The third round of the Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup, or better known as Shell Cup now, saw some dramatic wheel to wheel action you would not expect to see of teenage riders. The third race of the season took place at the Zhuhai International Circuit in China.
The Japanaese of course dominated again but only in practise and qualifying. Friday’s practise took place in sweltering heat with an ambient temperature of 40 degrees celsius and track temperature of 62 degrees celsius.
There were two practise sessions on the day and interestingly all riders took an amazing four seconds off their lap times on the second practise. Expectedly,the Japanese riders were the pace setters with the top four places going to Kaito Toba (race winner at Sentul) in first, Yuta Date (winner in Qatar) in second, Ayumu Sasaki and Takuma Kunimine.
Malaysian riders Shafiq Ezzariq and Ibrahim Norrodin made it into the top 10 classification during free practise one but in free practise two, Malaysia was represented by Helmi Azman, Shafiq Rasol and Adam Norrodin.
Qualifying on Saturday however saw a very different final grid line up. Some of the riders experienced mechanical problems while some were not happy with the set up of their bikes, this led to a mixed starting grid.
For the first time, 13 year old Japanese rider Ayumu Sasaki, who is also the youngest rider on the grid, took pole position followed by experienced riders Kaito Toba in second and Takuma Kunimine in third. Race favourite Yuta Date came in fourth. The top seven spots in qualifying saw a Japanese washout while Malaysia took over from the Japanese from eight place onwards.
Arguably Malaysia’s most experienced rider Adam Norrodin who raced in Spain’s CEV series took eight place with Helmi Azman just a hundredth of a second behind him in ninth. Female Thai rider Muklada Sarapuech took tenth while eleventh to fifteenth place was utterly dominated by the Malaysians. An obvious improve in performance from the Malaysians.
Race one, which took place on Saturday, however was a nail biting dramaful event. With 12,000 race fans showing up at the circuit to watch the race, Malaysian rider Adam Norrodin took a surprise lead at the start, leaving everyone in his wake.
Adam held on to the lead for two laps of the 15 lap race. At the end of lap two however, Toba had increased his pace and by the end of lap three, had opened an astonishing two second lap over the rest of the pack.
Sasaki, who was determined to win the race and who regards Date as his closest competitor, then took over the lead and held on to it for much of the race, occasionally getting into a dice up with Toba. Date held on to third place comfortable, silently watching the two up front, waiting for his moment.
The battle really heated up five laps from the end of the race with Toba and Date challenging Sasaki for the lead. It was a drama filled fairing to fairing race for the three racers, but Sasaki made a mistake on the last corner, and this gave the other two riders the opportunity they needed to slip past with Date seemingly set for the win. Toba however, slipstreamed Date at the last second, and took the win by tenth of a second.
Adam Norrodin, who was seemingly set for his first podium of the race, came home in sixth place after unsuccessfully challenging the two Japanese riders who finished in fourth and fifth – Ryo Mizuno in fourth and Takuma Kunimine in fifth.
Following close behind Adam was Shafiq Rasol in seventh, Helmi Azman in eight, Shafiq Ezzariq in ninth. Rounding up the Malaysian contingent was Nazirul Bahauddin in 14 and Adam’s brother Ibrahim Norrodin in 17 place.
The third round of the Shell Cup continues on Sunday with Race 2 with the starting grid following yesterday’s qualifying results.