Kaito Toba becomes first ever Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup series champion. Shafiq Rasol scores podium again on home soil.
The first ever Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup season came to a dramatic close earlier today. Scoring his maiden win in the series was Japanese rider Takuma Kunimine whilst home hero Shafiq Rasol and Japanese rider Kaito Toba comes in a close second and third respectively.
Drama ensued in the opening laps of Race 2 held in at noon just before the scheduled Shell Advance Malaysian MotoGP race events. First came the collision between Thailand’s Muklada Sarapuech, the grid’s only girl rider, with then championship leader Yuta Date at Sepang International Circuit’s technical Turn 9.Despite managing to restart his bike and pressing on from the tail end, Date could only manage to classify himself in 19th by race’s end.
With Date out of the picture, a battle ensued in the lead group between Kaito Toba, Takuma Kunimine, Shafiq Rasol, Thai national Somkiat Chantra, and resurgent Malaysians Adam Norrodin, Shafiq Ezzariq, and Helmi Azman. However, by mid-race, said battle began to intensify between Kunimine, Toba, Rasol, and Norrodin.
For the third straight time, Kaito Toba’s ‘last lap, last corner’ charge spurred things up, leading to a four-bike sprint down the straight towards the chequered flag. Victory eventually went to Kunimine having secured a good line exiting Turn 15. Rasol, on the other hand, came in a close second just 0.381 seconds behind, followed by Toba in third with a gap of 0.420 from Kunimine.
With Date finishing down in the tail end, Toba’s podium finish sees him scoring enough points to be crowned as the series’ first ever champion with his total of 139 points, just two ahead of Date.
Despite having to sit out today’s race due to injuries sustained from yesterday’s race, pint-sized Japanese youngster Ayumu Sasaki ends the season with his ranking of third overall with 111 points.
“For me, today’s race was a fairly hard one. There were strong challengers from many riders for me, especially Toba and Rasol,” said Kunimine in his post-race interview with us. He further added, “I only came at the top in the last few laps. And, when I saw I could go for the win, I just went for it.”
The feeling of disappointment was clear on home hero Shafiq Rasol’s face when we spoke to him after the podium ceremony. “Today, the race was much harder for me. I feel disappointed I could not repeat the same performance yesterday,” said the soft-spoken Malacca native. Nevertheless, he now ranks as the best-performing Malaysian rider in the series, and becoming the first non-Japanese rider to win a race in the series.
Toba, on the other hand, admitted towards felling a tad bit disappointed too. “I am happy to have clinched the championship, but I wish I had the race win to go along with it,” said Toba as he described his feelings after the race. When asked about the minor mid-race contact he had with Adam Norrodin, Toba said, “In that moment in time, everyone looked the same. This is racing and we have to live with that.” Disappointments aside, Toba was clearly ecstatic to celebrate his title win.
Check out the full season’s standings on the official Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup website via this link: Season’s standings.
With the season in the bag, the Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup has shown us that Asia has plenty of talented youngsters. The 2015 season’s selection will commence on Monday and Tuesday, where more than 100 entries from around the region will vie for a spot on next year’s grid.
Making things more interesting, the 2015 selection will includes entries from Australia and New Zealand, and will perhaps stir things up even further. We will be covering the two-day affair and will keep you up-to-date on who makes the cut to race in the 2015 season.