ROUGH AND TOUGH DEAL

The distinguishing sound of the Super Sports 600cc machine will be heard once again on the vast space of the Chang International Circuit this weekend during the season opener of the Idemitsu FIM Asia Road Racing Championship. Even more exciting is the entry list for the season which will complement the roar of the engines.

If last season, Apiwath Wongthananon was seen making strokes in favour of his teammate, Soichiro Minamimoto in locking the championship deal, this year, he will be filling in the vacant spot as the latter graduates into ASB1000 race category. It was a brilliant move by the team, placing Apiwath as a wildcard rider in the grand finale considering his recognizable capacities in conquering the machine and his home-ground circuit. Apiwath may have missed the full-season but what he brought to the table was worthy of an applause. This year, he is full-on to take lead in the narratives of the SS600 race category. It is not an easy feat though with rivals waiting to prey at just about every inch. Striding alongside him would be Pilipino rider, McKinley Kyle Paz.

Commenting on the season, Apiwath said, “I am extremely excited to be back in ARRC for a full season. This definitely feels like home to me. Although I am fully aware that this season will be filled with a different kind of challenge for me, I am determined to strike it in the best possible way and make the most of my time here this season. Everyone wants to win for sure so, it is going to be a pretty tight fight. For sure, I have to be very careful. I can’t afford to be careless because these players watch like a hawk for their moment of opportunity. Having onboard with Kyle Paz would be something new as I have not worked with him but I am certainly looking forward to it. It all looks good with the machine and as far as I know, there has not been much changes to it from the last season. We will still use the original specs and test further during the pre-season test. The upside to the season opener would be my home-ground for sure. Chang has always been my favourite racing ground. Having said that, I would still have to practice hard and be more detailed oriented during the race week. Also, I have to constantly remind myself that Chang is also a favourite to many seasoned riders which means, it’s a one up for them too. My overall aim is nothing less than to be a champion.”

Of course, with one of the main contenders, Khairul Idham Pawi off to a different play-ground, it would probably be much easier for Apiwath to make his mark. However, it would be presumptuous to claim that it would be touch and go for him with the remaining duo of Boon Siew, Helmi Azman and Azroy Hakeem still on the scene. The dynamic duo has proven their dexterity last season in the midst of the highs and lows. They definitely seemed poised aboard their machines and were bold in their moves in injecting the right amount of pressure on their counterparts. The synergy between the two buddies is exactly what is needed for a more competitive stride in the race category.

Commenting on the coming race, Helmi said, “Last year, I was already there, maintaining top three throughout the championship but unfortunately, in the last round at Chang, I struggled with the machine and couldn’t make it with a better result. This season, it is definitely going to be more challenging because there will be many experienced riders as well as new comers. It is pretty clear that

Apiwath would be a strong contender as he already gained a different kind of experience at WSSP. Also, he has been in the ASB1000 race category so it would surely be an uphill battle. Machine wise, there has been some improvement compared to last season and the team is working really hard to ensure that the details we struggled with last season are rectified. At Chang, my favourite part would be turn four, there is a fast corner which is crucial in making a good lap time. In terms of preparation, I am focused on building up my physique through bicycle rides. It improves my overall stamina and gives me the advantage of handling the machine better. Personally, SS600 is an interesting race category and what I love most is speed and the weight of the machine which gives a better slide when the throttle is maximised. That feeling is the best for me!”

As for Azroy, he said, “Last year has been quite a bitter-sweet experience for me. Somehow, while I did my best and I am sure that I was great with the machine, luck was just not on my side. Therefore, this season is all about redemption. I am in a better space, mentally and emotionally and I am prepared to do better than last season. Keeping my fingers crossed, that luck will be on my side too! As for the rider line-up, it is hard to say who will be my closest contenders. We have quite a strong bunch of them riding this season so we have to wait and see how it goes. In terms of the machine, nothing much has been changes. We will still be using the same machine, like last season. It is all about warming up and getting into the right mindset for now. The Chang circuit is one of the hardest circuits for me to be frank. It is quite hard for me to maximise my speed on each lap. There is also a tricky corner in the second sector which I would need to familiarise and practice on more. At the moment, I focus on my fitness training every single day. It is an important aspect in racing to maintain our physique. The exciting thing about SS600 is that we get to have a good fight with some of the best in the Asian countries. It keeps us going and I enjoy that thrill!”

Making a comeback in the SS600 race category would be Rheza Danica of ASTRA HONDA RACING TEAM who scored big in the AP250 race category last season. The Indonesian outperformed the other riders when he bagged 206 points, instantly toppling his teammate, Herjun Atna who was also in the running for the golden spot. Joining forces with him would be debutante, Veda Ega Pratama who made an impressive mark last season in the AP250 as the 2nd runner up. The duo, together with Adenanta Putra who took his first shot in SS600 last season are expected to generate enough power that would stir up the atmosphere during the race.