Billy Van Eerde is the 2018 Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup Champion. The Australian took the final win of the year in dramatic fashion - just half a tenth ahead of Tachakorn Buarsi in second - after key title rival Haruki Noguchi was involved in an incident at the flag and penalised for irresponsible riding.
It was home hero Danial Sharil who got his sixth holeshot in a row after the lights went out, with the likes of Noguchi, Lucky Hendriansya and Indonesian ‘Super’ Mario Aji fighting it out in that front group - and van Eerde not far off. That began a group battle involving nearly ten riders for much of the race, with some seeming to start making a break for it before getting reeled back in.
For much of the race it seemed Noguchi had the upper hand on Van Eerde but the Australian still had four points of advantage to play with - and that would become crucial. As Sharil, Hendriansya and Noguchi fought it out at the front, joined by the likes of Race 1 winner Sho Nishimura, Van Eerde was hovering in the latter half of the top ten at times - but he didn’t lose too much touch. As a stunning start for Tachakorn Buarsi saw the former polesitter - who suffered an incident on the Sighting Lap - get in the mix from the back of the grid, who would win the Cup was changing almost corner by corner.
As the laps ticked down however, Noguchi began to make some moves. Attacking to get himself into the perfect position on the final lap, everything once again went down to the final corner in true Idemitsu Assia Talent Cup style - with Noguchi vs Sharil at the front and Van Eerde out-dragging Buarsi to perfection to cross the line third.
That was behind a big incident between the two leaders, however. Locked together on the drag to the line with Noguchi slightly ahead, disaster then struck as the Japanese rider moved over - and tagged Sharil. The Malaysian crashed and was then collected by another rider, and the result of the race was in doubt.
After being investigated, Noguchi was given a 27-second penalty for irresponsible riding - and the incident had big ramifications not only for Sharil but for the Cup. That dropped Noguchi well down the order to not end the season equal on points with Van Eerde, who won the race, and the Australian instead crowned Champion.
Buarsi therefore takes second after his amazing race from the back of the grid and Hendriansya completes the podium, with Takuma Matsuyama and Aji locking out the top five. Toshiki Senda, Sho Nishimura, Koji Hirama, Naoki Yamada and Adenanta Putra completed the top ten.
That’s it for another close and dramatic season in the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup. Billy Van Eerde becomes the first ever Australian to be crowned and those selected to join the grid next year get ready to step up. It will surely be another season to remember.
Alberto Puig: “As always this Cup is about evolution during the year and some guys make more of an evolution than others, van Eerde started step by step but has been progressing, as have many other riders, and finally he was the Champion and we have to congratulate him. I think this incident in the last race made it a little it strange, but in the points he’s the Champion and that’s what counts. Overall we’re happy with the year, we’re satisfied we had another season of the Cup because it’s always complicated.”