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By Asia Talent Cup

Stunning victory for Kunii in Qatar

Japanese podium after an incredible showdown at Losail

The second round of the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup saw Yuki Kunii take the win on the drag to the line, after compatriot Ryusei Yamanaka just lost out. Haruki Noguchi completed an all-Japanese the podium in P3 after another tight race for the impressive IATC class of 2017.

Highlights: Stunning victory for Kunii in Qatar

There was drama at the start of the Warm Up lap as double Buriram winner and points leader Deniz Öncü couldn’t get off the line, getting started from pitlane and then lining up at the back of the grid for the start. With Kunii starting from pole, the race was on for Öncü to make it up through the field – and the Turkish rider sliced back to the front to know on the door to the top five after only a couple of laps.

After a slightly difficult start for Kunii off the line, the Japanese rider fought back straight away on the inside of Turn 1 to take it back from Can Öncü and Gerry Salim. As the grid settled into formation, Yamanaka was out front initially, before the poleman fought back to take over at the front as his compatriot slipped back slightly. Indonesian Salim, a former winner at the track, was joined by Can Öncü, Haruki Noguchi and Lucky Hendriansya in the fight just ahead of the charging Deniz Öncü, with a huge group at the front of the race.

Chopping and changing positions with only two seconds covering the top five, by 7 laps to go Deniz Öncü had hit the front for the first time as his comeback hit full speed, with Yamanaka, Can Öncü, Hendriansya and Salim alongside the Buriram winner at the head of the field.

It was a Japanese attack on the last lap, before Kunii found a way past Yamanaka on the penultimate corner to take the lead – despite the risk of slipstreaming to the line. As the top group straightened up on the way to the final flag, Yamanaka dived out from behind his compatriot just before the line – but it was Kunii who held onto it by a few thousandths. Haruki Noguchi took an impressive third place, completing an all-Japanese podium.

Can Öncü and twin brother Deniz completed the top five, with Malaysian Azroy Anuar taking sixth ahead of Lucky Hendriansya, Gerry Salim and Irfan Ardiansyah. Koji Hirama completed the top ten.

Thai rider Kritchaporn Kaewesonthi was an early faller, with Syairul Yuslie Bin Suhaimi and Maxi Hattori also suffering DNFs.

Deniz Öncü retains his points lead in the Cup standings after Qatar by virtue of his double win in Buriram and well-fought top five at Losail, with the grid next headed to Suzuka alongside the Asia Road Racing Championship in June for another incredible IATC battle.

Alberto Puig, Talent Promotion Director: “It wasn’t a bad race and I think the medium group tried the maximum. I think they were all on the limit because the track was slippery but it was good and not so many crashes which is important. And we’re happy with the result. I think Kunii and Yamanaka are the most experienced and they used that experience on the last lap. But all the guys in the group, the Öncü brothers and the other Japanese riders and all the guys did really well. We know Japanese riders have something extra sometimes in that there’s more culture in Japan for racing, but the other guys are catching up. I think today they used their experience for the victory. Normally these kind of Championships are quite tight and if it’s like that it’s perfect because it means the guys are fighting. We will see next race and see if they like Suzuka. I think there we’ll see the Japanese riders really fast.”

Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup: Full Race from Qatar