Broc Parkes confirms ARRC campaign
Entries surge for 2020 opener
With Barry Russell
The FIM Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) starts its 25th season on March 5, with more entries and more international attention than at any time since in its history. A total of 80 riders from 12 different countries will contest the seven-round, 14 race-championship.
The introduction of the Asia Superbike (ASB) class in 2019 replaced Supersport 600 as the series flagship. This move attracted European manufacturers for the first time and added a whole new level of racing to the series.
The Asia Superbike class provided close racing in 2019, with a championship battle that went down to the last race of the season between Broc Parkes and ultimate winner, Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman. The contrast in styles and machinery between the top two protagonists made the seven-round, 14-race battle especially entertaining.
Broc will again partner Japan’s Yuki Ito in the Yamaha Racing ASEAN squad to face Azlan, as well as a much deeper field of potential champions.
The Malaysian stays with the ONEXOX TKKR SAG BMW with additional motivation on the other side of the garage in the shape of his new team-mate, former European Superstock champion and WSBK rider, Markus Reiterberger.
Third in the 2019 standings was Zaqhwan Zaidi, who made Honda Asia Dream Racing with Showa’s vintage Fireblade go much faster than it should have. This year Zaqhwan will be on the brand-new Honda and carrying the marque’s expectations for the title.
Kawasaki Thailand’s Thitipong Warakorn, who had his 2019 championship chances curtailed by horrific back injuries, starts the new season fit, determined and leading the charge for Team Green. Katsuake Fujiwara continues as team manager, bringing in rookie Ryusuke Iwato, following his impressive showing in the Japan Superbike (JSB) 1000 class last season.
Yamaha Thailand’s Apiwat Wongthananon is another frontrunner from the land of smiles. The 2016 AP250 champion earned himself two seasons in the CEV Junior Moto3 World Championship with the VR46 Academy before returning home to partner Ratthapong Wilairot in ASB’s inaugural season.
He got up to speed quickly, qualifying on the front row at The Bend in round two and bothering the men at the front during the early laps. Mastering the YZF R1’s electronics over race distance took a little longer, but he scored a brace of thirds at Buriram in round three and at Sepang in round six.
Former Thai superstock champion, the highly rated Anuparb Sarmoon, joins Apiwat in the premier class for 2020, after some impressive CEV Moto2 outings. Ratthapong, meanwhile returns to Supersport 600 as a former champion, having won the title in 2018.
Anuparb could quickly establish himself at the front. Although he is known in ARRC circles as a top AP 250 rider, he is supremely confident on a superbike and fans are in for a treat as they watch him wringing the neck of the YZF R1.
Meanwhile, another AP 250 champion, Indonesia’s Gerry Salim, returns from his CEV Moto2 adventures to partner Zaqhwan in the Honda Asia Dream Racing with Showa squad. Team manager, Makoto Tamada, made no secret of his desire to run two ASB riders and is rewarded accordingly for last season’s results.
It will be Gerry’s first campaign on a one-litre machine, so Honda’s management and his legions of Indonesian fans will be watching to see how quickly he can get to grips with the marque’s new flagship superbike.
Staying with Honda, Musashi, a well-known name in ARRC, comes in with a brand new team, Musashi HARC-PRO.HPI.ASIA and one of Japan’s most exciting riders, Ikuhiro Enokido. The 21-year-old finished second in the J-GP2 class of the All Japan Road Race Championship in 2019. The Japanese series is known for producing fast, tough riders and Musashi is no stranger to winning in ARRC, with a fair few fistfuls of Supersport titles already on the shelf.
Ducati Philippines added a great deal more than a touch of glamour to the grid in 2019. The team worked hard to find the right direction for the development of the Panigale and improved results steadily through the season with TJ Alberto finishing 11th in the standings.
The most conspicuous highlight was the sight of Italian wildcard, Frederico Sandi, leading race one at Sepang in round six before dropping back with tyre wear. Good news for the 2020 grid is that Sandi has signed to do the full season in 2020, so his participation is eagerly anticipated.
The much-anticipated entry of Mazspeedingrods Chieton China Racing Team is likely to be curtailed by travel restrictions following the spread of the nova coronavirus. With a pair of gleaming red BMW S 1000s ready for Ma Sai and Huang Zhi Zhao we can only wait and hope for a fast end to the prevailing global health crisis. The appearance of another Chinese superbike star, Li Zheng Peng, who has signed for Victor Racing Team, also looks likely to be delayed.
The official pre-season test, now less than two weeks away, will provide clues to how the season will pan out. Australian fans can note that a strong showing by Broc in the 2019 test, was followed by third and fifth place finishes, so the Hunter Valley man will be looking to get his 2020 title campaign off to a stronger start and to add to his tally of three ASB race wins. Round two will be at Tailem Bend, May 7-10, and will again be a double bill with ASBK. Last year Broc scored second and first place finishes at his first visit to the track.
Azlan, meanwhile, will be out to continue the winning run that earned him the 2019 championship and to get ahead of his new team-mate. Then there’s Zaqhwan, Thitipong, Apiwat and Anuparb, all with their own markers to put down.
Here’s a look at the final standings in the 2019 Asia Superbike 1000 championship, for reference.
Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman
Md Zaqhwan Zaidi
Timothy Joseph Cua Alberto
Farid Badrul Hisham
Ali Andriansyah Rusmiputro
Li Zheng Peng
Huang Zi Zhao
K. Rajini Krishnan
Robert Daniel Kruger
Chen Peng Yuan
2020 Asia Road Racing Championship Calendar
Pre-Season Test – Sepang International Circuit, MALAYSIA – March 2–4, 2020
Round 1 – Sepang International Circuit, MALAYSIA – March 6–8, 2020
Round 2 – The Bend Motorsports Park, AUSTRALIA – May 7–10, 2020
Round 3 – Suzuka Circuit, JAPAN – June 26–28, 2020
Round 4 – Zhuhai International Circuit, CHINA – July 24–26, 2020
Round 5 – Chang International Circuit, THAILAND – August 21–23, 2020
Round 6 – Sepang International Circuit, MALAYSIA – September 25–27, 2020
Round 7 – Chang International Circuit, THAILAND – November 27–29, 2020
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