2020 Asia Road Racing Championship
Supersport shapes up for an epic season after ARRC lifts age cap
With Barry Russell
Having been ARRC’s premier class for 18 years, Supersport was repositioned in 2019 as a stepping stone for riders on their way up to ASB. In the process, an upper age limit of 25 was introduced.
The development category experiment was successful to the extent that stars like runaway champion, Peerapong Boonlert, Kasma Daniel Kasmayudin, and Andi Farid Izdihar found themselves drawn into CEV and Moto2 championships.
The downside was that it thinned out the field. To ensure the ongoing health of the class promoter, TWMR has lifted the age cap to make it a true intermediate category. So, looking back at 2019 won’t tell you a thing about what could happen in 2020.
Teams have welcomed the move by springing surprises that promise a year of unpredictable, hard-fought battles. The result is also that out of 19 entries, 12 are riders who were not on the 600 grid in 2019. Of those, just three are above the erstwhile age limit.
Starting at what, for now, is the top, Yamaha Thailand are replacing 2019 champion Peerapong with their 2018 champion, Ratthapong Wilairot, who moves back to 600s after an indifferent year in ASB.
Next on the list comes Soichiro Minamimoto, the rider who, as a wildcard, broke Peerapong’s 2019 six race winning streak in round four at Suzuka. The 20-year-old will again be aboard the Akeno Speed Yamaha and starts the season as a top contender. Joining him is Yusuke Nakamura.
Another promising young Japanese rider, Rei Toshima, emerges from the Japanese Superbike (JSB) paddock to join the grid for the evocatively monikered Speed Heart DOGFIGHT Racing Yamaha team. He has previously had outings in AP 250 and ran as a wildcard at Suzuka in 2019.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises is Victor Racing’s Ahmad Yudhistira, who was the stand-out ASB privateer in 2019. As with other international and top-level domestic series, factory involvement in ASB makes it difficult for those without it to compete at the front. It is less of a factor in Supersport, which gives a rider of Yudhistira’s quality a real shot at the title.
Zulfahmi Kairuddin’s Sepang-based team takes on a slightly new name, IUSB ZK Racing, and doubles in size, signing both Adam and Ibrahim Norrodin for 2020. Adam was the team’s regular rider in 2019, causing all kinds of discomfort to Peerapong, scoring seven podiums from 12 starts, including wins in China and Thailand. Ibrahim stepped in for his big brother in Australia and surprised everyone with brilliant fourth and third place finishes. Sibling rivalry should keep both riders well and truly focused.
Yamaha Indonesia has promoted former AP 250 rider, Faerozi Toreqotullah to the intermediate class for 2020. Although always fast on a 250, Faerozi didn’t quite get into title contention and could well be one of those riders who goes better on bigger capacity bikes.
Cross border collaboration between Hong Leong Yamaha and Yamaha Motor Philippines brings together Filipino prodigy, McKinley Kyle Paz and 2019’s highest scoring class rookie, Afif Amran. Under the Yamaha GENBLU Racing Team banner, the hugely popular UB 150 champion is expected to harness the extra horses quickly, as well as drawing thousands of extra eyeballs to the championship, while Afif should continue build on his impressive debut season.
He is sure to enjoy the additional 450cc and should work his way quickly into contention. At the time of writing there is speculation that another Filipino could join the class. If that indeed proves to be true, then expect to see McKinley’s erstwhile UB150 partner, Fernando Masato included in an announcement about the team they’ll be riding for.
ONEXOX TKKR SAG have just announced their full line-up for 2020. Ramdan Rosli is the only top rider from 2019 to reappear and he’ll be joined by Nazirul Izzat, whom the team promotes from AP 250. He’s a rider who showed good speed and was marked out as one to watch by some of us, despite a lack of consistency.
With all the riders mentioned so far being Yamaha-mounted, the question has to be asked whether Honda can be competitive with its ageing CBR600RR. During 2019 there was an almost perfect split in qualifying and finishing positions, with Yamaha’s continually upgraded YZF-R1 occupying the top half, so it’s to be hoped that Honda will be helping their teams to find more speed.
There are some hugely talented riders aiming to break Yamaha’s stranglehold on the class, led, at least in terms of media attention, by AP Honda Racing Thailand’s Muklada Sarapuech. The 2015 Asia Dream Cup champion, having spent the last few seasons showing her male counterparts how to ride a 250, steps into the 600 class. The 26-year-old already has glittering supersport credentials, having won the Suzuka 4 Hours in 2019 and will immediately be on the pace.
Muklada is joined by Passawit Thitiwararak, who returns for a third season in the class. He established himself as one of the quickest Honda riders in 2019, finishing sixth overall in the standings.
One of the most exciting riders to move up is Irfan Ardiansyah, who is rewarded by Astra Honda for his third place finish in the 2019 AP 250 championship. The young Indonesian has the maturity and confidence of a champion as well as the physical size to dominate a bigger machine, so expect him to get up to pace quickly. Rheza Danica Ahrens, the 2018 AP 250 champion, starts his second year in the class looking for strong results after a lacklustre inaugural season.
Musashi Boon Siew Honda are again fielding Malaysian underbone graduates, Azroy Hakeem Anuar and Helmi Azman, who won the UB150 title in 2018. Azroy, who starts his third supersport season, was the best of the Honda contingent in 2019, finishing fourth in the standings and will again be looking to get amongst the Yamahas and onto the podium. Helmi had a difficult first season after sustaining a nasty leg injury in round two. He should start 2020 with his fitness and confidence restored and will be aiming to mix it up with the leaders.
Another new team, Honda Philippines Okada Manila Access Plus Racing, will be in the next garage to the Ducati team of almost the same name. On board will be Troy Jacob Cua Alberto, younger brother of Timothy Joseph ‘TJ’ Cua Alberto. Troy, 18, has had some decent outings in the Asia Talent Cup and the Thailand Talent Cup and entered SS600 rounds last year at Sepang and Zhuhai for Yuzy Honda.
With the age cap lifted, it could be anyone’s game, however here’s a look at the final standings in the 2019 Supersport 600 category.
2019 ARRC Supersport 600 Final Standings
|2||Kasma Daniel Kasmayudin||MAS||224|
|3||Muhamad Adam Mohd Norrodin||MAS||170|
|4||Azroy Hakeem Anuar||MAS||125|
|5||Andi Farid Izdihar||INA||115|
|7||Md Helmi Azman||MAS||105|
|8||Ahmad Afif Amran||MAS||105|
|9||Md Ramdan Rosli||MAS||90|
|10||Javier Orellana Malloy||ESP||78|
|11||Rheza Danica Ahrens||INA||78|
|13||Fakhrusy Syakirin Rostam||MAS||52|
|16||Liam Taylor MacDonald||NZL||34|
|18||Md Ibrahim Md Norrodin||MAS||29|
|20||Muhammad Izam Ikmal||MAS||20|
|22||Nazirul Izzat Md Bahaudin||MAS||11|
|23||Md Akid Aziz||MAS||11|
|25||Ao Leong Fu||MAC||8|
|26||Chen Hpng Yan||CHN||8|
|28||Chen Yuan Hang||CHN||5|
|29||Md Khairul Ikhwan Ajis||MAS||4|
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