Asia Superbike: Reiterberger makes his mark
We didn’t have to wait long to find out how a decent World Superbike rider would fare ARRC’s competitive cauldron. Markus Reiterberger – who alongside Tom Sykes, rode a BMW S 1000 RR for Shaun Muir Racing in 2019 – followed up a lap record breaking performance in pre-season testing at Sepang with a dominant performance in Friday’s free practice for round one.
The German, who turns 26 this week, looked at ease aboard the ONEXOX TKKR BMW, topping all three sessions by more than six tenths. His best time was 2’04.950, set midway through FP1.
The chase was led at different times by Kawasaki Thailand’s Thitipong Warakorn, Yamaha Racing ASEAN’s Broc Parkes and Yamaha Thailand’s Apiwat Wongthananon, who ended up second on the day, with a best time of 2’05.764 in FP3, more than eight tenths adrift of Markus. Broc put in a good day’s work to finish third on combined times, with a lap of 2’05.928.
The only other rider to get into the 2’05s and therefore within a second of Markus, was Lorenzo Zanetti, on the Access Plus Racing Okada Ducati Panigale. Standing in for Frederico Sandi, Zanetti, who is an official Ducati test rider, finished just ahead of Thitipong, Yuki Ito and defending champion Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman, who lagged his new team-mate by 1.810s to end up seventh.
Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman
ASB debutant, Anuparb Sarmoon, made a good account of himself to finish the day eighth for Yamaha Thailand, while Kawasaki Thailand’s class rookie, Ryosuke Iwato and Access Plus Okada’s TJ Alberto completed the top ten.
ASB Qualifying and Race 1
During Saturday morning qualifying, the pattern of pre-season testing and free practice repeated, with nobody able to get within striking distance of the ONEXOX TKKR SAG BMW of Markus Reiterberger, who claimed pole position with a lap of 2’04.762.
Broc Parkes got to within 1.4 seconds of the German to put himself second from Yamaha Thailand’s Apiwat Wongthananon, who always seems to qualify on the front row. Broc’s team-mate, Yuki Ito was fourth, to lead the second row from the Access Plus Ducati of Lorenzo Zanetti.
Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman was seventh, ahead of Thitipong Warakorn. The Thai rider had his session disrupted when he crashed on water that had seeped onto the track at Turn 4. The incident brought out the red flag and there was a lengthy delay while marshals mopped and dried the surface.
As it often does, an electric storm hit Sepang later in the afternoon, causing a delay of around 45 minutes to the start of the race.
With racing on a wet track being a new experience for the 2020 BMW, the possibility of Markus being beaten began to look realistic. He got away at the front, but, ominously, Yuki Ito tucked in behind him and snatched the lead midway round lap one. Meanwhile, Apiwat was well-placed in third, just ahead of Broc, who went through at turn 15 and then passed Markus for second.
Broc Parkes, Apiwat Wongthananon, Anuparb Sarmoon, Markus Reiterberger
By lap three out of 12, Yuki had found his rhythm and was three seconds clear at the front. Markus ran wide and Yamaha Thailand’s Apiwat and Anuparb Sarmoon went through to third and fourth. Some five seconds further back, Lorenzo was battling with Farid Badrul and Azlan for sixth place, while Thitipong looked unhappy further back in tenth.
By half distance the race was looking settled, with Yuki hitting his marks smoothly and stretching his lead every lap. In contrast Broc was having to fend off the advances of a determined Apiwat, with both machines twitching and threatening to spit off their riders at every turn.
Yuki Ito claims the Race 1 win
These two were well clear of Anuparb, who was making a very respectable debut. Broc succumbed to Apiwat’s pressure on lap 11, going over the highside of his R1 and snapping his handlebars, to register a highly undesirable DNF.
Despite a leisurely trundle from turn 15 to the chequered flag, Yuki crossed the line 7.6 seconds ahead of Apiwat and Anuparb, who was 15 seconds behind his Yamaha Thailand team-mate. Markus came in a safe fourth from Zanetti, Azlan and Badrul.
Yuki Ito celebrates the Race 1 win
ASB Race 2
Storm clouds that had again looked threatening during the afternoon began to disperse as the Asia Superbike grid formed for race two.
Sitting on pole position, ONEXOX TKKR SAG’s Markus Reiterberger looked a lot more relaxed than he had 24 hours earlier for Saturday’s wet race, next to Yamaha Racing ASEAN’s Broc Parkes, who was feeling sore after high-siding out of second position in race one. Despite the setbacks, the Australian was determined to get the start of his ARRC season launched with a degree of success.
utside him, Yamaha Thailand’s Apiwat Wongthananon, who had hounded Broc the previous day and then benefited from the previous day’s crash, set his sights on another strong result.
Markus checked out at the start, pulling a few lengths clear as he got to the first corner. Broc was the best of the rest for a few corners until he got mugged by Apiwat, who fancied his chances of chasing down the German at the front. More discomfort followed for the Hunter Valley man, as he found himself under pressure from Yamaha Thailand’s Anuparb Sarmoon and Access Plus Okada Ducati’s Lorenzo Zanetti.
Kawasaki Thailand’s Thitipong Warakorn was next, with race one winner, Yuki Ito and Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman completing a group of seven. On lap three, Lorenzo, who had predicted a podium finish, moved past Anuparb and Apiwat into second.
Apiwat Wongthananon, Broc Parkes, Lorenzo Zanetti, Anuparb Sarmoon
With half the 12-lap race done, Markus was 6.8 seconds clear and Lorenzo and Apiwat made up the provisional podium from Anuparb and Broc. Then Azlan seemed to finally gell with the 2020 Beemer and made his way through the group and up into second from Apiwat and Lorenzo. Anuparb crashed out of contention on lap seven.
With two laps left, a mistake by Azlan saw him hit the floor, while Broc and Thitipong, who had also taken a few knocks during the weekend got a lot more serious about their finishing positions. Broc moved onto the back of a twitchy-looking Ducati, but was unable to find a way past until the Italian appeared to miss a gear as he charged out of turn 15 towards the finish line. Broc narrowly avoided rear-ending him and took third place behind Markus and Apiwat. Zanetti came through to fourth in front of Thitipong and Yuki.
ASB Race 2 Podium
Apiwat’s brace of second places means that he leaves Sepang atop the standings with 40 points to Markus’s 38. Yuki lies third on 35 from Zanetti (24) and Thitipong (18). Broc’s DNF and third place finish put him sixth and level on points with Anuparb.