With Round 5 of the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) underway, yesterday’s 3 free practice sessions gave the Idemitsu Honda Racing India team’s riders Rajiv Sethu and Senthil Kumar their first taste of the unfamiliar Zhuhai circuit in the southern tip of China. The sessions proved that the hot and humid Zhuhai tarmac brought the biggest twist in the championship. Barring the solo Chinese wildcard entry in Asia Production 250cc class, the track is new for all 25 Asian riders from Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taipei and India.
Familiarizing himself to the new track, Rajiv’s best lap time of 1:56:121 was 2.3 seconds off from the Indonesian lead rider Lucky, putting him 17th out of total 26 riders. Meanwhile, this rookie team-mate Senthil Kumar too got faster in the unfamiliar track by 1.655 seconds between FP1, FP2 and FP3 and finished 22nd with a lap time of 1:57:269. The fastest on track was the Indonesian trio from Astra Honda Racing Team – Lucky Hendriansya (1:53:758), followed by Irfan Ardiansyah (1:54:000) and Rafid Topno (1:54:016).
Commenting on the team’s performance, Mr Prabhu Nagaraj, Vice President – Brand and Communications, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India Pvt. Ltd said, “Today was a day for learning for us. Zhuhai track is a high-speed track with mostly flowing corners throwing a big challenge for our riders. Today, both Rajiv and Senthil rode here for the first time. While both cut their lap times by over 1 second, their gap from the lead rider is still 2 seconds plus. The team, coach and riders plan for tomorrow is ride with the top bunch and fight for the top 10 spots in qualifying as well as the Race 1. We look forward to a strong performance and points for India yet again.”
Fresh from his double win at the Indian National Motorcycle Racing Championship last weekend, Rajiv Sethu said, “Zhuhai is a great opportunity for me to surge ahead in the championship. But I wasn’t comfortable with my bike handling FP1 and FP2 which made me slower in my lap times. In FP3, I went off-track due to late braking and couldn’t ride for much time. Tomorrow, the plan is to improve the bike’s handling and shave off more than 1 second off my time. My aim is to compete with top riders and be in Top 10 in morning qualifier and grab points for India in the afternoon race 1.”
Familiarising himself with the track, Senthil Kumar commented, “Zhuhai track is completely new for me with its long straights and short turns. Today my focus was not on timing but to push my CBR250RR more, improve my braking, body posture and understand the track. Any mistake in cornering will be costly tomorrow as this would mean losing the bunch. Tomorrow, the challenge to myself is to fight in the group, get faster, avoid my previous mistakes and improve my qualifying position.”