It’s almost time for the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup to get in gear for 2019 and the first port of call before competition begins is testing, with riders ready for two days of track action at Sepang International Circuit. That’s on the 9th and 10th of February as the returners come face to face with their 14 new rookie rivals, with reserve rider Shota Kiuchi and Malaysian Harith Zamri also in attendance. Danial Sharil, injured in a crash at the end of last season, won’t be back on track just yet, but the Malaysian is expected to return to the IATC mid-season.
Heading the 2018 riders who return to compete this season are some familiar faces from the podium. Sho Nishimura, who finished third overall last year and was a race winner, is one key rider to watch – as is double winner Takuma Matsuyama. Sharil could be a threat once he’s back from injury, joining the likes of podium finishers Tatchakorn Buasri and Afridza Munandar on the list of ones to watch.
The rookies will be aiming to cut down the advantage of experience as soon as possible and use the two days of track time to quickly familiarise themselves with their Honda machinery – as well as their new rivals. Rookie and wildcard successes in the past should encourage the newcomers in their quest to take on the established frontrunners, with history saying it’s more than possible to win races – or even the Cup. The 5.5km venue is a uniquely challenging layout and puts every rider through their paces, as well as giving them experience of a track they’ll race at twice during the season.
That season starts now and there’s another Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup to play for, with testing laying the foundations on the 9th and 10th February.