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This weekend the MotoGP™ paddock heads to the PTT Thailand Grand Prix and alongside the World Championship will be a bunch of Asia’s promising young talents competing in the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup.
Springing to life in 2014, the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup has birthed some real gems who are now making a name for themselves on the world stage. The maiden title winner, Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia), won the 2019 Qatar GP and will move into the established ranks of Red Bull KTM Ajo for the 2020 season, as the Japanese rider aims to build on the success at the start of the year.
Watch Race 1 of the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup in Thailand
Finishing fourth in 2014, 2015 Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup Champion and 2016 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Champion Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) is now into his third full Moto3™ season and, despite not tasting podium success thus far, Sasaki is a regular top 10 contender. A maiden pole position in 2019, coupled with a best finish of fifth and a move to Red Bull KTM Tech 3 means more Sasaki success should be forthcoming in 2020.
2016 Champion Somikat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) has had a very impressive debut season in the Moto2™ class, having placed P9 on his Grand Prix debut in Thailand last season in the Moto3™ race. Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) finished just five points behind Chantra that season and having finished 8th in his debut FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship season, following that up with a 5th place in the overall standings last year, Ogura has been mightily impressive in his debut Moto3™ season. A first podium came the Japanese rider’s way at MotorLand Aragon and there’s definitely more to come, with a win surely just around the corner.
2017 saw the crowning of Deniz Öncü in the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup. Alongside brother Can Öncü, who finished third in the 2017 Cup, the Turkish twins are two of the brightest prospects in Grand Prix racing. Can became the youngest ever GP winner at a rain-soaked Valencia in 2018 having picked up the 2018 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies title ahead of Deniz, with both looking likely to be on the grid full time in 2020.
Kazuki Masaki (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race) is another to have risen through the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup ranks. Finishing third in 2015, the Japanese rider went on to beat Can and Deniz Öncü to the 2017 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup title. Masaki has a best finish of P8 this season in the Moto3™ class, while in his first-ever Grand Prix he picked up a P10 in Valencia.
Watch Race 2 of the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup in Thailand
Other well-known names to have come through the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup are Adam Norrodin, Khairul Idham Pawi and Nakarin Atiratphuvapat, with 2020 Moto3™ rookie Ryusei Yamanaka looking to make his mark on the Grand Prix scene with Estrella Galicia 0,0. The Japanese rider finished fourth in the 2017 Cup and is currently 5th in the FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Champion having won in Valencia.
So, there are just a few examples of how well the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup is doing in terms of unearthing future Grand Prix stars. Watch out for names such as Haruki Noguchi, Mario Aji, Bill Van Eerde and others who look set to become a household name in the World Championship.
Watch IATC Race 1 from Thailand on Saturday at 16:30 local time (GMT+7), with Race 2 getting underway on Sunday at 15:30.
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