Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman crafted a spectacular Asia Road Racing Championship comeback when he piloted his Kawasaki to victory at Round 1 of the 2016 FIM Asia Road Racing Championship. Held at the Johor Circuit on April 1 and 2, 2016, Azlan displayed a near-perfect performance to win the SuperSports 600cc Race 1 with a total time of 26’00.806s.

As Round 1 commenced, it was all about the tyre in the SuperSports 600cc class. New tyre rules for the 2016 season brought the element of slick tyres into the Asian premiere category and was a game-changer in more ways than one. Azlan started the race third on the grid, but his choice of hard compound for his front tyre and soft compound for the rear gave him the speed he needed to power his way into the hole shot.

For the remainder of the 16-lap race, Azlan controlled the race pace at the front of the pack.

“I worked really hard to save my tyre while keeping the rest of the competition at bay. During the first half of the race, I thought that the other riders who had opted for medium rear tyres were biding their time, waiting for my tyres to degrade before they made their move. This turned out to be the right strategy. When Koyama finally attempted to overtake on Lap 11, I still had enough grip left to respond aggressively,” said Azlan who has signed on with BikeART Racing Kawasaki this season. Azlan’s win ended a 9-month Kawasaki drought in the SuperSports 600cc category. The last time a Kawasaki rider won the premiere class of the ARRC was Ahmad Yudhistira who took first place at the Sentul International Circuit last year.

0.795s behind Azlan, T Pro Yuzy Honda NTS rider Tomoyoshi Koyama ended the race in second place. Pole-sitter Zaqhwan Zaidi admitted that he was still grappling with the idea of tyre strategies when he finished third with 25’02.573s.

“Both Yuki Takahashi and I opted for a hard-medium combination. But despite our prime starting position at the front row, we were unable to defend that advantage,” said Zaqhwan.

Indonesian rider Dimas Ekky Pratama was fourth after a hard-won battle against fifth-placed Taiga Hada. Ratthapong Wilairot finished sixth. Anthony West went from 10th to seventh in his first exposure in SuperSports 600cc racing.