Can Matsuyama defend his new lead? Or will Nishimura strike back as both race on home turf?
The IATC got back in action at Buriram and, as ever, both races were a rollercoaster. They were also very different – although one man won both – and now Takuma Matsuyama returns to race on home turf at the Twin Ring Motegi with the points lead and some very good memories.
That’s because last year in Japan, Matsuyama did the double. They were his first wins in the IATC and they were also his first – and only – visits to the podium in 2018. A good omen? Given that he also just did the double on the way into the event this year, it’s hard to bet against the new Cup leader. But Sho Nishimura took a second place at Motegi in 2018 and showed he had some pace too – so he’ll at least know he can be quick around his home venue. With only four points separating the two in the standings, that could be crucial…
Afridza Munandar, meanwhile, is now 20 points down but if Buriram proved anything, it proved how quickly things can change. The Indonesian rider had some bad luck to be crashed out of Race 1 but bounced back to take the podium in Race 2, so he’ll be one to watch. As will Malaysian Syarifuddin Azman, who had his best weekend yet by some stretch at Buriram.
Adenanta Putra, Herjun Firdaus, Tatchakorn Buasri and Warit Thongnoppakun will be fighting alongside their Indonesian and Thai compatriots to give the home heroes something to think about too – and they’ve all been on the podium, so they’ve shown they’re more than capable of fighting at the front. They’ll now need to start securing their final places in the standings as well, with Motegi hosting the first two of the final four races.
Home pride and glory are on the line for the Japanese riders on the grid this weekend and the IATC adds even more home talent for the Twin Ring Motegi as Shiji Ogo, Shota Kiuchi and Kanta Hamada also join the line up as wildcards. For them, it's a chance to impress - for Matusyama and Nishimura it could be a vital piece in the puzzle on their way to taking the crown. Who will leave the penultimate round ahead? Race 1 at Motegi is on Saturday the 19th October at 16:15 (GMT +9) before Race 2 at 10:30 on Sunday.