Malaysian rider Helmi Azman snatches pole position in the Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup 2015 season-opening weekend in Thailand.
The Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup 2015 season kick-starts itself this weekend in the new Chang International Circuit, Buriram, Thailand. The series is being run at the circuit this weekend as the support event to the FIM World Superbike Championship (WSBK) main event.
Both events mark their debut appearances on this new South East Asian circuit. The 4.554km-long track has a layout favouring ultra high speeds with several tight low-speed turns, giving all 22 riders on the Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup grid a good challenge.
The weekend kicked with two practice sessions held on Friday, with the first half-hour session held at noon, followed by a second half-hour stint shortly after lunch. Unsurprisingly, the home ground advantage favoured ‘Chip’ Nakarin Atiratphuvapat and fellow countryman Somkiat Chantra.
While the hot and very high temperatures on Friday proved to be a challenge for the rest of the grid, the conditions were of little concern for 20-year-old Chantra. The local rider dominated the time sheets in both sessions combined, followed by countryman Chip Nakarin who ranked third in the combined results.
Unlike Friday, today’s weather for qualifying is a stark difference as a result of light showers in the late evening and early morning, making the track slightly damp and cool.
Despite his best effort and a good run towards the final parts of the session, Chip Nakarin suffered a huge set back to his campaign after crashing out in this morning’s 30 minute-long Qualifying practice. Nevertheless, the young Thai’s exceptional qualifying performance sees him secure his second place on the grid after lapping the new Buriram Circuit in 1:48.093.
Japanese rider Kazuki Masaki held the top spot for most of the session, before Chip Nakarin subsequently beat him in the session’s last stages, followed by returning Japanese rider Ayumu Sasaki who shared the same timing as chip at 1:49.093.
The biggest surprise however came when returning Malaysian rider Helmi Azman topped the time sheet in his final flying lap towards the tail end of the session.
Helmi’s surprisingly quick pace saw him clock the session’s fastest time of 1:47.775, making him the only rider on the grid to clock in a laptime within the 1:47 mark. Helmi effectively claimed his first pole position of the series with the feat as well.
Another Malaysian who showed strong performance today was none other than Adam Norrodin. Adam ended the session in fourth with his fastest time of 1:48.134, securing him with a promising starting position on the second row of the grid.
Fellow Malaysians Shafiq Rasol and Fakhrusy Rostam, on the other hand, ended the session with respectable performances as well to place in eighth and eleventh respectively. Amongst the five, only rookie Azroy Anuar suffered a setback with his aforementioned crash, forcing him to start from the tail end of the grid.
With the way things are progressing, all eyes will be glued to the weekend’s first race scheduled to take place later today at 1:30pm(local time). Race 2 will take place tomorrow morning at 11:30am (local time). Stay tuned to our site for more updates from the Chang International Circuit, Buriram, Thailand.
Check out more photos on our official Facebook page and in our extensive gallery below. (Additional trackside photos courtesy of Mauro Talamonti / Crunch Communication PR for Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup)