Anthony West goes 1-3 at Suzuka

Patrick Li 19th in SS600 Race 1

Travis Hall 11th & 13th in Underbone

By Barry Russell

The Asia Road Racing Championship made its sixth visit to the legendary Suzuka Circuit at the weekend and again served up three days of compelling and often bruising on-track action. Weather conditions were on the warm side of perfect, with air temperatures moving up to 30 Centigrade and the track surface up to 49 degrees on Sunday. As expected, the three Australians among the 77 ARRC riders made their presence felt.

Anthony West went into Round 3 with 45 points from his first and second places in the first round at Chang International, which was good enough for him to maintain a three point advantage over defending champion, Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman, at the top of the standings, despite having missed Round 2 at Tailem Bend in April.

ARRC 2018 - Round 3 Suzuka - Anthony West
ARRC 2018 – Round 3 Suzuka – Anthony West

He was joined again in the series’ premier Supersport 600 category by his Webike IKAZUCHI team mate, Patrick Li, while 13-year-old Travis Hall decided to have a another run out in the Underbone 150 class, following his strong showing as a wildcard for SCK Hi Rev Honda.

Track knowledge at 56-year-old Suzuka Circuit always plays a major factor in the stats that come out of every race there. The full motorcycle circuit is 5.8 km, with 17 of the trickiest turns in world motorsport and an elevation change of more than 40 metres from the lowest point at Turn 2 to the highest at the famous Spoon Curve that leads onto the circuit’s unique Scalextric-style 900 metre overpass.

In reality it is two distinct tracks, the East Circuit and the West Circuit, joined together. It begins on the downhill start-finish straight of the technically demanding East Circuit, which flows into the fast right first turn, tightens up into Turn 2 and then goes into the 5 left-right Snake Curves. After that you have a long left-hander, two rights and a squirt under the overpass up to the hairpin.

ARRC Round 3 head to Suzuka
ARRC 2018 – Round 3 Suzuka – West & Kubo Ito

Then you are on the West Circuit, which is all about high speed and slipstreaming until hard braking for the final chicane. There are plenty of blind crests to make things more interesting, so putting a perfect lap together is difficult, to say the least. A top rider on a Supersport 600 will get around in around 2:13, while a fast underbone will take 2:40.

Of the three Australians, West was the only one carrying any meaningful experience, with plenty of laps in the Suzuka 8-Hour, as well as a double win from his 2017 trip there with ARRC. Patrick made one trip for the Suzuka 4 Hour, but got little track time after a co-rider wrecked the bike 15 minutes into the race. Travis was making his first ever trip to the Land of the Rising Sun.

In Friday’s three free practice sessions, the seasoned Queenslander, still nursing the wrist injury he picked up in World Supersport at Assen, flew mainly under the radar, staying in the top 10 and getting a lot of laps done at a pace within two seconds of what it would take to reach the podium. Patrick Li, like other Suzuka rookies, worked on finding his way around and getting his bike set up. He brought his lap times down progressively in each outing on the first day.

Under the different practice system for Underbone 150, Travis Hall, who has gelled well with Malaysia’s SCK Rapido team, put in more laps than any other rider in the two free practice sessions, bringing his best lap times down from 2:46.8 in FP1 to 2:43.2 on his second trip out. In Friday afternoon qualifying he did a 2:41.441 to finish 8th, ahead of defending champion, Akid Aziz and the previous year’s title winner, Wahyu Aji Trilaksana.

ARRC 2018 - Round 3 Suzuka - Travis Hall & Fakhrusy Helmi
ARRC 2018 – Round 3 Suzuka – Travis Hall & Fakhrusy Helmi

With slipstreaming a key element in the lap times of open practice sessions for Underbones, ARRC eliminates it by having a single timed lap Superpole shoot-out for the top 15 in Friday Qualifying. Out on his own on Saturday morning, Travis took the pressure in his stride and recorded 2:43.826 to put himself at the head of the fourth row and in the middle of the 20-bike grid.

Pole position was taken by Malaysian, Fakhrusy Syakirin, with 2:41.390, half a second clear of former Indonesian ARRC champion, Gupita Kresna. Travis’s championship leading team mate, Helmi Azman, took fifth in Superpole with 2:42.383.

Supersport 600 qualifying was the usual cagey affair, with only Yamaha riders, Ratthapong Wilairot and Australian race winner, Yuki Ito, making an early break into the 2:12s. Business time began with 12 minutes on the clock, when Azlan Shah went to the top with 2:12.717. Ito improved slightly, with Thai youngster, Keminth Kubo, a few hundredths behind.

ARRC 2018 - Round 3 Suzuka - Anthony West & Azlan Shah
ARRC 2018 – Round 3 Suzuka – Anthony West & Azlan Shah

Ratthapong’s earlier lap was enough to place him in the middle of the front row, while MUSASHi Boon Siew Honda’s Zaqwan Zaidi nudged Ito onto Row 2 from Kubo and wildcard, Kyosuke Okada. West improved to 2:13.236 to lead Row 3. Patrick Li chopped another two seconds off his Friday best, recording 2:20.674 and qualifying well within the 107 percent limit.

As ever in the Asian series, racing in all three classes was hard fought, paint-swapping and in a couple of cases, bone crunching action.

There was confusion at the start of the race when the red lights failed to go out due to a technical problem. Eventually the ‘Start Delayed’ board was shown, causing nervous moments, particularly for Travis, whose bike stalled on the grid and had to be pushed into pit lane. His team managed to get it going as race direction announced that the quick start procedure would be used to get things underway over a race distance reduced from six to five laps. He was able to complete the second warm-up lap and slot into his allocated grid position.

ARRC 2018 - Round 3 Suzuka - Travis Hall
ARRC 2018 – Round 3 Suzuka – Travis Hall

The restarted race was a hard but fair battle that was won by Helmi from Akid and Gupita, with the first nine bikes crossing the finishing line within two seconds. Travis came through in a safe 11th place, 18 seconds back from the winner. In race 2 he was much faster, finishing further down the order in 13th, but only six seconds back from race winner, Gupita and recording a fastest lap of 2:40.428.

Travis Hall

“I think my own performance was very good being able to run with the front pack for nearly the whole race. My feeling on the bike was very good because I have a lot of confidence within myself and my bike. Yeah, the SCK Rapido Hi-Rev Racing Honda Team have given me an excellent bike to ride and I’m happy to be a part of the team. Hopefully next time out in India we will be able to improve again and maybe try and get on the podium.”

ARRC 2018 - Round 3 Suzuka - Travis Hall
ARRC 2018 – Round 3 Suzuka – Travis Hall

In Supersport Race 1, Azlan converted his pole position to an early race lead, before being caught by Ratthapong, Azlan, Koyama, Azlan’s Kawasaki team mate, Ahmad Yudhistira, Kubo and West. While some of the early leaders faded and others caught up to join the front group, the Australian stayed in or around fourth place, overtaking under braking and in the turns only to get swallowed up by the rapid Kawasakis and the Yamahas of Ito and Kubo.

With two laps left, Azlan asserted himself at the front from Yudhistira, who was having to deal with repeated attacked from West and Ito. As the leaders squirmed their way into the final chicane the two men in green held their positions to deliver a 1-2 for Manual Tech team boss, Katsuake Fujiwara, while West muscled past Ito to claim third. Zaqwan and Kubo were a few metres further back to complete the top six. Patrick Li had a solid run through to finish 19th.

Race 2 on Sunday was red-flagged when Patrick Li crashed heavily on the first lap. The race was restarted as a 10 lapper and was another close battle for the lead, though with a less convincing performance from Azlan and a tough, confident display from 19-year-old Kubo.

Patrick Li

“It was a great weekend for the team, with the third and the win for Anthony. I had a nightmare today. There was a problem with my dash light showing neutral on the grid and I ended up starting in second gear. I was pushing too hard to catch up and stuffed the bike into the fence at Turn 8. I was unconscious for 30 seconds but was checked over and am absolutely fine now. We are really enjoying this series: it is really competitive and well organised. It is hard with the heat at some tracks and the longer race distances than we have in ASBK and also the number of top level riders, but it makes racing back home seem a lot easier! I need to keep getting used to the Yamaha, because I race a Kawasaki at home and also to the Dunlop slicks, which are really different to the Pirellis I am used to. We are looking forward to getting more experience in India at the next round.”

ARRC 2018 - Round 3 Suzuka - Race 2 Podium - Anthony West
ARRC 2018 – Round 3 Suzuka – Race 2 Podium – Anthony West

Again West made a nuisance of himself in the turns, but was more economical than he had been the previous day, maintaining his place in race long scrap among the top five. Last time around, Kubo led the leading group of five into the final chicane, but West gave the teenager a lesson in hard braking, planted himself in front and held the lead to cross the line three tenths ahead. Kubo won a photo finish for second from Yudhistira, Ito and Azlan, in that order.

West was delighted, having finished on the podium four times from four starts in 2018 to give himself 86 points and a lead in the standings ​of​ 14 points from Azlan and 17 from Ito in third.

Anthony West

“I am happy with that, because really I could have finished first or fifth in that lot. I put a dollar sign on the front of the bike to remind me that I get a bonus from winning, so that helped!”

ARRC 2018 - Round 3 Suzuka
ARRC 2018 – Round 3 Suzuka

ARRC Supersport 600cc Race 1

  1. Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman MAS
  2. Ahmad Yudhistira INA
  3. Anthony West AUS
  4. Yuki Ito JPN
  5. Md Zaqhwan Zaidi MAS
  6. Keminth Kubo THA
  7. Tomoyoshi Koyama JPN
  8. Ratthapong Wilairot THA
  9. Soichiro Minamimoto JPN
  10. Kyosuke Okuda JPN
    …19.Patrick Li AUS

ARRC Supersport 600cc Race 2

  1. Anthony West AUS
  2. Keminth Kubo THA
  3. Ahmad Yudhistira INA
  4. Yuki Ito JPN
  5. Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman MAS
  6. Andi Farid Izdihar INA
  7. Ratthapong Wilairot THA
  8. Decha Kraisart THA
  9. Md Zaqhwan Zaidi MAS
  10. Tomoyoshi Koyama JPN
    DNF. Patrick Li AUS

ARRC Supersport 600

  1. Anthony West – AUS – 86
  2. Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman – MAS – 74
  3. Yuki Ito – JPN – 68
  4. Keminth Kubo – THA – 57
  5. Ahmad Yudhistira – INA – 52
  6. Ratthapong Wilairot – THA – 49
  7. Andi Farid Izdihar – INA – 36
  8. Tomoyoshi Koyama – JPN – 35
  9. Decha Kraisart – THA – 33
  10. Md Zaqhwan Zaidi – MAS – 32
  11. Patrick Li – AUS – 0

Underbone 150cc – Race 1

  1. Md Helmi Azman MAS
  2. Md Akid Aziz MAS
  3. Gupita Kresna INA
  4. Wahyu Aji Trilaksana INA
  5. Fakhrusy Syakirin Rostam MAS
  6. Md Izzat Zaidi MAS
  7. Md Haziq Md Fairues MAS
  8. Peerapong Luiboonpeng THA
  9. Md Adib Rosley MAS
  10. Ahmad Fazli Sham MAS
  11. Travis Hall AUS

Underbone 150cc – Race 2

  1. Gupita Kresna INA
  2. Wahyu Aji Trilaksana INA
  3. Md Izzat Zaidi MAS
  4. Md Helmi Azman MAS
  5. Syahrul Amin INA
  6. Md Akid Aziz MAS
  7. Peerapong Luiboonpeng THA
  8. Md Affendi Rosli MAS
  9. Ahmad Fazli Sham MAS
  10. Md Syafieq Aiman MAS
    …13. Travis Hall AUS

Underbone 150cc Standings

  1. Md Helmi Azman – MAS – 94
  2. Md Izzat Zaidi – MAS – 93
  3. Wahyu Aji Trilaksana – INA – 72
  4. Md Akid Aziz – MAS – 71
  5. Gupita Kresna Wardhana – INA – 58
  6. Syahrul Amin – INA – 52
  7. Md Affendi Rosli – MAS – 52
  8. Md Amirul Ariff Musa – MAS – 40
  9. Ahmad Fazli Sham – MAS – 38
  10. Md Haziq Md Fairues – MAS – 34
    …16. Travis Hall – AUS – 21


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