Noguchi fastest as Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup testing concludes2018-02-20 15:02
Haruki Noguchi – after narrowly missing out on the crown last year – began his 2018 Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup campaign emphatically as he topped both days of preseason testing at Sepang International Circuit. The two-day test in Malaysia – for many, their first taste of their bike – took place under cloudy skies but the rain stayed away, allowing maximum track time. Track temperatures varied, going from the mid-20s to above 50 degrees during the hottest parts of the day.
Talent Cup director Alberto Puig was on hand for much of the test to keep a watchful eye over the field, with the majority rookies who will be racing in the Cup full time for the first time this year. Unfortunately that also meant there were a number of crashes as the youngsters got to grips with their machinery and the track, with Yousef Al-Darwish and Takuma Matsuyama suffering injuries. Al-Darwish has returned to his native Qatar after a collarbone break, whilst Matsuyama has suffered a broken hip.
Behind Noguchi, Indonesian rider Mario Aji was second quickest – followed incredibly closely by another Japanese rider, Sho Nishimura – who was just 0.025 back on combined timesheets. Tachakorn Buarsi of Thailand was fourth, with Malaysian Danial Syahmi completing the top five. Bill van Eerde took P6 as the fastest Australian, ahead of two more competitors from Thailand as they attempt to follow in the footsteps of 2016 Champion and compatriot Somkiat Chantra: Nitipong Saengsawang and Kopchai Sae-Liw. Matsuyama, despite his crash later in the test, was ninth fastest overall – with compatriot Toshiki Senda completing the top ten.
Indonesians – who make up a good portion of the grid this year – took P11 and P12 in the form of Afridza Munandar and Agung Fachrul, with Senna Agius the second Australian in thirteenth. Troy Alberto of the Philippines was fourteenth, with returning rider Lucky Hendriansya completing the fastest fifteen.
With such an incredible spread of nationalities and competitors, the 2018 season is sure to be a stunner – and it gets underway at Losail Internation Circuit in Qatar on the 16th and 17th March, with Race 1 on Saturday and Race 2 on Sunday.
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