A mere 1000rpm cut handicap in the AP250 class was not going to stop Andy Muhammad Fadly and Irfan Ardiansyah from putting up a fantastic performance in Race 1.


As the final round opened at the Chang International Circuit, all signs were pointing towards an all-Thai domination at the front of the AP250 race while the battle for the title between the two main protagonists would likely happen off the podium.


The expectations were initially borne out at the close of the AP250 qualifying when Muklada Sarapuech unequivocally earned the right to park her bike on pole position followed by Rafid Topan Sucipto and Piyawat Patoomyos on the front row. Andy and Irfan qualified for the second row, on P4 and P6 respectively.


As the 10-lap race flagged off, a brilliant start by Muklada gave her full control of the first lap. As the group swept around the hairpin at Turn 3, Muhammad Faerozi Toreqottullah crashed out, very nearly taking Irfan along with him. The Astra Honda Racing Team rider lost a full five seconds as he narrowly avoided a catastrophic outcome in Race 1, dropping down to P20 at the end of the first lap.


Back in front, Andy Muhammad Fadly was careful to stay within the top group even as Muklada and team mate Piyawat Patoomyos tried to pull ahead on Lap 3. However, the two Thai riders were unable to hold the rest of the riders at bay for long. As of Lap 6, Fadly, Piyawat, Muklada, Rafid Topan, Tatchakorn Buasri, Awhin Sanjaya and Rey Ratukore were still all tangled up in the 7-bike lead group.


By this point, Irfan had managed to get himself back into the points, but was still trailing the front runners by a hefty 5 seconds. Just when it looked like Irfan’s title hopes are fizzling out, the Astra Honda Racing Team rider began a series of quick laps that halved the gap to 2.3 seconds within the space of two laps.


Irfan caught up to the tail end of the leading group on the final lap which was being led by his team mate Awhin Sanjaya and compatriots Rafid Topan Sucipto and Andy Muhammad Fadly. The three frontrunners, however, soon lost the lead to an audacious move by Muklada Sarapuech. The AP Honda Racing Team rider led the group into the last corner but ran wide, almost crashing into Awhin Sanjaya.


Andy Muhammad Fadly took full advantage of the situation and darted into the inside line and successful held the lead to the finish line. Andy scored his third win of the season with 19’03.763s Awhin Sanjaya recovered from the incident in time to take second place while Muklada claimed third place.


Fadly has taken a 14-point lead at the top of the championship standings. Irfan Ardiansyah finished fifth to keep his title hopes alive. Awhin Sanjaya, trailing Fadly by 19 points, also has a strong mathematical chance to lift the crown. However, the second equalizer will also be applied to Awhin for Race 2, leading to a scenario where all three title hunters will be racing on a level playing field.