Zhuhai circuit (China): Searing hot temperatures at Zhuhai International circuit coupled with sizzling competition made today’s Asia Production 250cc morning qualifier and Race 1 of Round 5 of FIM Asia Road Racing Championship 2019 (ARRC) an even more challenging affair.
The morning qualifier saw IDEMITSU Honda Racing India team rider duo of Rajiv Sethu and Senthil Kumarmake good gains on their yesterday’s practice lap times. With the top 18 riders gap of 2 seconds, micro-seconds made all the difference. Starting strong, Rajiv shed 1.115 seconds over his yesterday’s best lap time to qualify top 14with best lap time of 1:55:006. His rookie team-mate Senthil too improved his lap timing by 1.605 seconds, which put him 19th on starting grid.
The afternoon race 1 saw Rajiv Sethu made quick 3 position gain at start itself. By lap 3, Rajiv bettered his fastest lap time to 1:54:450, narrowing his gap with the lead rider to just 0:322 seconds. However, the infighting between Top 13 riders all riding within 1-second gap impacted Rajiv. When AnggiSetiawan and TatchakornBuasri had bike contact in turn 7 of lap 6, Rajiv saved himself by lifting his bike in the corner. But in the process, Japanese rider AikiIyoshi after him made contact with Rajiv and pushed him off the track. In a race where microseconds mattered, Rajiv fell back from the front bunch losing his slipstream advantage in the long straights but defended his position to finish 15th and add 1 point (19:21:788).
Despite a good start which pushed Senthil 2 positions ahead to 17th, a gear-shifting error in turn 4 eroded all his gains and pulled him down to 24th in lap 1 itself. Thereafter riding with 4 riders, Senthil recovered to 20th position by lap 5, overtook by 2 riders on lap 7. He finally overtook them back in lap 8 and defended his position till the end of the10 lap race.
Meanwhile, the Indonesians triumphed in Zhuhai tarmac and held strong to the top 5 positions. The battle for the winner went all the way till chequered line and finally, it was Rafid Topan’s day after all. After his cracker of a 1:52626 qualifier time in the morning, the afternoon race saw Rafid once again stop the clock at 19:10:656. Trailing him by a mere 0:021 seconds lag was Astra Honda’s Awhin Sanjaya (2nd) with a total lap time of 19:10:677. The 3rd podium finish was also up for grabs but won by Irfan Ardiansyah who eked out Lucky Hendriansya at the end by 0:096 seconds.
Sharing an overview on today’s qualifier, Prabhu Nagaraj, Vice President – Brand and Communications, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India Pvt. Ltd. said, “Today we started off well. Both Rajiv and Senthil were over 1 second faster in morning qualifier. Rajiv’s top 14 qualifier position and Senthil’s 19th showed good improvement. In Race 1, Rajiv showed his efforts and capability, his lap time gap reduced. If not for the touch in lap 6, Rajiv was riding 12th with high chances of breaking into Top 10. But now he has to challenge himself to stick with the top bunch and make gains. Senthil too has improved in this round and has achieved his initial target of top 20. Its now time for both of our riders to aim higher in tomorrow’s race.”
“Today, I was more confident in morning qualifier and it reflected in my time too. While the race started great, I could maintain myself with top bunch till the 6th lap only where the bike contact pushed me off-track and I lost time. Tomorrow, my target is to stay in the bunch and fight in top 10,” said Rajiv Sethu.