as his back injury. Yuki Ito had a quiet day by his standards and ended up seventh.
Italian wildcard, Frederico Sandi, made an excellent debut on the third Access Plus Racing Ducati, recording a best lap of 2:08.266 to end up eighth in front of team regular, TJ Alberto. Thitipong’s Kawasaki Thailand team-mate, Chaiwichit Nisakul, was tenth on 2:08.719, while Yamaha Thailand’s Ratthapong Wilairot spent the day lapping in the 2:09s and finished 11th.
Asia Superbike Qualifying
When it got to business time in Saturday morning’s 40 minute qualifying session, Broc put it all together on his Yamaha Racing ASEAN R1 to take pole position with a best lap of 2:06.107, 0.24s better than second placed Azlan and more than half a second quicker than Apiwat, who completed the front row.
Zaqhwan, on 2:06.735 led row two from Yuki Ito and Thitipong, for Kawasaki Thailand. Frederico raised more than a few eyebrows by qualifying seventh, in front of Yudhistira and team-mate, TJ Alberto.
Asia Superbike Race 1
It was the platinum version of Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman who jumped aboard the ONEXOX TKKR BMW at Sepang on Saturday afternoon. The two-times ARRC 600 champion kept himself within striking distance of the front during the frantic early laps, made a decisive move into the lead on lap eight and never looked threatened thereafter.
We were also treated to the first ever sighting of a Ducati leading an ARRC race, thanks to a convincing performance by Italian wildcard, Frederico Sandi on the Access Plus Racing Panigale.
Broc and Azlan had leisurely launches from the grid, while Apiwat scorched away from the outside of the front row to take the lead. Zaqhwan chased him, followed by Sandi and Azlan, Broc and Thitipong. Zaqhwan took the lead into turn one on lap two, but then dumped his Honda Asia Dream Racing with Showa SP2 – and his realistic title hopes – into the gravel a few corners later.
Frederico took his Ducati into the lead on lap three and, chased by Apiwat and Azlan, looked comfortable until his Dunlop-munching Panigale made him increasingly wayward from lap seven. Meanwhile, the man flu stricken Thitipong Warakorn, worked his way past Broc onto the rear of the front group as Azlan made his decisive move into the lead. Yuki pulled off the track with a mechanical failure on lap nine.
Thitipong kept pushing and got close enough to Apiwat to make his second place look vulnerable. Azlan made himself comfortable at the front as the two riders behind him, who have a few tales to tell from the Thai championships, locked horns. Thitipong got into second on lap 11 of 12, only for Apiwat to sweep back past him.
However, the Kawasaki Thailand man was not done and, going into the last corner wide and then cutting inside, managed to out-drag the Yamaha to the line by one tenth of a second to finish 1.4 seconds behind Azlan. Broc got the better of Frederico for fourth, leaving Ratthapong Wilairot in sixth, 16 seconds behind the winner and six seconds in front of seventh-placed Chaiwichit Nisakul.
Azlan’s fourth win of the season and Zaqhwan’s DNF put the ONEXOX TKKR SAG pilot into second in the standings on 168 points, 33 behind Broc, whose fourth place lifted his total to 201.
Asia Superbike Race 2
It was doubles all round at Sepang as Azlan Shah chalked his fifth win of the year and a Round 6 double. Thitipong Warakorn and Apiwat Wongthananon sealed braces of seconds and thirds respectively.
The ailing Thitipong shot his ZX-10RR through from row two at the start of the 11 lap race to lead into turn one, chased hard by Apiwat and Broc, who already looked in better shape than he had in race one. Zaqhwan and Azlan, who had made another languid start, led the chase behind the first three.
Zaqhwan soon began to slip back and Frederico Sandi showed that his race one performance had been no fluke by moving his Access Plus Ducati past both Malaysians and Ahmad Yudhistira into fourth place on lap five.
Then Azlan began to move up, passing Frederico, Broc and Apiwat to take second and put Thitipong under pressure. Apiwat stayed close as Azlan went through to take the lead on lap 8, but was unable to get past Thitipong, who was hanging on to the back of the BMW.
Broc remained fourth until lap 10, when Zaqhwan got through. The Honda man almost immediately lost the front, but found his inner Marc Marquez and recovered without losing his track position. Frederico dropped down the order after lap seven, as traction and directional issues again kept him out of contention. Yudhistira lowsided out of the race on lap 10.
Looking nice and comfy on the last lap, Azlan stroked his BMW to win number five in 2019. He crossed the line 1.2 seconds ahead of Thitipong, who just managed to keep Apiwat at bay Zaqhwan finished fourth, while Broc took fifth place just behind him. Yuki, Frederico, Ratthapong, Chaiwichit Nisakul and Ali Adriansyah Rusmiputro completed the top ten.
That means that Broc Parkes will go into the final round at Chang International Circuit on 212 points, 11 ahead of Azlan’s 193. Zaqhwan is now adrift in third place on 166.