The roar of the Asia Superbike 1000cc is getting louder as riders march their way to a weekend of fast and fury at Chang International Circuit for the season opener of the Idemitsu FIM Asia Road Racing Championship. Blue-eye boy of ONEXOX BMW TKKR Team, Markus Reiterberger was on a roll last season, with multiple back-to-back victories that landed him the champion title with a staggering 250.5 points to his name.

Surprisingly though, with so many wins in a season, he unfortunately failed to carve himself a hat-trick but that’s probably not a big deal for the German lad who clearly was more adamant in bagging the golden spot at the grand finale, which he did, rightfully. Round 1 last year at Chang may have been just a navigating phase, trying to figure out the riding patterns however he definitely seemed to have decoded the game from Round 2 onwards as he went on to dominate the circuit grounds with his mastery. Of course, the rivalry between him and his closest contenders never ceased as they went on to provoke his aptitude but Markus was never off his A-game and despite the nagging threat that trailed him, he succeeded with flying colours.

Commenting on his achievements, Markus said, “For this season, it is all about defending my title. I hope that it would be possible although there are many clashes this season. But ARRC is working to make one less clash so that we are able to attend minimum five races. That would give us a better opportunity to fight for the championship. The challenge for me would be the entry list especially with Hafizh Syahrin with Ducati. The others, more or less we know their performance but we can’t take anything for granted as we have many improvements to be done. The circuits are all good and I know and understand all of it now compared to last season. So, that gives me greater confidence. Nothing has changed in terms of the machine so far because we have a really good pace with the machine for now. We won many races so, it must be good. For sure, Round 1 last season was tough and I struggled a bit with the tires. So, that was the lesson learnt. We did some test back on the rear and we already had a good experience last season, so it should have been sorted out. My expectations are to win both races but I know it is not going to be easy because of the new contenders, the weather condition and the new season itself. Some things have also changed in terms of manpower as we made a very short and quick decision about our participation due to the clashes. So, we shall see. I work a lot in the workshop, that has helped me sharpen my skills and I have also tested for world endurance so I know the technicalities of it and I think I am fully prepared for the weekend.”

Duo of Honda Asia-Dream Racing Team ASEAN, Md Zaqhwan Zaidi and Andi Farid Izdihar on the other hand watched Markus like a hawk throughout the season, waiting to strike however their best then was only to guard their own positions and induce challenge at each other. Of course, Zaqhwan had the upper-hand considering his time in the ASB1000 race category coupled with his remarkable sportsmanship aboard the Honda CBR1000RR R however for a debutante, Andi Farid was up to the mark and more than just learning the tricks and trades, he went on his way in setting a benchmark for the team. With two strikingly imposing characters to keep the heat on among the rivals, the ABS1000 race category is bound to get feisty this season. Adding on the line-up of the team is Nakarin

Atiratphuvapat who graduated from SS600 after making it third overall. What’s the team going to be like this season for the trio?

Zaqhwan said, “Last year was not so much about my mistakes but the fact that I could not compete in speed. I was frustrated because I failed to reach my target with the machine. I know that I could have done better but I think we need to try and solve the issue and improve the level of performance. We are still waiting for the pre-season test in March. As I know, there will be a new machine which could potentially be better than last season. But of course, it would take some time to learn and adapt to the new settings. Definitely, there will be changes to the electronics and the performance. Having said tha, at the end of the day, it is all about maximising speed. As for the teamwork, Andi and I go a long way. We understand each other and communicate on matters to help each other out. We also worked together in the 8-hour endurance challenge and have fostered a kind of trust towards each other. This season would be a little different with Chip Nakarin but I believe it’s a great move for the team. We are excited to work together. My advantage on Chang circuit would be familiarity. Apart from it being my fav, it is also one that I am used to. I understand its layout well. However, I believe it’s the same for many other riders too. So, while it motivates me to a certain extent, I know that I also have to be prepared for challenge for the others. At the moment, I am fully focused on improving my stamina and building my physique. Keeping my fingers crossed that it would be a great start for the season!”

Andi commented, “Being on a competitive stride is inevitable and of course, riding is a never-ending game of learning and perfecting the strikes. This would be my second year in the ASB1000 but my will is strong and all I want to do is to make it better than last season. It was definitely not easy for me especially adapting to a higher-powered engine but I am pretty pleased with my achievements so far. I managed to complete all the races and even better, made it third overall. Personally, my experience in Zhuhai circuit was the toughest for me as it was my first time on a 1000cc machine. I had many difficult encounters. This season, we will have an additional teammate and I think it would be a great experience for us because in our pit-box, we share our progress with each other. That helps us make improvements. Also, the plus would be having more heads to think which means more views and information of the track. Chang is an interesting circuit however the last corner is quite the challenge because you come on a high-speed and have to brake on time and hard to ensure it is done right. Nevertheless, the goal is to win and therefore, rough or tough, everything is a go!”

Also hitting the scenes of ASB1000 is Soichiro Minamimoto following his spectacular performances in the SS600 that rewarded him with the champion title. The Japanese is no stranger to a higher capacity machine although undoubtedly, ARRC is a different ballgame on its own which could potentially invoke a different kind of pressure. However, with a seasoned rider like Kasma Daniel watching his back, the team is definitely in for one exciting ride.