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Race 1 of the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup season finale was another classic, and it was another victory for Taiyo Furusato. It all came down to a duel against Danial Sharil and the last two corners, with Furusato sweeping round the outside to take back the lead and then defend to the flag. It's another 25 points for the Japanese rider and his five victories in a row put him 46 points clear ahead of Race 2, meaning he could wrap up the crown on Saturday. Danial Sharil impressed once again, however, for another podium in second, with Gun Mie completing the rostrum after only just losing touch with the lead duo on the last couple of laps.
At lights out it was Danial Sharil who took the holeshot from pole, the Malaysian quick off the line ahead of Masaya Hongo and Carter Thompson. There was a close shuffle just behind, including for Furusato, but everyone got away cleanly and soon enough, there was a lead group forming: Danial Sharil, Hongo, Thompson, Furusato, Hakim Danish, Azryan Dheyo, Gun Mie and Herjun Firdaus.
Early drama for Kanta Hamada then saw one experienced runner out of the race, with the Japanese rider suffering contact at Turn 10 and going down. Back at the front, it was now a six rider train too as Firdaus and Dheyo lost touch with the leaders.
Drama for Danial Sharil then saw the Malaysian suffer a moment and run wide, slotting back in at the back of that group and two seconds off the lead - just as Furusato remained steadfast at the front, shadowed by Gun Mie. The group lost another frontrunner not long after though as Hongo crashed out, making it five riders in contention for three spots on the podium and one victory.
By five to go, Danial Sharil was back with Furusato and Mie at the front as Thompson and Danish ended up in a lonelier fight for fourth. By three to go though, Furusato was pulling the pin. The Japanese rider was pushing on in his quest for a fifth win from five, but Danial Sharil was able to go with him - setting up another classic duel between the duo.
Furusato led onto the last lap as Danial Sharil shadowed, and the Malaysian waited patiently for the right time to strike: Turn 13. Slicing up the inside and taking over, all he had to do was defend - but Furusato was ready to attack. Sailing around the outside of Turn 16, the Japanese rider hit back in some serious style, then able to close the door at the final corner and keep it pinned to the line. That's five races, five wins, and a 46-point lead.
Danial Sharil takes another podium in second and will be looking to hit back on Saturday, with Mie also back on the rostrum despite losing touch in the latter stages. Thompson takes fourth after duelling Danish, the Malaysian crashing out from behind the Australian on the penultimate lap.
Wildcard Reykat Fadillah took fifth a little ahead of a group battle, with Firdaus taking P6 ahead of Sharul Sharil and another home hero and wildcard in Veda Pratama. Tetsuta Fujita took P9 in some clear air, with Thurakij Buapa, who beat Rei Wakamatsu on the drag to the line, completing the top 10.
Dheyo and Fadillah Aditama crashed out from the second group late on, with Herlian Dandi and Watcharin Tubtimon also suffering DNFs.
That's Race 1 done and dusted, and it sets up a super Saturday for Furusato with the 2021 crown on the line. Can the Japanese rider wrap it up on the first time of asking? Find out at 12:00 (GMT +8), before the third race of the weekend at 16:30!
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