2019 Asian Road Racing Championships
With Barry Russell
Images by TWMR Photo, ARRC
The Asia Road Racing Championship had a new look for its second trip to Tailem Bend for the double header with ASBK. The visitors turned up with three classes again, however for 2019 the Underbone 150s were replaced in the schedule by the Asian Superbikes (ASB) which make its debut as ARRC’s premier class this season.
The big bikes were joined by the Supersport 600s, which now has an upper age limit of 25, and the Asia Production 250 class. That meant that many of the senior riders who raced 600s last year have moved up to the litre class, including double champions, Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman and Zaqwan Zaidi, 2019 champion Ratthapong Wilairot, and last year’s Supersport race winner Yuki Ito.
They are joined this year by Broc Parkes, who has added a full season in ARRC to his FIM Endurance World Championship duties. By design the rules for ASB 1000 are similar to ASBK’s, with a few key differences.
Exceptions are the larger radiators that are allowed in the Asian series, which runs in several hot countries, like Malaysia and Thailand, and the control tyres that have been specifically developed by Dunlop for ARRC. The similarities make it easy for riders to switch between series during the course of a season.
This factor was pivotal for ARRC Round 2. The championship leader after round one, Kawasaki Thailand’s Thitipong Warakorn, was absent with back and chest injuries sustained during his WSBK wildcard appearance at Buriram, when he crashed and was run over by Leon Camier.
As the Thai rider goes through the long process of recovering and getting fit, Kawasaki Japan assigned his ride to Bryan Staring who is currently competing the ASBK championship with the BCPerformance Kawasaki team in Kawasaki Superbikes, thereby putting him on double duty for the four-day event.
Asia Superbike 1000
During practice and qualifying Staring got into a battle for supremacy with his compatriot Broc Parkes, with the two Aussies battling it out. It was won by the Yamaha rider, who took pole position with a stunning single lap of 1:52.581, more than six tenths clear of Staring.
Yamaha Thailand’s former AP 250 champion, Apiwat Wonthananon was third, ahead of Yuki Ito, Zaqwan Zaidi and Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman, who completed row two.
Asia Superbike 1000 – Race 1
In warmer conditions than had prevailed for qualifying, it was Staring who got the best drive at the start to lead lap one from Parkes, Zawan and Apiwat. His bold attempt to get away was quickly closed down by Parkes who got past him one lap later and opened up a comfortable gap of this own, which had extended up to 1.5 seconds by the end of lap four. Staring kept a good distance between him and third-placed Zaqwan, who beat off a challenge from Apiwat, Azlan and Yuki Ito.
The soft rear Dunlop of the leading Yamaha began to lose grip shortly before half of the 12 laps were done, which allowed the Kawasaki stand-in to reel him him back in. Staring made his move on lap eight with a well-planned move that saw him pull out of Parkes’s slipstream as they got to the braking zone at the end of the one kilometer straight and go cleanly past and into the lead at turn one. The Yamaha rider had no answer and Staring opened up a gap that stretched out to more than two seconds at race end.
Behind the two Australians, Zaqwan forged himself a comfortable slot in third place ahead of Ito, who was coming through strongly after passing Azlan for fourth. Then it went wrong for the Honda Asia Dream pilot, as a mistake on the last lap allowed Ito to seize third, while Zaqwan recovered to claim fourth.
Azlan finished fifth from the Yamaha Thailand pairing of Apiwat and Ratthapong Wilairot, while Ahmad Yudhistira, Chaiwichit and Farid Hisham completed the top ten.
Parkes’s second place lifted him to the top of the standings with a total of 47 points. The absent Thitipong was relegated to second with 40, while Zaqwan was on 38, Azlan on 36 and Ito on 34.
Asia Superbike 1000 – Race 2
Cool, windy conditions returned on Sunday, dropping air temperatures to 15-19 degrees, with track temperatures just a few clicks higher. After losing grip at around half distance while in the lead the day before, Broc Parkes worked with his Yamaha ASEAN Racing team to recalibrate the bike and rider for race two.
Bryan Staring, whose Kawasaki Thailand ZX10RR had performed flawlessly to take the race one win, realised his Australian rival was likely to be much closer in race two and that the regular Asian riders would also be building on what they had learned the day before at The Bend.
Staring had another perfect launch from the middle of the front row to take the lead. Yamaha Thailand’s Apiwat Wongthananon got away well to the right of the Kawasaki and slotted in behind him.
As the front of the pack shuffled itself into shape Broc Parkes moved into third and these three began to put daylight between themselves and Zaqwan Zaidi, who led a chasing group that also included the ONEXOX TKKR SAG BMW of Azlan Shah and the Yamahas of Yuki Ito and Ratthapong Wilairot. TJ Alberto and Kazuma Tsuda crashed at turn two and took no further part.
As the first half of the 12 lap race approached, Apiwat was passed by Parkes and began to slip back towards Zaqwan, who was himself under pressure from Azlan Shah and Yuki Ito. After watching the back of the black Kawasaki for a few laps, Parkes made his move and slipped into lead on lap 10. Staring stayed close, taking his turn for follow and watch. Apiwat was passed by Zaqwan, Ito and Azlan, which left the two Yamaha Thailand riders in sixth and seventh. Ito got himself through to third, leaving Azlan and Zaqwan to dispute fifth.
The game of cat and mouse at the front came to an end as Parkes and Staring began lap 11, with both riders pushing hard. Parkes lost the front twice in his efforts, as Staring kept the pressure on. The Yamaha rider pulled just enough of a gap on the last lap to put the win out of reach and crossed the line with a winning margin of almost half a second.
Ito took his second third place of the weekend, 1.4 seconds further back and eight seconds clear of Zaqwan, whose Asia Dream Racing Honda overcame the BMW of Azlan. Apiwat and Ratthapong held on for sixth and seventh. Yudhistira, Chaiwichit and Farid completed the top ten.
The 45 points collected by Broc Parkes over the two races put him on 72 points, 11 clear of Zaqwan, who now has 61. Azlan, Staring and Apiwat are on 47,46 and 44 respectively, while the injured Thitipong has slipped from first to seventh with 40 points.