The Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup season kicked off with Race 1 at Losail International Circuit over the weekend, alongside the Qatar MotoGP round, with Kanta Hamada duelling superstar rookie Taiyo Furusato right to the wire, and the two crossing the line just hundredths apart.
It was the more experienced Hamada who came out on top to take his first win after some perfectly pitched slip-streaming, with the podium completed by Syarifuddin Azman after a solid ride from the Malaysian to open his account in 2020.
Syarifuddin Azman came out on top in Race 2, the Malaysian winning a five-way battle for victory to take his second win in the series and first of the year. Race 1 winner Kanta Hamada keeps the points lead after he came home in second, just 0.049 off, with the podium completed by Harrison Voight as the Australian made his first visit to the IATC rostrum.
It was a mixed weekend for Voight who had to recover from a Race 1 mishap to finish 12th, before the podium position in Race 2, and completed the weekend in fifth place overall, on 20 championship points.
Fellow Australians Carter Thompson and Max Gibbons also put in a strong showing, with Gibbons claiming tenth in Race 1 and sixth in Race 2, for a total of 16 championship points, leaving him placed seventh into Round 2.
Carter Thompson finished in ninth and 11th across the two races, for 12 championship points and holds 12th in the standings and looks forward to Round 2 at The Bend in Australia.
“Race 2 I finished P11. Happy with taking more off my times, made some silly mistakes during the race and work is needed on my starts but am very happy overall with my weekend. Learnt so much and it is all experience. Want to say a huge congrats to Harrison Voight Racing #29H on an awesome race, podium well deserved and also to Max Gibbons Racing for a great race as well with a great result. Home tomorrow, and can’t wait for Round 2 in Australia at The Bend.”
Off the line it was Furusato who got an almost perfect start from pole, with the Japanese rider streaking away with a good number of bike lengths in hand. Australian Harrison Voight got bogged down slightly from second on the grid, and the likes of Hamada and Azman needed no invitation to make their way through and take over the chase. Voight then slid out, leaving one favourite for the podium facing a fight back.
Back at the front, Furusato was cool and collected, maintaining his gap for a while, but the number 8 of Hamada had his head down and began chipping away at the lead until it was most definitely a duel. Azman, meanwhile, had managed to pull away from those just behind, but the Malaysian didn’t seem to have much in his pocket to take on the two men ahead of him. Furusato and Hamada were, after all, the only men capable of putting in the 2:11s.
Lap by lap it was a classic game of chess and tactics between the two at the front, with a few dices here and there but the game a patient one until the latter third of the race. From around five laps to go it was all go, however, with the moves coming thick and fast and both putting on a fantastic show – as well as doing some research, it seemed, into how to play their cards come the end of the race.
Hamada had tried out the slipstream exiting the final corner on a number of occasions before it was crunch time, just ahead over the line on each attempt, but after heading wide into Turn 1 on the final lap the number 8 suddenly had more of a mountain to climb. Not long after, however, it was Furusato’s turn to head a little wide and sure enough, the two were locked back together as the final few corners beckoned.
Hamada was in position to play the hand he seemed to have prepared, and just like earlier in the race the slipstream paid off to perfection. Tucked in behind Furusato right next to the grass before pulling out to make the move just before the line, Hamada took his first IATC win in style and by just 0.032. Furusato can be proud of an incredible debut in the series, however, and Race 2 will surely be one to watch as the two could well face off again…
Azman took third and his first podium of the year in a bit of clear air, but another duel to the wire decided fourth and fifth. Rookie Gun Mie took it in the end, just 0.009 ahead of Shoki Igarashi as the two crossed the line almost bumping elbows.
It was also incredibly close in the fight for sixth, with just over a second covering P6 down to P11. Malaysian Sharul Sharil come out on top in the group fight as he took that sixth, ahead of the Japanese duo of Masaya Hongo and Rei Wakamatsu, forcing Australians Carter Thompson and Max Gibbons to settle for ninth and tenth, respectively. Indian rider Mikail Salih come home in 11th on his debut, just a tenth further behind.
Voight, after managing to rejoin the race following his crash, took twelfth and some valuable points despite his time deficit to the top. He could be one to watch on Sunday in Race 2 after not getting chance to show his full hand.
It was polesitter Taiyo Furusato who once again took the holeshot from the front, the Japanese rookie putting in another stunner off the line, but this time those just behind him were able to stay in slightly better touch from the off. And from that off, a lead group of five emerged as it became clear Race 2 was going to be more than a duel – with Hamada, Azman, Gun Mie and Voight all able to make it a five-man contest.
That’s the way it stayed on Sunday, with some stunning moves, a few wobbles and plenty of overtaking spicing up the fight at the front, and the high speed chess of Race 1 replaced by a gloves-off battle. Coming into the final corner, Furusato once again chose to remain in the lead – once again having led for many laps of the race too – but once again it didn’t quite work out. The slipstream was going to decide the race, but this time there were five.
As Furusato gunned it towards the line, those behind were gaining and it was Azman who got the drive. The Malaysian timed it perfectly to pull alongside and then past, making it to the line just half a tenth clear of the man on his tail – Hamada, as the number 8 also got past Furusato. As did Voight, with Furusato forced to settle for fourth despite having put in so much leg work.
Gun Mie ended up a couple of tenths back but nevertheless made it a debut weekend to remember as he followed up fourth in Race 1 with another top five on Sunday, with an even closer battle raging behind him for sixth. Australian Max Gibbons won it by just 11 hundredths, fighting off Shoki Igarashi as the Japanese rider was shuffled back to P7.
Rei Wakamatsu took eighth and a step forward on Sunday, gaining himself some clear air from those on the chase, as another close contest deciding ninth. Indian rider Mikail Salih took that P9, getting the better of Malaysian Sharul Sharil by just half a tenth. Carter Thompson was 11th and Masaya Hongo 12th, but both still within a second of Salih.
That’s a wrap from Round 1, with a little longer wait for the next track action after the calendar change. But that’s time to reset and recharge, with more IATC action waiting in the wings.
2020 Asia Talent Cup Calendar (Updated)
March 6-8 – Races 1 & 2 – MotoGP Grand Prix of Qatar – LOSAIL, QATAR
May 8-10 Races 3 & 4 – ASBK – THE BEND, AUSTRALIA
August 7-9 Races 5 & 6 – Malaysian Superbike Championship – SEPANG, MALAYSIA
October 2-4 Races 7 & 8 – MotoGP Grand Prix of Thailand – BURIRAM, THAILAND
October 16-18 Races 9 & 10 – MotoGP Grand Prix of Japan – MOTEGI JAPAN
Oct/Nov 30-1 Races 11 & 12 – MotoGP Grand Prix of Malaysia – SEPANG, MALAYSIA
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