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It's official: the 2021 Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup is underway! The first race of the season at Losail International Circuit didn't disappoint either, with a masterclass ride to the win and a classic duel to the line to decide the podium. The man out front was Taiyo Furusato as the Japanese rider turned pace in testing to blistering speed at the front, getting a perfect start from pole and not looking back. Behind, it was Gun Mie vs Hakim Danish over second as a classic ATC duel broke duel, with just one single thousandth deciding it in favour of Mie.
At lights out it was Furusato who got the best start from pole, the number 15 immediately able to pull out a gap to the chasing pack. It was the opposite story alongside him on the front row, however, as Hakim Danish bogged down and got swamped around the first two corners, giving himself some work to do.
Work he did, however. As Furusato got the hammer down at the front, the Malaysian fought his way back through and avoided some drama for two fellow frontrunners as Fadillah Aditama became the first crasher... and sadly collected Rei Wakamatsu in his front end washout too. The two slid out from the chase, riders ok, passing the baton to Mie.
As the laps ticked down, Furusato only continued to impress and the squabbles that broke out behind him only played into his hands. Eventually the fight for second became a duel as Danish made his way back to the podium positions to take on Mie, and the fight for fourth became a four-way squabble to the line between Danial Sharil, Carter Thompson, Sharul Sharil and last year's Race 1 winner Kanta Hamada. The gaps ebbed and flowed, but by the final corner it was a duel for second and a quartet battling for fourth.
As Furusato enjoyed his victory lap a stunning 16.6 seconds clear, Mie and Danish gunned it to the line side by side to decide second, just about as close as it's possible to get fighting for position - decided by a single thousandth as Mie was that bit ahead over the line. An impressive ride for the number 5, and likewise Danish as the young Malaysian made a huge impression first time out.
Fourth was a similarly close dogfight to the flag. Australian Carter Thompson came out on top by another incredible gap of a single thousandth ahead of Sharul Sharil, with Kanta Hamada forced to settle for sixth and Danial Sharil seventh. The latter, who returns from a long road to recovery following his huge crash at Sepang in 2018, has impressed since re-joining the fold as he slots straight back into top five contention.
The battle for eighth, meanwhile, was a freight train. After crossing the line at the head of the group a few times in the last handful of laps, Thai rider Thanakorn Lakharn was able to keep a bit of a gap round the final lap to take P8, with Australian rookie Marianos Nikolis taking ninth as he got the better of Tetsuya Fujita, local hero Yousef Al-Darwish, Herlian Dandi, Masaya Hongo, Tom Drane, Thurakij Buapa and Watcharin Tubtimon in that order, the latter of whom just missed out on a point in P16. Hongo also jumped the start and served two Long Laps, but was still able to score points.
That's it from Race 1 as Furusato lays down a serious marker at Losail. Can the grid catch him on Sunday? And what will the likes of Aditama and Wakamatsu have over race distance? Found out as the second 14-lap race gets underway at 13:50 (GMT +3) on Sunday.
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