On another day of clear blue skies at Suzuka, the sun shone most brightly on the Manual Tech KYT Kawasakis, with defending champion, Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman shaking off years of bad results to lead a closely fought 1-2 in Supersport 600 Race 1. Asia Production 250 featured a bruising battle for second behind Astra Honda’s dominant Rheza Danica Ahrens, while Muhammad Helmi Azman gave a glimpse of what it takes to win an underbone race in which the first nine finished within 1.2 seconds of each other.

AS EVER THE UNDERBONE 150s were first on track this morning for a 10 minute warm-up in preparation for Superpole.

In the morning Superpole session, it was SCK Rapido Hi Rev’s Fakhrusy Syakirin Rostam who won the most advantage, moving from 13th in qualifying practice to claim pole position with a lap of 2:41.390. The fastest rider in qualifying, the resurgent Gupita Kresna, was next best on the Yamaha Yamalube SND Factory machine, half a second behind the tall Malaysian. Md Amirul Ariff Musa, Md Affendi Rosli, Helmi Azman and Wahyu Aji Trilaksana populated the remaining places on the first two rows of the grid.

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 13-year-old Suzuka debutant, Travis Hall, 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.

The re-start went without a hitch and Fakhrusy got his SCK Rapido Hi Rev Honda hooked up and away better than the others, before being out-dragged on the downhill run to Turn 1 by Affendi and Gupita. Md Helmi Azman snapped at the heels of his team mate and the rest of the field tried to get in on the action.

Yamaha Indonesia’s Wahyu Aji Trilaksana moved up towards the leaders as the race wore on and nobody was able to make a break. Wahyu crossed the line at the start of the last lap first from Helmi, Gupita, Fakhrusy, Akid and RCB Yamaha YY Pang’s Izzat Zaidi and Md Adib Rosley.

Helmi and Fakrusy broke away on the Spoon curve before the straight over pass section, while Adib ran wide and out of podium contention. Helmi slipstreamed his way to the front and held his line through Turn 15 and the tricky final chicane to take the win from Akid, Gupita, Wahyu and Fakhrusy. Izzat claimed sixth from Haziq, Peerapong Luiboonpeng and Adib, who recovered to finish ninth, just 1.2 seconds behind the winner. Less than one second further back the remaining two SCK Rapido HOndas of Fakhrusy and Hall came through in 10th and 11th.

Helmi’s win, his second of the season, puts him at the top of the standings with 81 points, an advantage of 4 four over Izzat. Akid is in third place with 61. Full results here.

IN ASIA PRODUCTION 250 Rheza Danica Ahrens continued his perfect weekend by taking pole position with a time six tenths quicker than Manual Tech KYT’s Andy Md Fadly, who was next best and a full 1.7 seconds faster than Gerry Salim’s pole winning time 12 months previously. He followed it up by clearing off as soon as the red lights went out to win the Race 1 by 5.2 seconds.

What went on behind the imperious Indonesian, however, was far from predictable, with Fadly, Muklada Sarapuech and Mario Suryo Aji looking the most determined to grab the best of what was left for them. It was also a case of damage limitation for Yamaha which was unable to get close to the dominant Hondas and Fadly’s fast Manual Tech KYT Kawasaki. In qualifying ONEXOX TKKR’s Reynaldo Chrisantho  Ratukore snatched the fastest Yamaha mantle from the shoulders of Yamaha Thailand’s Anuparb Sarmoon.

The race for second place had as much drama as we have ever seen in the competitive cauldron of AP250s. As Rheza scampered away, Fadly chased in vain before AP Honda’s Muklada asserted herself and showed him some lines and hard braking techniques that the 18-year-old Malaysian was struggling to find answers to. Watching just behind them was Astra Hondas supporting cast, Awhin Sanjaya and Mario, who also pulled Kritchaporn Kaewsonthi up towards the front of the P2 punch-up.

A confident looking Muklada broke away from the group on lap 3 until a mistake under hard braking a lap later made her run wide and allowed Mario, Fadly and Awhin back onto her tail, with the hard riding Anuparb keeping his Yamaha just within reach. On the last lap it looked as though Mario and Muklada would sort out the remaining two podium positions, until they were caught by Fadly at the end of the overpass. The Kawasaki rider made a mess of the entry to Turn 15, pushing Muklada wide and then went into the final chicane too hot, held the front brake lever too hard and too long and hit the deck. As the others took avoiding action, Anuparb took his chance and squirted through the melee to grab a hard earned second position ahead of Mario, Awhin, a recovering Muklada, the Yamahas of Rey Ratukore and Ahmad Afif Amran, Kritchaporn, Yamaha Thailand’s Peerapong Boonlert and Anggi Setiawan, who completed the top ten. Five seconds further back Akito Narita was 11th, beating the next finisher and fellow wildcard, Takehiro Yamamoto to the line by 7.7 seconds.

Further down the field Masato Fernando finished 17th and was the better of the two popular Filipino debutants, with McKinley Kyle Paz finishing 27th. The similarly well followed Indian hopefuls, Anish Damadora Shetty and Sethu Rajiv finished together in 24th and 25th for Idemitsu Honda Racing India.

Rheza now has 98 points, stretching his championship lead to 16 points from Anuparb and Mario, who are tied on 82. Muklada is 20 points further back in fourth place.

SUPERSPORT 600 proved to be equally as dramatic.

Qualifying was characteristically cagey, with only the Yamahas of Ratthapong Wilairot and Yuki Ito moving into the 2:12s before the halfway mark, while the injured Decha Kraisart went out briefly, recorded a lap of 2:13.500 and came back to the pits to save his injured right wrist for the race. Last year’s double winner, Anthony West, improved to 2:13.236 after a quiet Friday.

With 12 minutes left, Manual Tech KYT Kawasaki’s Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman began to push, going to the top of the screens with 2:12.717, while Keminth Kubo moved to within a few hundredths of his Yamaha Asean team mate, Yuki Ito. Zaqwan Zaidi also put in a convincing mid-session bid of 2:12.867. As the clock counted down to the end of the session, most riders were striving for improvements, but none succeeded, leaving Azlan on pole position from Ratthapong and Zaqwan. Ito and Keminth were joined on row 2 by fastest wildcard, Kyosuke Okuda, while Anthony West led row 3 from Ahmad Yudhistira and Decha.

At the race start, Azlan converted his pole position into an emphatic holeshot, getting clear of Ratthapong, Zaqwan and Ito. Tomoyoshi Koyama catapulted himself away from the fourth row to put himself in touch with the leaders through the rhythmic curves of Suzuka’s first sector.

Ratthapong appeared to have the best of the early pace, easing himself to the front on lap 2. Yamaha Thailand’s new recruit looked comfortable at the front, but was not able to earn any kind of margin for himself. Anthony West made his presence felt by moving through to fourth. Azlan slipped to third and then fourth, Ito grabbed the lead and then swapped it every few turns with Ratthapong.

As the race wore on, Zaqwan, who had started with a hard front tyre and a soft rear, began to rue his choice, while Ahmad Yudhistira worked his way stealthily into striking range for the podium. Ratthapong fell back, Keminth Kubo moved forward and West breathed fresh air at the front for the first time on lap five before giving way to Azlan who, seeing his team mate’s intent got his head down again at mid distance. On laps eight and nine the two Kawasakis exchanged the lead. West got past them several times under braking into the turns, only to get outdone on the 900m overpass on each lap. Astra Honda’s Andi Farid Izdihar caught the front group, prompting a recovery by Zaqwan, to make it a seven-bike fight for the lead. Farid pushed beyond the limit, getting his rear wheel onto the grass under braking on lap 11 and had a landing that looked almost as hard as the one he had at Tailem Bend in Round 2.

With two laps remaining, Azlan showed the steel that has taken him to two championships and gave himself some room at the front from Yudhistira, who had to deal with persistent attacks from Ito and West.

As they came into the final chicane, Azlan held his advantage, as did his team mate to deliver a strong 1-2 to a jubilant team manager, Katsuake Fujiwara, and the rest of the Manual Tech KYT crew. West muscled his way into third from Ito, Zaqwan and Kubo.

Behind them, Koyama was 7th from Ratthapong, with wildcards, Soichiro Minamoto and Okuda completing the top 10. The dogged Decha Kraisart gritted his teeth for 12 laps to take 11th in front of Taiga Hada, Azroy Hakeem Anuar, Kasma Daniel Kasmayudin and AP Honda’s Passawit Thitiwararak who collected the last championship point for finishing 15th.

It was an important win for Azlan, who has taken more broken bones than trophies away from Suzuka since his podium at the inaugural race there in 2013. It gives him 63 points and the championship lead going into Race 2, two more than West, while Yuki Ito lies just behind them on 55. Ratthapong is a further 15 adrift in fourth position.