The fourth round of the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship got off to a pulsating start at the refurbished Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT), near Chennai on Friday.
The cream of two-wheeler racing talent will race in the SuperSport 600cc, Asia Production 250cc and the Underbone 150cc categories, alongside two support events, the Idemitsu Honda India Talent Cup (CBR 250, Open) organised by MMSC and the TVS One-Make Championship (Open, Apache R310).
The spotlight, however, will be on the premier SuperSport 600cc category that has the familiar faces of veterans Anthony West (Australia), Decha Kraisart (Thailand), Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman (Malaysia) and Tomoyoshi Koyama (Japan).
Championship leader West, who competed in the World Championship for over a decade, and last year's champion Karmaruzaman, a former Moto2 rider, who trails the Aussie star by 12 points, will start favourites.
Also in the mix are 35-year-old Koyama, 20-year-old Keisuke Kurihara and 27-year-old Yuki Ito, who won Race 2 in Australia.
On Friday, Chennai’s Rajiv Sethu and Bengaluru-based Anish Damodara Shetty enjoyed a fairly satisfactory outings during the three practice sessions.
Competing in the Asia Production 250cc class, the Idemitsu Honda Racing India team-mates Sethu and Shetty, though off the pace by about three seconds, did generate hopes of strong results over the next two days.
Shetty, in his debut season in the championship, was quicker than Sethu in two of the three sessions with a best of 01:51.2, while the Chennai youngster finished the day clocking 01:51.5.
Sethu, who is still seeking his first points this season, said: “The three practice sessions went quite ok, though I still need to pull out better timings tomorrow for the qualifying. I had a good second session and my immediate goal for this weekend is to try and finish in top 10.”
For Shetty, it has been a case of hitting the ground running and still managed to earn two points in the second round in Australia.
“It has been a steep learning curve for me. There has been so much to learn in such a short time! I have never ridden such a powerful bike which is much more powerful than the Honda CBR 250 which I ride in the National championship. The AP 250s are twin cylinder machines and much quicker than the CBR250,” said the techie from Bengaluru.
The quickest rider in the AP 250cc class was championship leader Rheza Danica Ahrens (Indonesia), winner of four the six races over three rounds so far and whose best over three sessions was a 01:48.03.
Meanwhile, the premier SuperSport 600cc class dished out exciting action. Two-time champion Md Zaqhwan Zaidi of Malaysia posted the quickest timing of the day with a blistering 01:41.306 on his Honda, ahead of championship leader West (Australia), riding the Yamaha at the MMRT for the first time, who posted his best lap of 01:41.388.
In the other practice sessions, Aravind Balasubramaniam topped the time sheets in the Idemitsu Honda India Talent Cup organised by MMSC (CBR250), clocking 02:02.205, while Yashas RL was the quickest in the TVS RR310 One-Make Championship with 02:02.4.
Malaysian Md Akid Aziz on a Yamaha took the top spot in the Underbone 150 qualifying with a 01:51.970.
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