YAMAHA MLT@Asia Road Racing Championship 2015 - R1 Malaysia/Sepang  29 Apr 2015

Round 1 April 19,
2015 Asia Production 250
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC). This 2015 season sees the start of the new "Asia Production 250" class in an effort to promote the spread and development of motorsport and the popularity of sport models in the countries of Asia. In 2014, Yamaha Motor released its "R-Series" YZF-R25 global supersport model and also announced its participation in this class as part of a step-up program to encourage the progress of Asian riders hoping to advance to competition on the world stage. This season, 13 riders from six teams run and supported by regional Yamaha Motor group companies and others are racing full-time in this class with the R25. Furthermore, other R25 machines entered by independent teams are in the series as well (total of 18 R25s of 29 machines on the grid), and all went into the first round aiming for victory in their quest for the new class' first championship title.

The venue for the opening round of the series was the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia that also hosts a round of MotoGP and other big events. In conditions that saw the temperature rise above 30 °C on a daily basis, the ASEAN R25 riders worked hard to get accustomed to the new machine and, for most, the new experience of competing on an international circuit.

Many of the teams' staff members also lacked experience, but through the three official practice sessions and qualifying, both the riders and the teams made steady progress. The difference in racing experience was also a factor; although the best performances by Yamaha-supported R25 riders were 7th places in both Race 1 and Race 2, the season opener was a big step forward in terms of the invaluable experience gained and the new issues found to tackle in preparation for round two of the series.
Race1 - For the first race of the season, 18 Yamaha team riders, most in their late teens and early twenties, lined up on the starting grid on their new R25 machines. Leading the Yamaha teams on the starting grid were Galang Hendra Pratama (#99, Yamaha Factory Racing Indonesia) in 6th position and Li Zheng Pang (#26, YAMAHA MLT RACING TEAM) in 7th position.
With the start, however, two rival competitors quickly pulled away from the pack to lead the race. Meanwhile, the leading Yamaha riders fought it out for 3rd place in the second group of five or six machines. Amid the continuously tight, close-in battles that typify lower displacement class races, competitors used each other's slipstreams to pass each other in the corners and on the straights, bringing dramatic position changes with every lap.

Among the Yamaha team riders, Li Zheng Pang (#26) drew on his wealth of experience in world championship competitions on machines like the YZF-R6 to lead the group battling for 3rd position. However, in the middle stages of the race, he began to fall off the pace and was eventually replaced by up-and-coming Thai rider, Peerapong Boonlert (#45, Yamaha Thailand Racing Team). Boonlert had worked his way up through the second group to lead it at one point with a solid shot at a podium finish. Also working their way into the second group were Peerapong Loiboonpeng (#14, Yamaha Thailand Racing Team), Galang Hendra Pratama (#99), and the winner of the 2014 Suzuka 4 Hours Endurance Road Race, Imanuel Putra Pratna (#34, Yamaha Factory Racing Indonesia), who had dashed up through the order from a 17th-position start. This put a determined group of R25 riders in position to vie for the third spot on the podium.

The fierce competition continued into the final stages of the race, but in the end, the rival competitors proved hard to crack and the top finish for a R25 rider in this race was 6th place by Ayumu Tanaka (#82, Akeno Speed Racing). Following in 7th place was Peerapong Boonlert (#45), while other R25 riders swept the positions down to 12th place.
Race2 - Roughly five hours after Race 1, the competitors were lined up for the start of Race 2. Once again, the competition would prove tough for the R25 riders. Four rival machines jumped into the lead at the start and began lapping the course at a blistering pace.
  The R25 riders were unable to match their pace, and as the lead group gradually pulled away, it was Ayumu Tanaka (#82) who lead the second group in 5th position, followed by Fitriansyah Kete (#93, Faito Factory Racing) in 7th place and 15-year-old Malaysian rider Kasma Daniel Bin Kasmayudin (#127, Yamaha Finson Racing) in 8th position, leading the third group.

Entering the middle stages of the race, ASEAN R25 riders comprised the third group led by Peerapong Boonlert (#45) in 7th, followed by Kasma Daniel Bin Kasmayudin (#127), Imanuel Putra Pratna (#34), Galang Hendra Pratama (#99) and Rusman Fadhil (#27, Yamaha Yamalube KYT Tunggal Jaya Racing).
Running at a pace roughly one second slower than the 1'17 lap times of the lead group, it was proving hard to make any gains. Still, with a spurt of laps in the 1'17 range--the same lap time as the lead group--Imanuel Putra Pratna (#34) managed to move up into 7th position but he was soon passed by Galang Hendra Pratam (#99). Next it was Rusman Fadhil (#27) who battled into 7th position with a string of fast laps. The race positions continued to change frequently in the tightly packed rush for the checkers.

In the end, the best finish for an R25 rider was the same as Race 1 with Ayumu Tanaka (#82) taking 6th place. Following him came four ASEAN R25 riders in a row, led by Rusman Fadhil (#27) in 7th place, and the opening round of the series came to an end with five R25 riders in the top ten.
The second round of the series will be held in
Indonesia from June 5 to 7 at the
Sentul International Circuit on the outskirts of Jakarta.