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By Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup

Desert duel: Noguchi vs Aji lights up Losail

Photo finish as the first 25 points get decided by just 0.034

The Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup season is officially underway and the first win of the year did go to an expected title contender, but it was far from easy going for victor Haruki Noguchi. The battle went down to the wire after a race-long duel against Mario Aji of Indonesia, and it was just 0.034 deciding the winner by the flag. 

There was drama from the off as polesitter Agung Fachrul was forced to start from the back after failing to get away on the Warm Up lap, leaving Aji and Noguchi on the front row. And Aji took the lead from the middle, with Noguchi tagging onto his tail and the two then beginning to pull away. The race then looked like it would be set as a duel and that it was, but it was a spectacular battle between the two men and in the group behind. By mid-distance, however, Sho Nishimura had made his mark and broken away – looking on for a podium unless any drama unfurled ahead.

After swapping positions and almost some paint, Noguchi was ahead out of the final corner, but Aji pulled alongside as the two kept it pinned towards the line. So close it was almost impossible to call, it was Noguchi who just took it – therefore also taking an early lead in the Championship.

Behind the front two and Nishimura, who completed the podium, it was Toshiki Senda of Japan who emerged from the brawl to take fourth, ahead of Indonesian duo of Adenanta Putra and Afridza Munandar. Australian rookie Bill van Eerde came back from a big crash on Friday to qualify on the second row and take a solid finish in P7, ahead of Fachul’s amazing fight back from the back.

Malaysian Danial Sharil and Thai rider Tachakorn Buarsi completed the top ten in Race 1, and the next contest of the season is already just around the corner as Race 2 begins at 12:50 local time (GMT +3) on Sunday.

Watch Race 1 of the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup in Qatar