The 2014 Petronas Asia Road Racing Championship held its second consecutive rounds in Japan, with Round 4 held at the prestigious Suzuka Circuit in Mie, Japan. Suzuka is the “home course” to Honda, as well as to Tamada. For Tamada, this would be the first time to race in Suzuka with the Honda CBR600RR.
Although rain was forecasted for weekend, wet conditions played its part only in the Free Practice 1 and the Warm-up session on raceway. Tamada started to update his setting from the dry Free Practice 2. Although he won Race 2 in the previous round at Autopolis, Suzuka did not make it easy for Tamada to find the right set-up. Tamada confirmed that it will take a more detailed set-up compared with the 1000cc machines he was used to ride in at Suzuka.
However, due to the changing track conditions, there was not enough time for Tamada to find the perfect set-up. Tamada continued to set-up his bike for the race during qualification. His strategy was to use the qualifying session to set-up his bike for the race, and would do a time attack at the end of the session. With 22 minutes left in the session, Tamada came into the pit box to further change his race set-up. But skies were starting to be covered with heavy clouds, and lightning fell near Suzuka. Assessing that rain might come soon, Tamada quickly changed his strategy and went out on the track with a qualification set-up as soon as the session restarted. Tamada lapped a 2’14.269 to come in 3rd fastest, and went for an another lap to enhance his time. But rain started to drop, and Tamada settled for a front-row 3rd grid.
Although the track was still wet in the morning warm-up session from the rain that fell the night before, blue skies and a full dry track was ready by Race 1. As the race started, Tamada paced himself and saved the tires, the engine, and his physical condition for a battle he expected in the last part of the race. Tamada would target himself to Katsuaki Fujiwara (Kawasaki). After passing the midpoint of the race, Tamada passes Fujiwara to move up to 2nd. His teammate, Zaqhwan Zaidi was in front of him. Tamada tried to stay with Zaqhwan, and pull both of them away of Fujiwara who was running 3rd. However, Zaqhwan’s pace would not go as fast as Tamada wanted, and Tamada passes Zaqhwan to take the lead, hoping that he can pull away from Fujiwara, together with Zaqhwan. However, Fujiwara takes Zaqhwan and follows Tamada. Tail-to-nose battle between Tamada and Fujiwara continues until the end of the race. With 2 laps left, Fujiwara takes the lead, but Tamada hangs right on the tail of Fujiwara, looking for a chance to overtake him. However, Fujiwara made sure that would not happen, and Tamada finished Race 1 in 2nd place.
Tamada would go out in Race 2 with the exactly the same set-up as Race 1, but Tamada felt the difference immediately after race start. Tamada positioned himself in 3rd position during the beginning stage of the race, but drops to 5th position. Although he stayed in the leading group until finish, Tamada was unsuccessful in overtaking, and ended up finishing in 5th place.
Round 5 of the 2014 Petronas Asia Road Racing Championship will take place November 7-9 at Buriram United International Circuit in Thailand.
“I wanted to win at Suzuka for Honda because it is their home course, and also for my teammate Zamri, who was injured and sidelined after his crash on Day 2. I feel really disappointed that I couldn’t win. The gap between myself and Fujiwara has widened, but I will try my best for the last two rounds without giving up!”
photo by Shigeto Kawakami