The Thai riders have fired the opening salvo as the final round of the 2016 FIM Asia Road Racing Championship got underway at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand this weekend. Yamaha Racing Thailand’s Decha Kraisart was the fastest SuperSports 600cc rider of the day, setting a benchmark of 01’39.586s during the second free practice session.

Decha can expect to face stiff competition from the main title contenders. Zaqhwan Zaidi posted second fastest with 01’39.716s followed by wildcard entry Chalermpol Polamai in third with 01’39.830s. Current championship leader Tomoyoshi Koyama was fourth fastest with 01’39.889s while Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman netted the fifth fastest time when he stopped the clock at 01’39.898s. The lap record of 01’39.3s, notched in under the name of Yuki Takahashi, remains unbroken as the lap record holder himself paced sixth fastest in the first day of practice with 01’40.076s.

“Today was just the start. With so many top riders on the grid this weekend, I’m sure the level of competition will skyrocket by tomorrow,” said the provisional pole sitter Decha, who is also 2007 and 2010 SuperSports 600cc champion.

“We had a team practice here two weeks ago, but the weather conditions were very different then. I can’t say that I am satisfied just yet because my target for the first day of practice was to break the 600cc lap record. Ideally, my target lap time is inside 01’38s. If I can achieve that, I am confident I can win the race.”

Further down the order, Decha’s compatriots are clearly at ease on their home track. Most of the Thai riders made it into the top-10 with Thitipong Warokorn, Anucha Nakcharoensri and Rattaphong Wilairot crowding in at seventh, eighth and ninth fastest respectively. Malaysian wildcard rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin ended the first day of practice in 10th fastest, 0.7 seconds off Decha’s best pace.

Ahmad Yudhistira was the best performing Indonesian rider, clocking 01’40.418s to land in 11th spot. The previous round’s double winner, Anthony West, posted the 12th fastest time of 01’40.780s.