IDEMITSU Honda Racing India team duo of Rajiv Sethu and Senthil Kumar had a mixed day at the Asia Production 250cc (AP 250) race 1 of the final 7th round of FIM Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) here on Saturday.
While the morning qualifier pushed Rajiv out of the top 15 front bunch, he made a strong recovery in afternoon’s race 1, finishing 14th and adding two more points to the solo Indian team’s kitty. Meanwhile, an aggressive cornering in the last turn resulted in Senthil crashing out of the race in lap 1 itself.
The morning qualifier saw top 20 riders fight in a tight 2 seconds gap for the title battle. Riding with middle bunch in the first half of the qualifier, Rajiv was initially stuck in the 1:55 seconds lap time.
But strategising fast, the 21-year-old made a quick pit stop to lose this bunch. Rejoining with the fast bunch, he breached into the 1:54 seconds mark to finally qualify 16th with a best lap time of 1:54:737 — a mere 2.185 seconds off the Thai female lead rider Muklada who clocked 1:52:552.
Determined to win points for India in the AP250 race 1, Rajiv gained 2 positions to 14th in lap 1 itself. But Malaysian rider Muhammad Faerozi crash in lap 1 turned out to be the turning point of the race.
While the top riders pushed ahead, the next bunch of 7 riders, including Rajiv, hit the brakes and formed the next group. From there on, this bunch of 7 riders rode in under 1 second gap.
Clocking his best lap time of 1:54:539, Rajiv maintained his 14th spot till lap 3. Lap 4 saw him slip to 15th only to recover back to 13th and maintain this pace till lap 8. The 10-lap race saw Rajiv finally close 14th with 2 positions overall gain, recording a total time of 19:16:421.
Despite the crash, Saturday was a great day for rookie rider Senthil Kumar. The morning qualifier saw Senthil breach the 1:55 second mark (1:55:855) for the first time ever at the Chang circuit.
A poor start in the afternoon race dragged Senthil to 27th from his 22nd position start. But challenging himself, the 19-year-old rode aggressively, gaining 9 positions (a first for him) to climb to the 18th spot. But the last corner of lap 1 proved to be his nemesis. While overtaking 2 more riders, Senthil had a low-side and crashed out of the race.