RATTHAPONG Wilairot saved his best for last when he stole pole position ahead of Sundayâ€™s PETRONAS Asia Road Racing Championship race at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand.
The Thai Honda Racing Thailand rider put an inch-perfect lap in the closing minutes of a hectic SuperSports 600cc qualifying session, roaring to pole in 1â€™40.460s, a thousandth of a second ahead of compatriot, Jakkrit Swangswat (AP Honda Thailand) while championship leader, Katsuaki Fujiwara (BEET Kawasaki Racing) locked out the front row in 1â€™40.600s.
Suzuka (Round 4) winner, Yuki Ito (PETRONAS Hong Leong Yamaha) will start the 16-lap race from row two having qualified fourth fastest with 1â€™40.770s, lining alongside Mohd Zaqhwan Zaidi (Musashi Boon Siew Honda Racing) and Tomoyoshi Koyamaa (T.Pro Yuzy Honda NTS) who clocked their quickest lap in 1â€™40.788s and 1â€™40.827s respectively.
â€œWe struggled with setup throughout the practice so to grab pole in the qualifying came as a huge surprise. Making it sweeter, I did it at my home track,â€ said Ratthapong.
He went on to reflect on his outing, â€œWe took it easy in the early parts because the tarmac was wet and only started to push in the final 20-minutes. Even then I found it hard to close the gap with our rivals.â€
â€œBut the team did a great job configuring the bike and in turn this gave me the confidence to push the limits and set the flying lap,â€ he said.
Speaking about his targets for tomorrow, Ratthapong commented,Â â€œThis being my home race, I want to win and sing the Thai national anthem in front of my countrymen. But it will not be easy because we anticipate the competition to be extremely close with the top-11 riders separated less than a second. Anyway, I will do my best.â€
Meanwhile Gupita Kresna maintained his perfect start to the race weekend when the Indonesian rider snatched pole ahead of Rozaiman Mohd Said and Ferlando Herdian.
The Kawasaki KYT Rextor Manual Tech rider stamped his mark in his fourth tour around the Chang circuit with 2â€™09.423s right before rain interrupted the 40-minute qualifying session.
Rozaiman (T.Pro Yuzy Honda NTS) who had expected wet conditions posted his best time early with 2â€™10.476s followed by Ferlando (Faito Factory Racing), 2â€™11.397s.
Taking off from second row would be homegrown rider, Vorapong Malahuan (Thai Honda Racing Thailand) followed by Norizman Ismail (Harian Metro Y-TEQ SCK Honda Racing) and Ahmad Fazli Sham (PETRONAS Hong Leong Yamaha).
Lastly Khairul Idham Pawi secured his fourth pole in the Asia Dream Cup in 2â€™05.534s while Indonesian riders, Andi Farid and Aditya Pangestu completed the front row with 2â€™06.133s and 2â€™06.751s respectively.
1.Ratthapong Wilairot (Honda) 1â€™40.460s 2.Jakkrit Swangswat (Honda) 1â€™40.461s 3.Katsuaki Fujiwara (Kawasaki) 1â€™40.600s 4.Yuki Ito (Yamaha) 1â€™40.770s 5.Zaqhwan Zaidi (Honda) 1â€™40.788s
1.Gupita Kresna (Kawasaki) 2â€™09.423s 2.Rozaiman Mohd Said (Honda) 2â€™10.476s 3.Ferlando Herdian (Yamaha) 2â€™11.397s 4.Vorapong Malahuan (Honda) 2â€™11.424s 5.Norizman Ismail (Honda) 2â€™11.585s
Asia Dream Cup
1.Khairul Idham Pawi (MAS) 2â€™05.534s 2.Andi Farid (INA) 2â€™06.133s 3.Aditya Pangestu (INA) 2â€™06.751s 4.Sumit Loucs Toppo (IND) 2â€™06.826s 5.Teppei Nagoe (JPN) 2â€™06.838s