Australians converge on Asia Road Racing Championship
Five Australians performed on the international stage last weekend, as round one of the (ARRC) took place at Johor Circuit in Southern Malaysia.
Anthony West scored seventh and eighth place finishes in Supersport while compatriot Michael Blair took 17th and 15th place results in the hotly contested 600cc category.
“The meeting was good for me I had bike troubles through the weekend but by the race it was going well racing was very hard and close having the whole field witching a second for the duration of 16 laps so coming home in the points was a good start to the year for us and can’t wait for Thailand to move up into the top ten.”
In the Asia Production category Jack Mahaffy carded 24th and 21st place results.
Young Queenslander Broc Pearson just missed the podium in the Asia Dream Cup races, the 15-year old scoring 4th and 5th place finishes.
“Testing was a big couple days, I didn’t adapt to the track as fast as I would have liked, it was a very technical track and was easy to make mistakes, on the first day I was well inside the top 10, around 7th position with a time of 1:56.0 and that was the only session for the day. I wasn’t happy with that time as Hafiz and Hiroki had adapted to the track much quicker with much faster times.
“On day two of testing we had three sessions, in all three sessions I was able to continuously drop my times, we were able to make a few suspension adjustments and I was able to push much harder on the bike, in the final session I was able to get a 1:53.2 and place myself in 4th position. Round one was only a week later so it was back to Johor for another few hot long days…
“We only got one practice on the Thursday, the tyres were very worn out and slippery so I decided to use the session to work on some areas that I needed to improve on, I finished inside the top ten but with a time of 1:54.0, but I was impressed with that as I wasn’t pushing at all.
“Friday was a more important day as it involved our second free practice then qualifying for the race, we all got new tyres in FP2 and I Didn’t want to wear them out before the qualifying got underway, so I went out and warmed them up for a couple laps then put in three fast laps and pulled off for the session, it was just enough time to wear my tyres in and take the slippery surface off the top and I was still able to see a massive improvement with a 1:52.6 and sixth position.
“Qualifying was a dream come true, for the first couple laps I just stayed calm and focused on the task ahead, when the tyres were warm I put my head down and was flat out for the next five laps, on lap six I came across the finish line and seen P3, 1:51.2, I remember thinking to myself, “Did I look at the right pit board,” I had almost dropped two seconds in this session and I couldn’t believe it, I knew that time was a ripper and I wasn’t going to beat it, so I pitted in early to save my tyres for the race and hope that no one was going to beat my time. Fortunately the positions didn’t change and I was able to get on the front row for Saturday’s racing.
“On Saturday it was a lot of nerves and excitement running through me. I used warm up very well, I was feeling a bit run down in the morning and I didn’t want to wear out my tyres but I had to wake up and get energy on the track. I followed Hiroki through the entire warm up as we set some fast times for a warm up session, Hiroki finished in P1 and I finished in P2. First thing my dad said to me when I came into the pits was “everyone is shocked with how fast you are, you can win this and everyone now sees you as a threat.”
“Race 1 I remember sitting on the grid, getting an interview with a grid girl standing next to me and casually talking about my plans for the race, I then turned and said to dad, “isn’t it nice been on the front row, I need to start from here in every qualifying”. I had a decent start in Race 1, I Didn’t lose any positions and I didn’t gain any. I was just sitting inside the top three of our group of six who broke away from the rest of the pack and then around lap three Hiroki decided to make a break, I jumped straight in and I was with him through the lap and we had made a gap from the rest of the group and it was going to be a comfortable race, then going through one of the fast turns I lost all rear grip and almost high sided, losing all my momentum to get up the hill, I then fell off the back of Hiroki and was caught by the rest of the group. I had a comfortable second place on the podium and in no time I was back fighting just to be on the podium with five other riders. I had major tyre problems through the entire race and I wasn’t able to push like I wanted too. As Hiroki had already got away, he left us all fighting for second. On the final lap I was sitting in fourth position, I tried to get up the inside with a couple corners to go but my nose was taken off me and I just thought, ‘if I would’ve pushed harder, I would’ve earned that third place on the podium, now it’s gone.” There was no more passing corners with the remainder of the lap and I settled for fourth. As soon as I got into the pits I looked at my dad and said, ‘I wasn’t aggressive enough and it got the better of me, tomorrow It will be a different me.’
“Race two came, while sitting on the grid peacefully and all I was running through my head was ‘fight, aggression, fight, aggression’, trying everything I could to get myself pumped up and determined for the race podium. When the race got underway I got a poor start and lost a couple positions going into turn one but I regained them straight away. Once again, Hiroki tried to break away but none of us were allowing that, thoughts went through my mind, ‘he’s no faster then you are so don’t let him get away’, and that’s what we did, chased him down and re-passed him. My rear tyres were sliding around like I was on ice and I decided to sit at the back of the group in fifth and wait to pounce until the last lap. Last lap came and I waited to the main straight, coming off the main straight I popped my way into fourth, then through the long sweeping turn six I was into third, took me a second to think, ‘I’m in 3rd, I’m really going to podium this race’, there was only one passing corner they could attempt to get me back on, coming through the last chicane I lost all grip in the rear and my rear spun the wrong way, as I tried to cover my line a rider was straight up the inside, back to fourth I went and after losing all my momentum I was slipstreamed back to fifth and no recovery was able to be made. Going across the line in fifth after loosing third so fast was heart braking. After coming into the pits I spoke to my dad, ‘I don’t know why I did that, I got 3rd and I got too comfortable and before I knew it, I lost it. Thailand is only a few weeks away and I will not let this happen again.”
14-year-old Corey Briffa from Howes Valley (NSW) continued his recent transition from junior motocross and carded encouraging 13th and 12th place finishes in the Asia Dream Cup competition.
For many years’ Australian riders have made the trip across to Asia to compete in the competitive ARRC, and with lines of communication now well and truly open, both the Yamaha Motor Finance Australian Superbike Championship presented by Motul Pirelli, Motorcycling Australia, and the Asia Road Racing Championship are now exploring options on how the three can collaborate in the future.
Asia Road Racing Championship Director Ron Hogg shared that it’s been fantastic having the likes of Australians Broc Pearson and Corey Bifta at Asia Dream Cup, Jack Maffry in AP250 and also Anthony West and Michael Blair in SS600.
“Australian riders have been a constant part of the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship since its early days. The most memorable was of course Chris Vermeulen in 1999,” he said.
“He came to us as a young rider and the ARRC was his first exposure to racing outside of Australia. From there, we watched with pride as Vermeulen’s career took flight .
“A couple of years ago, we had aspiring young talents like Josh Hook graduating from the Asia Dream Cup. Others that bear a mention include Mark Aitchison, Aaron Morris and most recently, the most high profile rider of all, Anthony West.”
Mr Hogg also made comment that the ARRC hopes to welcome more Australian riders to the championship in the future, and is looking forward to the ASBK and the ARRC working together in the future.
“We have always hoped to have more Australian riders coming into the Championship. The establishment of the first Australian team in the ARRC, Team Finson Racing in 2013 was a big step in the right direction,” he said.
“We hope that with more media exposure, the Australian team will receive the funding they need to continue funnelling Australian talents into the series.
“Growth and development is a two-way relationship. As bridges are linked across continents through sports, we hope to establish closer working ties with Motorcycling Australia. In doing so, we will create more opportunities for teams and riders to expand their horizons.”
Motorcycling Australia’s Sport Director Peter Doyle also shared that MA is pleased to see an impressive number of Australians competing in the ARRC this year, and is looking forward to further building the working relationship with the ARRC.
“Australia is very much well represented at the ARRC at the moment, and it’s fantastic that we have now opened up lines of communication with key personnel within the championship to explore how the ASBK and the ARRC can work together in the future.
“Both championships are proven to be stepping stones to bigger international championships, and by working together we believe that there will be more opportunities for Australian and international riders in the future.”
Round 2 of the 2016 FIM Asia Road Racing Championship will be held on May 6 – 8 at Buriram Circuit in Thailand.