After a long interval, the 2014 Petronas Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) brings its Asia’s finest to Japan, with consecutive rounds at Autopolis and Suzuka Circuit. The first of its Japan Round took place at Autopolis, located in Oita prefecture of Southern Japan.
Autopolis, famous for its unstable weather, have made it difficult to keep the race weekend scheduling for both 4 wheel and 2 wheel races held here. It was no exception to the Round 3 of ARRC. Heavy fog that casted over the circuit during Free Practice 1 forced the series to cancel that session. Free Practice 2 and 3 took place in wet condition, and fog again forced FP2 to end before the scheduled time.
For Makoto Tamada, in his second year in ARRC, Autopolis was not a new circuit to him. Before entering the National Championship in 1995, he left his hometown and joined Team Kotake RSC, which was located near Autopolis. He had numerous practices and races during his novice years, but as soon as he entered the Nationals, that stopped, because the Nationals were not held at Autopolis back then. His first official “race” was last year, at the All Japan Road Racing Championship ST600 class.
Although Tamada was able to get closer to the best set-up in the wet, qualifying session was held in dry condition. It was his first dry session, which meant he had no basic settings in this condition. He had to find a set-up as well as make a good lap, before either the rain fell or the fog stopping the session. He managed to position himself in 9th, in early stages of the session, but light rain started to fall, and all riders came back to the pit. Fortunately, the rain stopped and Tamada went out to the track again, trying to qualify and set-up the machine at the same time. By near end of the qualifying session, Tamada would move himself up to 2nd fastest. And at the end of the session, he qualified 5th fastest. But he did not have enough time to find the perfect race set-up.
That haunted Tamada for Race 1, as the morning warm-up session was also in wet condition. Both his turning capability and his engine set-up was not in its best. Tamada was able to race in the top group of 10 riders, but the best he could was to follow them. He finished the race in 10th place.
Tamada and his chief mechanic, analyzed what went wrong in Race 1, and went for a new set-up for Race 2. And this set-up hit the jackpot. Tamada would position himself in 3rd, right after start. Although he dropped to 4th during the race, Tamada moved up to 3rd after 2/3 distance of the race. With two laps to go, he overtook two riders, and took the lead. Although his rivals would fight back, it was not enough to take Tamada. Tamada won the race, his first win of the 2014 season.
photo by Shigeto Kawakami and ARRC