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Sho Nishimura took the win in Race 1 at Sepang International Circuit in the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup season finale, but the headlines got somewhat stolen as Cup points leader Billy van Eerde crashed out – and the gap came down as key rival Haruki Noguchi took fourth. Home hero Danial Sharil was second but is now out of contention to win the Cup on Sunday, with Indonesian Mario Aji completing the podium in a welcome return to form.
Sharil took the holeshot from pole – the fifth time in a row he’s done that – as the grid made their tentative way around the first few corners in the wet and difficult conditions. They all made it through, however, and it began a more traditional freight train at the front in the early stages. Lap by lap, however, a few riders were able to begin pulling away – including Sharil, Aji and Nishimura.
It was far from easy. Aji suffered a big moment not long after taking the lead and he dropped back slightly, and a number of riders crashed out of contention as the conditions caught them out. They included Adenanta Putra and compatriot Afridza Munandar – both leaving some gaps near the front that Aji and Sharil were happy to fill. One of those gaps then appeared in the middle of the top ten. Title contenders van Eerde and Noguchi were in fifth and sixth with the Japanese rider seeming to shadow the Australian, before the drama suddenly hit. Van Eerde lost the front as it suddenly snapped and he slid out, leaving Noguchi with a huge chance to gain some serious points…
Back at the front as van Eerde got back on nearer the back, the laps were ticking on and the gap back to Nishimura in fourth seemed to be staying the same. In the latter stages, however, the Japanese rider had stalked his way well into contention for the win. Some impressive moves saw him just behind Sharil heading into the final corner and Nishimura pounced, slicing up the inside and the Malaysian then forced to sit up slightly. Sharil tried to cut back inside but the door was shut, and a supreme exit for the Japanese rider saw him able to stay ahead on the drag to the line.
Sharil took second for a home podium and another top haul of points as he continues his run of successes, with Mario Aji unable to stay with the two on the final lap but taking an impressive rostrum as he got back on form. Noguchi took P4, gaining eight points on van Eerde – despite a huge moment for the Japanese rider late on – as the Australian crossed the line in P11. Not what he planned, but enough to keep him four points ahead.
Lucky Hendriansya had some top pace before fading slightly in the latter stages, but he took a top five in fifth. Takuma Matsuyama, polesitter Tachakorn Buarsi, Warit Thongnoppakun, Agung Fachrul and Senna Agius completed the top ten, with Billy van Eerde crossing the line last but taking a few crucial points.
Four of those crucial points now separate the two contenders heading into the last race of the season, meaning it could well be a winner takes all. Find out if van Eerde clinches Australia’s first Cup or Noguchi brings it back to Japan from 14:30 (GMT + 8) on Sunday – with the schedule having been changed.
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