After a duel to the line in Race 2 in Qatar between Australian Bill van Eerde and Japanese Championship leader Haruki Noguchi, it was almost history repeating itself at Buriram on Sunday. But this time the tables turned, and it was veteran Noguchi who got the better of his rookie challenger as the two got their elbows out on the drag to the line. In the tight battle to complete the podium, it was Afridza Munandar of Indonesia who came out on top to take third.
There was immediate drama at the start as front row man Mario Aji suffered some problems and was unable to get started, eventually getting away but then retiring soon after and unable to repeat his incredible challenge for the win on Saturday. That left Noguchi on pole and van Eerde in third separated by a gap, and the two got away well from the front row – with the group, this time, able to stay with and challenge Noguchi.
It was a classic Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup battle thereafter, with none of the duel of Saturday and a battle royal between a good number of riders at the front. But van Eerde and Noguchi were just able to stay clear enough over the final laps to make it a duel for glory – and the Australian made a classic Buriram last lao lunge to try and take his second win. Side by side as they blasted down the start-finish straight, it as elbows out and no prisoners taking to the line – with Noguchi just ahead to take the win by only 0.005 for another photo-finish.
Munandar took third and was only just over a tenth back, with another few bike lengths back to an impressive wildcard performance from home hero and top Thai finisher Warit Thingnoppakun, who crossed the line in fourth.
Compatriot Kochai Sae-Liw dueled it out to take fifth ahead of Indonesian rider Agung Fachrul – the polesitter in Qatar, with Malaysian Danial Sharil taking P7. Shota Kiuchi of Japan, young Australian Senna Agius and Ibrahim Pawi completed the top ten in an impressive show of pace.
“None of them have a lot of experience,” says Shuhei Nakamoto, Special Advisor. “But between yesterday’s race and today, all riders improved their laptimes. Yesterday only two riders did a 47, but today it was more than ten. Only two riders have experience in the Cup but still today the top group is like a pack and the rookies had an opportunity to do something great. I’d just say to everyone – don’t give up until the end!”
Next up for the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup it’s Sepang International Circuit as they race alongside the Malaysian Superbike Championship in July – with Noguchi in the hot seat and the Championship lead.