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The first two rounds of the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup came thick and fast as the grid lined up as part of the Grand Prix of Qatar and then headed for Buriram with WorldSBK, and after a few weeks off it’s now time to get back on track. The stage is the spectacular Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia as the IATC race as part of a Malaysia Superbike Championship weekend.
Sho Nishimura leads the Championship out of two wins from four, and the Japanese rider has a bit of a buffer back to compatriot Takuma Matsuyama after the latter had a more difficult weekend at Buriram. But with 50 points on the table over a race weekend, a 23-point gap can soon get swallowed up –especially as the likes of Tatchakorn Buasri and Afridza Munandar started taking to the top step in Thailand. The Thai rider and Indonesian are split by second Indonesian Adenanta Putra in fourth, and the two countries join Japan in dominating the top ten in the standings as it stands. But next up?
Muhammad Idil Fitri Bin Mahadi is the first home hero in the standings lining up and he’s currently 11th overall, but his best finish has been an eighth place in Buriram. Can he move forward on home turf? Syarifuddin Azman will want to join him, too, with the second Malaysian in the Championship having been in the top ten already. (And there's more – Sepang also welcomes the return of Danial Sharil after a long period of recovery following his crash in the 2018 season finale. He's a former podium finisher at the venue and Championship contender, so how will he fare as he gets back to competition?)
In testing it was Putra who topped the overall combined times at Sepang, and by nearly half a second ahead of Nishimura, with Matsuyama just 0.016 in further arrears. So will the three veterans be back on top now the rookies have more experience? The first rookie at the test impressively locked out the top five – Indonesian Herjun Firdaus – so with more running under their belts, it may be a different story this weekend.
Race 1 begins at 14:40 local time (GMT +8) on Saturday 16th June, with Race 2 beginning at 13:40 on Sunday.
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