Sundays final race of round 6 at the Sepang International Circuit (Malaysia) once again brought cheer for IDEMITSU Honda Racing India - the solo Indian racing team battling for points at the Asia Road Racing Championship 2019 (ARRC).
Despite his back and hand injury from Saturday's crash, Rajiv Sethu earned one more point with his eight top-15 finish this season in the Asia Production 250cc (AP 250) class of ARRC.
Still learning the ropes of international racing in his debut ARRC season, 18-year-old Senthil Kumar continued his assault on time sheets to record his personal best lap record of 2:28:241 at Sepang. Despite his eighth row start from 22nd on the grid, Senthil quickly overtook Taipei's Liu Junmei and Thailand's Sawapol in lap two itself. Maintaining 20th in lap three, he jumped to 19th in lap four and maintained his stance for the 3 rounds, only to finish 17th in the final 8th lap, with five positons gain overall.
Sunday's Race 2 of Asia Production 250cc class saw Indonesians dominate the top 6 ranks. Infighting for the win went unabated till the chequered flag and caused two causalities - Rafid Topan and Muklada Sapapuech who crashed out in their attempt to lead in the last lap.
Ultimately, it was Astra Honda Racing team's Awhin Sanjaya who stopped the clock at 19:43:339. Hot on his heels was Andy Fadly trailing by only 0.048 seconds (19:43:387) and 3rd podium claimant Reynaldo Chrisantho (19:43:545).
"Despite back and hand injury, I could get good confidence in morning warm-up after a bad crash yesterday. I started strong and had jumped up to 11th position in turn 2, I was sticking with the top 15 riders for about 4 laps" said Rajiv.
"On the 5th lap, I missed my gear and went out of the track, losing two positions. It was very difficult to recover, especially as couldn't push 100 per cent due to my injury. I finished 15th. But frankly, this was not the goal I had set for myself this weekend. I have very good confidence in Buriram. Now I plan to recover fast and focus on my weak-points to fight for the top 15 in Championship. I will have to close in top 10 in both the Thai races," Senthil said.
"In the morning warm-up, I recorded my fastest lap time of 2:28:241 and entered the race with confidence. But when a bad start shoved me to 29th, my first priority was to fast reverse this loss.
"In the first lap itself, I aggressively rode and overtook 7 riders to return to my starting 22nd position. In next lap, I overtook 2 more riders to climb to top 20. But by then, gap between Shahrol and me had increased which I coundn't recover. However, with Thai rider Sawapol hot on my heels, I successfully defended my position to finish 17th. Next up, is the last round at Buriram (Thailand). With its 3 long straights, competition is tight as all riders are riding in a 2 to 3 second gap. I have to learn from my mistakes this weekend, better my corner exits and get more lean to ensure a top 15 finish there," he added.
IDEMITSU Honda Racing India is now stacked up in Top 9 teams of the AP 250 class with 33 points. Rajiv is now placed 16th in the points tally with 33 points, while Senthil with no-gain-no-loss this weekend, is tied at 26th out of 40 riders. As the Sepang outing draws to a close, the battle for the 2019 ARRC Championship will re-commence in the Round 7 finale at Buriram, Thailand in December.
Parallelly, Zaqhwan Zaidi of Honda Asia-Dream Racing with SHOWA team in ASB1000cc class finished 4th in Sunday's race 2, putting him third in the championship.