Drama unfolds as title leader Pratama suffers a first DNF of the season, with Phuettisan completing the podium
Wet weather threw a spanner in the works ahead of a crucial Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup Race 1 as title race drama unfolded at the PETRONAS Sepang International Circuit. Emerging victorious for the first time in 2023 was Amon Odaki, as a last lap move on compatriot Shinya Ezawa paid off to see the two Japanese riders split by 0.2s at the flag. Jakkreephat Phuettisan claimed P3 to continue his fine form, as Veda Pratama crashed out of the lead on Lap 2 to see his points advantage slashed ahead of Race 2.
Riichi Takahira was on pole and the Japanese star got a good launch in the rain, but Ezawa won the last of the late brakers competition down into Turn 1. Pratama got a good start too and at the beginning of Lap 2, the Indonesian took the lead. However, four corners later, the #7 was out. Pratama’s front end washed out from underneath him and unable to get his Honda going again, it was race over for the six-time 2023 race winner. A rare mistake.
A fascinating fight for victory then played out. There was a lead group of eight at one stage but that started to diminish as the riders pushed harder in the improving conditions, which ultimately led to more crashes. Marianos Nikolis, Zen Mitani, home hero Farish Hafiy and polesitter Takahira all went down while fighting in the lead group until it became a two-horse race for the win between Odaki and Ezawa.
Ezawa – despite a near highside at Turn 15 – led onto the final lap and kept Odaki at bay until the back straight. The latter grabbed P1 just before the braking zone at the final corner and managed to fend off Ezawa’s late attempt up the inside to win for the first time since last year’s Qatar opener. Ezawa settled for a third P2 finish of the season, with Phuettisan coming home in a comfortable P3.
Ryota Ogiwara was a lonely P4 with Hamad Al-Sahouti rounding out the top five, as Levi Russo, Chessy Meilandri, Kiattisak Singhapong, Sarthak Chavan and Adi Putra completed the top 10 – and the riders who finished.
So after a drama-filled Race 1, Pratama’s lead in the overall standings is now 55 over Odaki with three races to go. The former can still claim the title in Race 2 if he holds a 50-point advantage at the end of play, so tune in at 09:45 local time (GMT+8) to see if the Indonesian will be crowned in Malaysia – or if we’re heading to Qatar for a final round decider.