Motegi: Noguchi chases van Eerde onto home turf

The next stop for the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup sees the grid head for Japan for the penultimate round

Buriram was a showstopper for the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup. Everything went down to the final corner and there were some key movers in the standings – not least of all the winner of both races, Danial Sharil of Malaysia. Making it a maiden win in style on Saturday, he doubled up on Sunday with the same racecraft, rocket-powered start and pace. Heading into Motegi, he’s a man on a roll and now third in the standings, looking to make up even more ground.

It remains two familiar names at the top, however, and in the same order. Bill van Eerde, who qualified down in 19th, bounced back with two unbelievable races to fight at the front in both at Buriram – and missed out on victory in the first by mere thousandths. In the second it was a more dramatic end and key rival Haruki Noguchi pushed him wide and down to the latter half of the top ten, but the Japanese rider knew he had to try. After crossing the line behind van Eerde in Race 1 and making that points deficit just a little bigger, his aggressive move on Sunday at least cut it down by a point and he now trails the Australian by seven. Heading onto his home turf, it’ll be all or nothing from Noguchi get ahead now – but van Eerde has that little bit of breathing space. How will they attack the hard-braking behemoth of Motegi?

Behind the top three, Indonesian Mario Aji suffered a DNF in Race 1 but had more luck on Sunday to fight back for a top five, and there were some notable performances from the likes of home hero Tachakorn Buarsi – on the podium in Race 2 on home turf – and Sho Nishimura, who took second in Race 2. They’ll all be walking tall into the Twin Ring Motegi and Nishimura is another of the Japanese riders ready to push to the limit, along with some other serious threats – the likes of Toshiki Senda and Takuma Matsuyama. It’s a grid well populated with home heroes, and a track with plenty of history they’ll want to add to. 

Two more races make up the penultimate round in 2018 and it remains everything to play for despite the dominion at the top: anything can happen and quite often does. Tune in for Race 1 from 16:15 (GMT + 9) on Friday – a day earlier than normal – before Race 2 on Saturday at the same time.