With 2 positions gain, Rajiv finishesin Top 14 in AP250 Race 1 at Buriram
Chang International circuit (Buriram, Thailand) 30November 2019: Thebattle for title started from the morning qualifier only to be a sizzlingaffair by the afternoon’s Asia Production 250cc (AP 250) race 1 of the finale 7thround of FIM Asia Road Racing Championship 2019 (ARRC) at buriram, Thailand.
For IDEMITSU HondaRacing India team rider duo of Rajiv Sethu and Senthil Kumar, today turned outto be mixed day. While the morning qualifier pushed Rajiv out of the top 15front bunch, he made a strong recovery in afternoon’s race 1, finishing 14thand adding 2 more points to the solo Indian team’s kitty. Meanwhile, anaggressive cornering in last turn resulted in Senthil’s crashing out of therace in lap 1 itself.
The morningqualifier saw top 20 riders fight in a tight 2 seconds gap for the title battle.Riding with middle bunch in the first half of qualifier, Rajiv was initiallystuck in the 1:55 seconds lap time. But strategizing fast, the 21-year-old madea quick pit stop to lose this bunch. Rejoining with the fast bunch, he breachedinto 1:54 seconds mark to finally qualify 16th with best lap time of1:54:737 – a mere 2.185 seconds off the Thai female lead rider Muklada who clocked1:52:552.
Determined to winpoints for India in the afternoon AP250 race 1, Rajiv gained 2 positions to 14thin lap 1 itself. But Malaysian rider Muhammad Faerozi crash in lap 1 turned outto be the turning point of the race. While the top riders pushed ahead, thenext bunch of 7 riders including Rajiv hit the brakes and formed the nextgroup. From here on, this bunch of 7 riders rode in under 1 second gap.Clocking his best lap time of 1:54:539, Rajiv maintained his 14th spottill lap 3. Lap 4 saw him slip to 15th only to recover back to 13thand maintain this pace till lap 8. The 10 lap race saw Rajiv finally close 14thwith 2 positons overall gain, recording a total time of 19:16:421.
Despite the crash,today was a great day for rookie rider Senthil Kumar. The morning qualifier sawSenthil breach the 1:55 second mark (1:55:855) for first time ever at Changcircuit. A poor start in the afternoon race dragged Senthil to 27th fromhis 22nd position start. But challenging himself, the 19-year-oldrode aggressively, gaining 9 positons (a first for him) to climb to 18th spot.But the last corner of lap 1 proved to be his nemesis. While overtaking 2 moreriders, Senthil had a low-side and crashed out of the race.
Sharing an overviewon today’s race1 and morning qualifier, Mr.Prabhu Nagaraj, Vice President – Brand and Communications, Honda Motorcycle& Scooter India Pvt. Ltd. said, “Morningqualifier showed our riders are now taking correct strategic calls. Rajiv’sdecision to exit and re-enter the pit in morning qualifier shaved off 2 secondsfrom his time, pushing him from 22nd to 16th. In the racetoo, Rajiv fought hard and ended with 2 position gain, adding 2 more points toIDEMITSU Honda Racing India’s kitty. Senthil’s accomplished his target ofentering the 1:55 seconds lap time club. Despite his crash, Senthil’s realexperience today was his phenomenal recovery from 27th to 19th.Tomorrow will be a tougher day and aggression with calculated risks will be ourmantra. Our target for tomorrow is top 10 for Rajiv and top 15 for Senthilremains.”
Quote of Honda’sthird timer ARRC rider Rajiv Sethu: (14thin race 1)
“Today’s morning qualifier wasn’t as expected. I wasn’tfully confident of the front end. So I entered race 1 with a different set-up.I made a good start and was fighting for 11th position with thegroup. There was constant overtaking at every turn thereon. My strategy shiftedto defending my position. Even so, in turn 5 of last lap, I overtook 3 ridersto move to 11th position. But in turn 9 of last lap, an aggressivecontact with Malaysian rider Shahrol pushed me back 4 positions to 15th. Ridinghard here on, I overtook Thai rider Sawapol in the last corner and finished 14thgaining 2 positions over my 16th start. Tomorrow, my aim is to makea strong start, enter top 10 as soon as possible and maintain my pace thereon.”
Quote of 19-year-oldrookie rider Senthil Kumar: (DNF inrace 1)
“Yesterday, I had a target to enter the 1:55 secondslap time. Today, I met my target in the morning qualifier and entered the raceconfident of a top 15 finish. While the poor start pushed me back, I overtook 7riders which was a first ever for me. My crash was unfortunate but it’s also abig learning for me. Tomorrow, the fight will be equally challenging and my aimcontinues to be top 15 finish.”
Meanwhile,the battle at the front was a nail biter till the end. With a stronghome-ground advantage, A.P Honda’s Thai rider Muklada Saarapuech was leadingtill the start of last 10th lap. But, with top 7 fighting in lessthan 0.645 second gap, a cornering mistake at last turn dashed Muklada’s dreamof a win today.
Whilethe championship front-runner, Indonesian rider Andy Fadly quickly made a fastcorner to be the first to stop the clock at 19:03:763. Hot on his heels wasAstra Honda’s Indonesian rider Awhin Sanjaya who too overtook Muklada at lastcorner to photo-finish 2nd.
Parallely, HondaGroup Companies team Honda Asia-Dream Racing with SHOWA pulled strong in theinaugural Asia Superbike 1000cc class at the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship2019 too. The team has recruited top personnel from Honda subsidiaries acrossthe Asia & Oceania region including a race technician from India. Theafternoon race 1 saw Malaysian rider Zaqhwan Zaidi win yet again with 1:36:130lap time in today’s race 1 of ASB 1000 class.
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