The opening round in Newcastle, Australia that concluded recently drew an astounding amount of attention from the world of Motorsport when 28 riders from 12 countries across the Asia and Oceania continent mustered and put on a fierce brawl for a spot on the podium. While the race is segregated into two classes, the Open International Class and Asian Class, every rider poured their hearts out, putting the utmost inspiring and exciting race, satisfying our appetite that was craving for a world-class race. Australian top riders Luke George, Michael Kirkness and Danny Ham also took the opportunity to compete in the Open International Class against Asian, putting their pride ahead for the trophy and a spot on the box.
Before the uproar, smiles and excitement hit the mind of every riders and fans when one of the best tracks the championship ever had was materialised in less than a week. The night before the race was hammered by heavy downpour but the track was ready in time for the race when the sun shone across the mesmerising harbour. The mind blowing part was the longest off-road track, spanning 329-metre, built exclusively for the race.
With riders immersed in the picturesque and soothing ambiance of Foreshore Park, riders took a slow start for the qualifying round. The agenda moved on to a newly introduced SuperChrono where the top 6 riders from the qualifying round compete for top 6 grid positioning in a 10-minute race immediately after qualifying.
Flags were up for Race 1, thunderous and melodic sound of 28 supermotard’s exhaust filled the skies; The race began with excitement, anticipation and worries when most riders collided in the second turn of the opening lap, the viciously tight hairpin off-road turn, giving forefront rider Luke George the advantage to distant himself from the remaining riders. Although it can easily be considered as a smooth ride for George, but it turned out to be a disappointment for Mohd Habibullah (Gabit), Mohd Al-Amirul Ashshahid (Gaban) and Khairi Zakaria (Hairi) who were on the grid’s front half. Albeit the trio under-performed in Race 1, they put on a dominant performance in Race 2, earning them the top three spots in the Asian Class.
Japanese Shinji Tomita and Makoto Arai are the living proof of the idiom “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”. The duo started Race 1 at end of the grid, and rose steadily to the top throughout the race, securing 11th and 16th on grid respectively for Race 2.
Race 1 proved to be the game-changer for the consecutive race in Newcastle when four Australian riders – Luke George, Michael Kirkness, Luke Richards and Danny Ham – swept top spots, leaving no room for the Asian riders. Frustration fueled their hearts as they hit on full throttle in Race 2.
The cosy Sunday with the perfect weather condition was left with tension in the air when the FIM Asia Supermoto Championship 2016 Race 2 of Round 1 became the highlight of the day after the long and enduring friction amongst riders in Race 1. Gabit surprised the audience in Race 2 with an outstanding ride on his KTM SMR 450, catapulted pass Andrew McLiesh and fall in a tight battle with George. His effort ended with tears, not due to disappointment, but the joy in finishing second in the Open Class despite starting sixth, making him the only Asian to step onto the Open Class podium in third with 37 points after George and Michael Kirkness. It was a great weekend for Malaysia as Gabit and his teammates, Hairi and Gaban, accumulated enough points to dominate the podium.
Despite being faced with braking problems after the fifth lap in Race 1, Khairi proved why he’s one of Asia’s best Supermoto riders and managed to come out in second place with 22 points. His performance remained consistent the next day as he finished Race 2 in third with 20 points, thus earning him a total of 42 points to put him in second place on the Asian Class overall standings.
Gaban encountered a few setbacks in Race 1 when he fell in the first corner after colliding with the other riders, and went on to experience problems with his front brake throughout the race. The Husqvarna Malaysia rider fell drastically behind after the fall but managed to catch up to sixth place, overtaking 15 riders in the process. After an experiential learning race on Saturday, Gaban’s crew from Kenny Lee Motorworks and Husqvarna Malaysia took it in their stride to make the necessary modifications to Gaban’s Husky FC 450 which proved to be successful during Sunday’s Race 2 when he finished in second place behind his brother. With that, he accumulated a total of 40 points to put him in second on the Asian Class overall standings.
The day ended with slight defeat for young gun Makoto when he skidded off track and was ruled unfit to race. But the contentment continued when his Japanese teammates, Shinji Tomita and Team KYT’s Takashi Sasaki secured fourth and fifth respectively in the Asian Class. As for Takashi, he put out his mistakes over qualifying and Race 1, and focused on succeeding in Race 2.
The FIM Asia Supermoto Championship 2016 Round 2 will commence in Malang, Indonesia on 8 and 9 October at the vicinity of Stadium Kanjuruhan. The Malaysian riders now have a target on their backs as the other riders will be fighting hard to climb up on the leader board. Time to look forward to another heated supermoto battle next month!