After three days of testing for the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup at Losail International Circuit, the stage is set for the season to begin in earnest. Japanese rider Taiyo Furusato topped the combined timesheets from the test, putting in a 2m12.309 on Sunday to go top overall. Indonesian Fadillah Aditama was second quickest, 0.179s behind, with Malaysian Sharul Sharil completing the top three, 0.342 off the top.
One headline before action got underway was Herjun Firdaus, who sat out Days 2 and 3 as he recovers from surgery. There was also some bad luck for Tetsuya Fujita as he fractured his collarbone, also classed unfit for now. One rider now back and fit, however, is Danial Sharil as the Malaysian returns to the fold. He was fourth overall in the test and immediately pretty on the pace, which is a great sign after his big crash at Sepang in 2018.
Next up came Gun Mie, the Japanese rider ending the test fifth on the combined timesheets but just 0.016 off Sharil. Rei Wakamatsu was sixth, 0.080 off Mie, with another Japanese rider in P7: Kanta Hamada, last year’s Race 1 winner at Losail. Australian Carter Thompson slotted into 8th, 0.042 off Hamada, with rookie Malaysian Hakim Danish taking ninth as he started off his ATC experience on good footing just 0.035 off Thompson. Masaya Hongo completed the top ten, a couple of tenths further back.
Conditions were pretty good for the grid across the test to allow the majority to improve their laptimes by the end of play on Sunday, and by the final day there was also more on the agenda than just free practice sessions too. A race simulation was a key highlight, giving rookies the chance to get a taste of how it feels when the lights go out – and reminding the rest of the returners of the same as the ATC comes back from a longer hiatus than expected. In that race simulation it was Aditama who came out on top, with some drama hitting a few of his fellow frontrunners. A mechanical glitch sidelined Furusato from the fight at the front, and Hamada – the man who duelled and beat Furusato at Losail last season – suffered a crash, as did Gun Mie.
There was no such drama at the front though, as Aditama crossed the line with some breathing space. The podium – so to speak – was then completed by a duel between rookie Australian Marianos Nikolis and the more experienced Thurakij Buapa from Thailand, with the two crossing the line separated by just 0.065, the former just ahead ti impress. Indian rider Mikail Salih took fourth, just beating the returning Danial Sharil. That makes for interesting reading as it mixes up those who ended sessions near the top in practice and those who made gains in race conditions, which should make for four exciting races at Losail in Rounds 1 and 2.
Finally, the last session of the test was chance for the riders to do some practice starts – sometimes a make or break for a race. From there the grid now have a few days to pour over the data and go over what they’ve learned before returning to the track to do battle next weekend.
Competition is set to begin alongside MotoGP in Qatar with practice beginning on Friday before Saturday the 27th of March sees the lights go out for the first race of the season.
After the double-header in Qatar the Asia Talent Cup makes its first of two visits to Sepang International Circuit with the Malaysian Superbike Championship. From there the Cup is back with the Grand Prix paddock at the Twin Ring Motegi, Buriram and Sepang again, before rounding out the season alongside WorldSBK at Mandalika Street Circuit in Indonesia.
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