Mohd Zaqhwan Zaidi’s title defense campaign had gotten off to a positive start. At the Johor Circuit for the first day of free practices for the season opener of the 2017 FIM Asia Road Racing Championship, the MUSASHi Boon Siew Honda rider was fastest in two of the three free practice sessions and ended the day as the fastest rider with a time of 1’31.063s.

In the hunt for his third SuperSports 600cc Asian title, Zaqhwan looked comfortable as he shouldered the role of lead rider for the Malaysian racing team. However, the 2-times SuperSports 600cc champion expressed surprise that the rest of the field were not as fast as their pre-season laptimes.

“The weather condition made things a little tricky for us. Due to the rain on the previous day, there were patches of mud on the track. I think the uncertainty about grip slowed everyone down. The weather condition will play a big role in the qualifying and race outcome tomorrow (Saturday),” he said.

Meanwhile, teenage hotshot Taiga Hada served up a surprise when he posted the second fastest time in class with 1’31.519s. The 18-year-old RAMA Honda NTS T.Pro Ten10 rider outpaced early favourites Decha Kraisart and Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman. The two senior riders were third and fourth fastest respectively with 1’31.812s and 1’32.074s. Azlan’s new team mate Ahmad Yudhistira rounded up the top five with 1’32.079s.