Defending Asia Production 250cc champion Takehiro Yamamoto is set to resume his rivalry with Thai ace Apiwat Wongthananon. However, Yamamoto believes that defending the title may be easier than winning it for the first time last season.

Yamamoto spent an entire year fending off repeated attacks from then AP Honda trio comprising of Apiwat, Nakarin Atiratphuvapat, and Vorapong Malahuan. This season, Nakarin has left the Asian series for a slot in the Spanish National Championship. Vorapong is the only seasoned rider left in the Honda team because Apiwat has switched over to Yamaha. The 23-year Yamamoto believes that 2016 may turn out to be a two horse race with Apiwat.

The results from the official pre-season test of the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship lends credence to Yamamoto’s assumptions. Apiwat set the Asia Production 250cc benchmark with a time of 1’45.057s. Yamamoto, second fastest, was 0.4 seconds off with 1’45.402s. Apiwat’s new team mates Anupab Sarmoon and Peerapong Loiboonpeng were third and fourth fastest respectively.

“On paper, it may seem like I am being hounded by a trio of Thai team mates again. But in actuality, it is only Apiwat who is the fastest rider. Anupab and Peerapong were only able to climb up the timesheets by catching a tow from the other riders. We will have to wait for Round 1 to see how well Vorapong works with his new team mates,” said Yamamoto who suffered a crash during the first day of the pre-season practice but has since recovered.

“It was just a flesh wound on my hand. Nothing that will stop me from racing next week,” Yamamoto dismissed the injury.

Combined Asia Production 250cc Practice Results:

1. Apiwat Wongthananon (THA), 1’45.057s; 2. Takehiro Yamamoto (JPN), 1’45.402; 3. Anupab Sarmoon (THA), 1’45.611s; 4. Peerapong Loiboonpeng (THA), 1’45.620s; 5. Somkiat Chantra (THA), 1’45.781s; 6. Ayumu Tanaka (JPN), 1’45.853s; 7. Vorapong Malahuan (THA), 1’45.917s; 8. Suhathai Chaemsap (THA), 1’45.989s; 9. Galang Hendra Pratama (INA), 1’46.013s; 10. Sitthisak Onchawiang (THA), 1’46.185s