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After a dramatic pair of races at Motegi that saw two different winners and the points lead change once again, the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup now gears up to make its second visit to Sepang this season. The Malaysian venue will host the final two races of the year and therefore crown the Champion – and there are six names still in with a shot.
The leader after avoiding mistakes and taking two podiums at Motegi is Deniz Öncü, who sits 10 points clear at the top with 134. His nearest rival is Japanese rider Haruki Noguchi on 124 – who was the leader before Race 1 at Motegi – with the winner of that first contest in Japan now third: Ryusei Yamanaka. Yamanaka is only a point behind, too, on 123.
In fourth place after some solid podium finishes is Azroy Anuar – and he’s racing at home. 21 points adrift of Deniz Öncü, the Malaysian will be looking to take both the Cup and his first win of the season to improve on a home podium on 2017’s first visit to the venue. Compatriots Suhaimi Syairul and Hamdan Haziq also ride at home, and will want to end the year on a high.
Yuki Kunii is the rider with the most wins this year so far, taking his third in Race 2 at Motegi. Having missed the first race weekend at Sepang due to an injury sustained at Estoril competing in the Moto3™ Junior World Championship, his form remains a little unknown. On 110 points despite having missed out on being able to battle for 50 of them, the Japanese rider could be a dark horse.
The final shot at the title is afforded to Can Öncü, with 97 points and therefore 37 off the top. It would be a big ask and depend on how the cards fall around him, but the Turkish rider has an ace: he dominated the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup’s first trip to Sepang this season, doing the double in style. Both he and his brother Deniz also stood on the podium in the final race of 2016 – their first podiums.
Last season, the battle for the Cup raged across the weekend and the man in fourth after Race 1, Somkiat Chantra, came back from a 20-point deficit to take the Cup on Sunday with a win in Race 2. Andi Farid won Race 1, and with crashes and drama defining the grand finale last year, the riders will be hoping 2017 is a straight shootout to decide the Champion.
Race 1 is on Saturday at 16:30 local time (GMT +11), with Race 2 on Sunday at 10:30. There’s more action from Sepang on Saturday with Race 1.