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Mitani cruises to debut win ahead of Race 1 podium fight thriller

09 March 2024

The season-opener didn’t disappoint as Takahira and rookie Ikegami claim podiums in Qatar

The first race of the season doesn’t get much better than that if your name is Zen Mitani as the Japanese sophomore stole the show in Qatar to claim a debut win by a commanding seven seconds. In a breathtaking fight for the podium, Riichi Takahira grabbed P2 as rookie Seiryu Ikemgami earned a brilliant P3. The 10th anniversary season of the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup certainly kicked off with a bang!

Mitani pocketed pole position a few hours prior but it was a rapidly launching Ryota Ogiwara who grasped the holeshot with both hands, as the Japanese duo immediately got the hammer down. The gap grew to four seconds before Ogiwara – the race leader – crashed at the fast Turn 12 to hand Mitani a lonely lead. Thankfully, Ogiwara was straight back up on his feet, but it was a disappointing early exit from the race. 

From there, it was all about the fight for P2 and P3. Mitani’s advantage was extending lap by lap but a fascinating battle was unfolding between Farish Hafiy, Takahira, Ikegami, Kiandra Ramadhipa, Kiattisak Singhapong, Rintaro Takemoto and Levi Russo. Seven riders all with a shout of a podium finish.  

Coming on the last lap, Hafiy led the group but on the exit of Turn 13, the Malaysian made a small mistake. It was enough to see him drop out of the podium positions though and with two corners to go, Takahira now held the P2 baton. Would anyone pick the Japanese rider’s pocket? Not quite. As Mitani cruised over the line to earn those glorious 25 points, Takahira won the race for P2 as Ikegami just held off Ramadhipa for a debut podium. 

The latter – Ikegami’s fellow rookie – was just 0.010s shy of a podium in Qatar, as Singhapong settled for P5. Hafiy was strong throughout but it was P6 in the end for the #19, as Takemoto crossed the line in P7 just 0.6s away from P2. Russo, Sarthak Chavan and Alfonsi Daquigan completed the top 10 in Race 1 of the season. 

Race 2 in Qatar kicks off at 14:35 local time (UTC +3) – tune in for another nail-biter!

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