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And... we're back! Only a few days after the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup class of 2021 headed out on track for pre-season testing, it’s time for the same Losail International Circuit to host Round 1. Two 14-lap races, one on Saturday and one on Sunday, will kick off the season, with plenty to look out for in an interesting grid of veterans and rookies from all over Asia and Oceania.
It’s Taiyo Furusato who arrives as the fastest man in the test, the Japanese rider repeating the feat from last season when it was his first ATC event. In his first ATC race weekend in 2020, he also impressed – taking second in Race 1 after a stunning duel, and then backing it up with another top five. He’ll be one to watch as he picks up where he left off, and the man he fought for the win last year will be hoping to move up the timesheets a little to battle it out again: Kanta Hamada. In the test he was seventh and then he didn’t finish the race simulation, so he’ll want more.
Fadillah Aditama, meanwhile, is off to the best start of all taking into account the timesheets and the race simulation the ATC did in testing. The Indonesian was second quickest overall before winning the simulation, on aggregate the best performance of anyone. If his rivals have some better luck, Aditama will be expecting to join the fight at the front. Sharul Sharil and Danial Sharil – the latter returning from a long recovery period following his crash at Sepang in 2018 – were also up there on the timesheets, as were the likes of Gun Mie and Rei Wakamatsu, but the race simulation also revealed some interesting changes once the lights went out, even for a dry run.
Rookie Nikolis Marianos, for example, went from outside the top ten on the combined timesheets to duelling for – and taking – second in the race simulation, defeating Thurakij Buapa as the Thai rider proved another to move up. Indian Mikail Salih battled it out with Danial Sharil too, and Qatari rider Hamad Al-Saouti made a leap into the battle in the top ten alongside the likes of Australian Carter Thompson.
The stage is set and the likes of Furusato and Aditama will be heading into Round 1 with some confidence, but testing showed it’ll be another amazing season of close competition. Make sure to tune in this weekend for Race 1 at 16:35 on Saturday, before Race 2 on Sunday at 13:50 (GMT +3).