MALANG, INDONESIA, 8 OCTOBER 2016 – Practice and qualifying sessions signaled the start of racing action at the Kanjuruhan Stadium today for Round 2 of the FIM Asia Supermoto Championship 2016.
It had rained on the previous night, but sunshine in the early parts of this morning provided rays of hope to the riders and teams to race to their full potential without an added variable.
The dirt section has very unfortunately being abandoned, since most flat sections under water and the jumps waterlogged, leaving a 900-plus meter tarmac section for high adrenaline roadracing.
The earlier free practice sessions for the support races had been run under sunny conditions, but the sky opened up as soon as the FIM Asia riders went out on track, catching them out on slick- and semi-slick tyres.
The rain intensified further into the session but almost all the riders stayed out to test the limits of both themselves and their machines. The Indonesian and Malaysian riders pushed the hardest and occupied the top 8 rungs by the session’s end. Andre Sondakh (#101A) came out on top with the best lap of 56.519s, followed by championship leader Muhd. Habibullah (Gabit) (#27) just 0.021s behind, having recorded 56.540s. Diva Ismayana (#226) rounded up the top 3 with 57.760s.
New Zealander Richard Dibben (#84) went out for a single lap and came back in. “It was dry when we out for the first practice. I did a lap just to see the track (but) came back in, put the wets (rain tyres) on and went for the second practice session.”
“I could only achieve top 8 times no matter how hard I tried, so I went in and we adjusted the suspension and tyre pressure. I felt more confident thereafter,” said Gabit.
The rain subsided thereafter but followed in the same fashion as FP 1 – it again poured as soon as the riders entered the track and heavier this time. Large, deep puddles started to form in short order.
It was visible that the riders were cautious in the first half of the session, until a few started to turn up the heat. One such rider was Mohd. Al-Amirul (Gaban) (#19), Gabit’s brother.
Followers of the series would be familiar with his aggressive style, although he was quiet in Newcastle. Gaban pushed harder and harder, even eliciting loud gasps from the spectators when his bike fishtailed, wobbled and almost highsided. In doing so, he became the first rider to dip under the 55.000s mark, ending the session with the fastest time of 54.998s. Lewis Cornish (#8) had had a small spill in FP 1 but came back strong in second with 55.945s, and Richard Dibben had leapfrogged to third with his fastest lap of 56.309s.
Final Qualifying got under way under a light drizzle which thankfully did not pile on as the session progressed. What did intensify, however, was the action on track as the riders jostled for the best starting positions. And as their speeds picked up, lap times started to fall, despite having to splash through deep puddles.
Richard Dibben showed the way by being the only rider to break the 54.000s mark by posting 53.612s.
Andy McLiesh (#1), fresh from his podium finish in Newcastle pushed his way up into second in with 54.186s. He had now started drifting into corners and keeping his cornering speeds up.
Gaban improved on his FP 2 time by recording his new fastest lap of 54.716s, finishing third fastest. “I couldn’ve finished higher but I started having brake problems towards the end. I almost crashed on one occasion when I totally lost the front brake.” Indeed, spectators could hear a loud metallic rattle around the entire track every time he braked.
That was not the end of proceedings, however, as the track was cleared of other competitors except for the top six qualifiers, who needed to hit the track one more time for the final decider, called Superchrono. It is Superchrono which decides the final starting positions for them on race day.
Besides Dibben, McLiesh and Gaban, the others were Gabit, Cornish and Sondakh, who had finished their qualifying session in those respective positions.
The extra session with an open track allowed a few riders to turn the tables on their rivals. While Richard Dibben strengthened his Pole Position by recording an even faster lap time of 52.958s, Cornish outqualified McLiesh by just 0.029s. Similarly, Gabit got ahead of Gaban by 0.245s.
If today’s lap times were indicators of tomorrow’s races, hold on to your seats for some spectacular racing.