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The Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup’s first visit of the season to Sepang International Circuit saw a shift in momentum and a change of leader after two races that seriously swung the pendulum. In the first, former points leader Haruki Noguchi crashed out in mixed conditions as key rival Mario Aji took his first IATC win, and in the second, Bill van Eerde won a stunning three-way fight for victory. Both went down to the final corner and as the dust settles and the grid prepare to return to battle at Buriram, it’s Australia’s van Eerde at the head of the Championship.
Momentum could prove pivotal. Racing alongside MotoGP™ at Buriram is the first in a stint of three race weekends for the IATC that come thick and fast – from Thailand it’s on to Motegi two weeks later, before the season finale sees the grid head back to Sepang at the start of November. That’s 150 points given out in just over six weeks and whoever has the momentum could be decisive on this final stint towards the crown, with four points covering the top two and thirty the top three.
The grid’s first stop at Buriram in 2018 saw Noguchi do the double, however. That bodes well in the Japanese rider’s attempts to bounce back from the DNF and a third-place finish in Malaysia, although his key rivals had some form, too. Van Eerde took two podiums at the Thai track, and Aji was second in Race 1. Will second time round see Noguchi back on top? Or will the others have learned from their first visit and be able to take the fight to the front?
The Thai contingent could also be a force to be reckoned with as they gain experience and return to home turf. Kopchai Sae-Liw is the leading rider for the home nation in the standings as it stands, on 37 points, and took his best finish of the season last time out at Buriram in Race 2. Compatriot Tatchakorn Buarsi isn’t far behind either, just rounding out the top ten at the moment on 36 points – and he took his best finish last time out at Sepang as both show good form. 50 are on the table at Buriram and everything could change again. Tune in as the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup returns from the summer break on the 5th to 7th October at Chang International Circuit in Thailand and we head into the Cup-deciding latter half of the season racing alongside MotoGP™.
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