After a strong Top 10 finish in Zhuhai (China) which puts the team firmly in Top 8 of 20 teams, ‘IDEMITSU Honda Racing India’ – the only Indian team in Asia Production 250 class of FIM Asia Road Racing Championship 2019 (ARRC) arrived at the Sepang International Circuit of Malaysia to yet again win points for India. Battling it out with Asia’s best riders in the penultimate 6th round are Rajiv Sethu and his rookie team-mate Senthil Kumar.
Charged by his 4th straight double victory in Indian National Motorcycle Racing Championship and his second Top 10 finish in Zhuhai (China), Rajiv Sethu returns to Sepang to better his best-ever Top 10 finish in Asia’s toughest road racing championship. Buoying the 21-year-old Chennai rider’s confidence is his track-record here. It was at here that Rajiv scored his first-ever Top 10 finish in ARRC. Since then, Rajiv has won points for India in 9 out of 10 races with two Top 10 and seven Top 15 finishes. This puts him firmly in the Top 15 of 36 riders with 32 points – a huge jump over his 27th rank last season.
Not only Rajiv, Sepang is a special track for IDEMITSU Honda Racing India’s rookie rider Senthil Kumar too. After all, it was in his debut ARRC race here that he notched his first Top 14 finish and earned 2 points for the Indian team. Currently tied in Top 25 riders, Sepang is the golden chance for Senthil to finish in Top 15 and improve his championship ranking.
Elaborating on the plan for Sepang, Mr. Prabhu Nagaraj, Vice President – Brand and Communication, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India Pvt. Ltd., said: “IDEMITSU Honda Racing India team is ready to take on the Sepang challenge. Rajiv is on a high performance mode after his double victory in previous round of MRF MMSC FMSCI Indian National Motorcycle Racing Championship earlier this month. Both of riders Rajiv and Senthil have made history here earlier and earned points for India. While Rajiv finished 10th, Senthil too finished best in 14th spot. Both Rajiv and Senthil are in prime form with improved race-craft powered by their team and rider coach Tomoyoshi Koyama – a formidable former Moto GP rider himself. Our aim this week-end in Malaysia is to re-write history. We target to higher Top 10 for Rajiv and Top 15 for Senthil.”
Looking forward to Round 6 of ARRC, Rajiv Sethu, the experienced IDEMITSU Honda Racing India rider, said: “2019 was the first time for me at Sepang. Scoring a Top 10 finish in my debut race here and my latest 10th finish in last round at Zhuhai has increased my confidence. Finally, I am now competing with the front bunch. But now, even one mistake will prove to be costly for me. My plan is to keep cool, fine-tune my riding from the free practices tomorrow, qualify in Top 10 and gain edge over others in the 2 week-end races. Sepang is a great opportunity and bettering my position in top 10 is my priority.”
Adding to him, Senthil Kumar, the rookie IDEMITSU Honda Racing India rider, said: “Barring Thailand, Sepang circuit is the only track where I have now ridden earlier. In my debut here, I finished at my best 14th. Five rounds in the championship, I am now comfortable on CBR250RR and adapting much faster to respond to competition. I will give my 100% to earning points for India once again.”
With 4 wildcards including 2 homegrown talent from IDEMITSU Boon Siew Honda Racing, the total entries in Asia Production 250 (AP250) class now stand at 30 from 8 nations (Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taipei, Hong Kong, India). Get ready to expect more fireworks in the penultimate round. After successfully evading his 2nd rpm limit in Zhuhai, current leader Andy Muhammad Fadly at 145 points now faces a tough choice – to win points at the cost of his second 2nd 500 rpm cut or avoid this but risk eroding his lead. Historically, Sepang has been a strong case for the Hondas’. But the stakes are high for Indonesian duo of Irfan (140 points) and Awhin (124 points) as well as 4th ranked Thai rider Muklada too (107 points). With 4 of the top 5 riders chasing title coming from Honda stables, Indonesian rider Lucky Hendriansya clearly has an ace up his sleeve. He’s the only rider in top 6 to steer clear of the rpm limiter till now. With title yet up for grabs, this race week-end will decide whose strategy finally pays off.
Sepang also be a make or break round for Zaqhwan Zaidi of Honda Asia-Dream Racing with SHOWA team in Asia SuperBike 1000cc (ASB) class of ARRC. Powered by team including a technician from Honda 2Wheelers India too, Zaghwan’s dream of title will come true only if he uses his home turf advantage to fullest and recovers his 35 points lag.
In its 24th year, the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) is Asia’s most competitive motorcycle road racing championship. The 2019 season sees the battle play out in 7 rounds across 5 countries (Malaysia* 2, Australia, Thailand* 2, Japan & China) in 4 classes ASB1000, SuperSports 600 (SS600), AP250 and Underbone (UB150).