It was a tough Sunday at the Chang Circuit for the Idemitsu Honda Racing India team. Despite both their riders scoring a double top 15 finish, a 5 position penalty on exceeding track limits at turn 12 turned their fortunes. With 30 riders from 20 teams battling for the AP 250 championship in the final race, exceeding track limits meant Md. Muzakkir, who was the first to cross the chequered flag was pushed back to the 6th position. Astra’s Honda Lucky Hendiransya’s 7th finish in the race was amended to 12th. Similarly, Senthil and Rajiv too lost 5 positions from their 11th and 13th race finish to 16th and 18th positions in final results, leading to no points for Honda’s solo Indian team.
Starting 16th, Rajiv’s good start took him to 10th spot ending lap 1. Lap 3 erased his gains, pulling him back to 16th. Thereon, Rajiv made a fantastic recovery to 15th by lap 4, 13th by lap 5 and climbed up to 11th position by lap 6 when the Top 12 riders were fighting in a 1.8-second gap. By lap 8, Rajiv overtook 2 riders to enter into top 10. A wide corner at turn 12 of final 10th lap saw Rajiv finish 13th in race 2, only to bear the brunt of a 5 position penalty which put him 18th on the official race 2 results.
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Still learning the ropes of international racing in his debut ARRC season, 18-year-old Senthil continued his assault on the timesheets to record his personal best lap record of 1:54:323 at the Chang circuit. Senthil showed true challenging spirit by climbing 11 positions from his distant 8th-row start of 22nd position to finish 11th – the best ever finish of Honda’s rookie rider. But the 5 position penalty pushed him back to 16th in the amended results.
During the race, 4 riders, including championship contender Irfan Ardiansyah crashed. Local favourite Mukada Sarapuech and Vietnam’s Cao Viet Nam too dropped due to technical problems. Post the positions flux after penalty, A.P Honda Racing Thailand’s rider Piyawat Patoomyos was the winner, followed by Vorapong Malahuan (2nd) and Awhin Sanjaya (3rd). After the climactic race 2 finish, it’s a clean podium sweep for Indonesians in the 2019 AP 250 championship. While Andy Fadly won 2019 AP 250 title with 214 points, Astra Honda Racing team’s duo of Awhin Sanjaya closed 2nd (188 points) and Irfan Ardiansyah 3rd (187 points).
So far, 2019 has been a cracker of a season for India’s solo team – ‘Idemitsu Honda Racing India. With Rajiv’s and Senthil’s consistent improvement, the team has ended the 2019 ARRC season of AP 250 class in Top 9 with 35 points. With 2 Top-10 & 9 Top-15 finishes; Rajiv closes 2019 at 17th. This marks a solid 10 rank jump over his 27th rank in 2018 AP 250 championship. For rookie rider Senthil Kumar who is still learning the ropes, his 30th rank out of 44 riders will see improvement ahead.