2014-04-25 | KMI Information
Latest Race Results & News - Round 1, Malaysia 20 April, 2014

Fujiwara Emerges From Fierce Battles with 3rd in Race 1, 2nd in Race 2!

Springtime is race time, and once again the Asia Road Racing Championship opened its season at Sepang Circuit in Malaysia. For Katsuaki Fujiwara, this is his fourth consecutive year contesting the championship.

Over the past three years Fujiwara has set track records, taken pole positions and won repeatedly at Sepang. At the joint testing held in March, Fujiwara set some very fast times, and everyone expected him to make a fast start in his run to reclaim the title.

In addition to Fujiwara, who rides for BEET Kawasaki Racing, Haji Ahmad Yudhistira is in his second year with Indonesia's Manual-Tech KYT Kawasaki along with rookie Ifos Alfa Rianda. Other Kawasaki teams include Malaysia's BIKE A.R.T Kawasaki Racing with riders Hazlanshah bin Mohd Noor and new recruit, 21-year-old Muhammad Farid Bin Badrui Hisham.


Until last year, Dunlop supplied ARRC riders only with six sets of a single tyre type. In 2014, for the three practice sessions, qualifying, pre-race warm up and two races, riders will still have six sets of tyres but they will be able to choose either medium or soft rears. In each round, they must use both compounds (at least one tyre of each type) meaning that tyre selection and tyre management will play a significant role in this year's championship.

Although all the riders tested the new tyres at the joint test in March, there wasn't enough time to determine the best setup and most riders, including Fujiwara, had trouble deciding which tyre to use.

Qualifying took place on the Saturday and Fujiwara, who was fastest in two of the three practice sessions, decided on a different strategy from previous years. In the past he tried to set a fast time right from the start of qualifying, but this year he watched the times of the other riders and saved his best effort for the end. The strategy worked, as Fujiwara blasted his Ninja ZX-6R to a blazingly fast time of 1'05.184, a new track record and his fourth consecutive pole in four years at Sepang. Switching from Yamaha to Honda this year, Zamri Baba was second fastest with 1'05.326, Makoto Tamada (Honda) was third at 1'05.385, followed by Zaqhwan Zaidi (Honda), Ratthapong Wilairot (Honda) and Yudhistira. With the top 14 riders separated by less than a second, the scene was set for a huge dogfight to the finish.

Cloudy skies greeted the riders when they rolled to the starting grid on Sunday. While most riders opted for the medium rear, Fujiwara chose the soft. Track temperature was a blistering 48°C. The stage was set for a 25-lap battle in the heat.

When the red lights went out for Race 1, Fujiwara rocketed his Ninja ZX-6R into the lead followed by Baba in 2nd, Ahmad Fuad Baharudin on the Yamaha in 3rd, Yuki Ito (Yamaha), and Tamada. The battle was on and would be a fight to the finish. In a daring move Baba passed Fujiwara going into the first turn only to have Fujiwara get him back on the next lap. In an incredible race-long battle the two took turns leading the race with neither able to hold on to the lead for long. The battle for 3rd was just as torrid, as Ito and Tamada went at it tooth and nail. This lead group of four riders slowly pulled away from the pack. By mid-race Fujiwara's tyre choice was coming back to haunt him as he struggled with lurid rear-wheel slides coming off the turns. "I also had a lot of chatter to deal with, and it was all I could do to stay in control," he said after the race. With only four laps remaining Baba surged into the lead, and in turn six Ito also passed Fujiwara, relegating him to 3rd. Fujiwara tried desperately to retake the lead, but with his tyre shredded he only just managed to hold off Tamada to take 3rd for the final podium spot.

The up and coming Yudhistira started poorly but managed to work his way back for a hard-earned 6th at the finish. Noor got a few points for 15th, the rookie Rianda was 17th and Badrul crashed out while running 11th.

By the time Race 2 rolled to the grid at 3:30, track and air temperatures had cooled thanks to some nearby rain, but it was still hot and very humid. This time Fujiwara and his crew decided to use the medium rear and once again he got the holeshot and led the pack for the first lap. And once again Baba, Ito, and Tamada were right on his rear wheel, with Yudhistira close behind in 5th. Then, going into the last turn on the third lap Fujiwara mistakenly put the engine into 1st gear, got way out of shape and slipped back to 4th. But by lap seven he was again in the lead.

As the laps wound down, Ito slowly dropped back with bike trouble but remained within striking distance. The Hondas were fast on the straight, but Fujiwara's Ninja ZX-6R was faster in the turns. "With seven laps to go I started getting some real bad chatter," said Fujiwara. He did his best to control the situation, but Baba could see that he was having problems and with only two laps to go Baba pounced. Twice he tried to get by Fujiwara going into turn one but drifted wide. On the last lap Fujiwara fought desperately to hold onto the lead but got into a big slide in turn five and Baba was able to get by and take the win. Fujiwara came home 2nd with Tamada 3rd and Yudhistira 4th. Other Kawasaki riders included Malaysia's Noor in 14th, Badrul 17th and Rianda 20th.


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