2016 Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup pre-season tests conclude in Sepang, Malaysia.
The quest to search for Asia’s next MotoGP hero enters its third season this year. Earlier this week, pre-season testing for the 2016 Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup were conducted in the Sepang International Circuit (SIC), Malaysia.
The three-day program began on Monday where riders and mechanics (called ‘helpers’), both new and returning ones, underwent an intensive full-day initiation and re-initiation. Riders got themselves measured for their official gears and photographed whilst returning helpers and Asia Talent Cup officials guided new helpers through the process.
All this was happening under the watchful eyes of series coach Alberto Puig. The Spaniard, who is regarded as one of MotoGP’s most prolific coach and talent scout, had his hands full across the entire three-day affair. Needless to say, his serious and no nonsense approach towards talent development will be one of the strongest fuels for the series besides the supply of race-engineered fuels and engine oils from Shell.
This year, the series’ fleet of Honda NSF250R Moto3 bikes see a switch of tyre supply from Bridgestone to Dunlop. A quick chat with the tyre maker’s specialist team present during the test revealed that the brand is supplying the series with the same tyres it supplies to both the World Moto3 and Spanish CEV Junior World Moto3 championships.
Besides that, official series apparels supplier Alpinestars have also opted to upgrade their supply of racing to gloves, granting riders with MotoGP-spec racing gloves this year. Adding a dash of new colours are the newly added variety of coloured helmets from official supplier X-Lite as well, which will no doubt make it easier for spectators to indentify riders too.
Speaking of the riders, the roster this year welcomes riders from two new nations during tests. Three youngsters now represent Turkey whilst India finally has its first rider competing. Other nations represented include Australia, Japan, China, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.
For Team Malaysia, the roster has shrunk significantly from five riders last year down to just two during testing. Present here were local MiniGP ace Izam Ikmal and Ahmad Idham Khairuddin – younger brother to former national Moto3 rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin.
Whilst Ahmad Idham benefits from his wildcard stints in the series last year, Izam Ikmal will have much more to learn as he comes straight out of the local MiniGP championships. Unlike most Malaysian riders who have competed in the series before, the young and seemingly pint-sized Ikmal is not an alumni of the local Malaysian Cub Prix underbone racing series. It will be interesting to see his development in the series this year.
On-track testing began on Day 2 onwards and from what we observed, all 22 riders have shown stimulating signs. With the expert coaching from Alberto Puig and his team, the laptimes gradually dropped session by session.
However, dominating the top spots were none other than returning riders such as Thailand’s sole representative Somkiat Chantra, returning Indonesians Andi Izdihar and Gerry Salim, as well as the Japanese brigade of Kazuki Masaki, Ai Ogura and Ryusei Yamanaka.
Chantra would eventually end the three-day test as the fastest rider after clocking in a best time of 2’17.901, which is just slightly off the record he set last year around the 5.5km-long SIC.
Besides practice sessions and race simulations, special drills for both riders and helpers were also held. These include pit row and race start procedures plus mock grid starts and mock race starts amongst them. Despite the high number of new riders and helpers, it appears everyone has gotten into the groove well under Puig’s coaching.
Alberto Puig had this to say as the three-day tests concluded:
“There are many new guys and that always complicates things a little bit, some were a bit on edge, but this is normal. There has been a lot of progress from the first to the second day and we aim to continue to make improvements throughout the season.”
The 2016 Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup season will commence with its first round in Buriram, Thailand where it will support Round 2 of the FIM Motul World Superbike Championship (WSBK) from March 11 to March 13.
Round 2 of the 2016 Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup will be less than a week after that in Losail, Qatar, where it will support the season-opening round of the 2016 FIM MotoGP World Championship.
Stay tuned to our site as we progressively cover Asia’s only leading Moto3 feeder series all-year round.
2016 Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup Pre-Season Tests @ Sepang International Circuit