Billed as the ‘pinnacle of motorcycle racing in Asia’, its easy to see why the Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) has attracted so much interest from manufacturers, racers, promoters and fans. And never one to miss an opportunity, Öhlins have also been there for 2016 supporting local distributors, teams and young riders.
Launched in 1996, the series now attends a mix of countries and is looking to be even bigger for next season. This year the travelling circus visits Johor, Malaysia, Burinam Circuit (Chang), Thailand, the legendary Suzuka Circuit in Japan, Sentul Circuit, Indonesia and the intriguing Buddh Circuit, India.
The structure is comprised of three main classes: the premier ‘SuperSports 600cc’ (SS600) , ‘Asia Production 250’ (AP250) and the ‘Underbone 130cc’ (UB130) races , plus localised and one make classes. There are some big names in the blue riband SuperSports class such as ex GP riders Yuki Takahashi and Yuki Ito (Japan), Wilairot Ratthapong (Thailand), Tomoyoshi Koyama (Japan) and even the well known character; Anthony West of Australia. However one name really stands out; Noriyuki Haga! Nitro Nori excited a generation of fans in both World Superbike and MotoGP. Now the venerable 41 year old still runs with his traditional #41 plate, just racing closer to his native Japan. Nori rides for his old friend and rival Yukio Kagayama in his Kagayama Suzuki squad… and best of all, his son Akita (14!) races in the Suzuki Asian Challenge one make series!
The class features Supersport rules with limited tuning, minor chassis modifications (cartridge kits for forks and rear shocks) plus crucially, slick tyres, to prepare riders for the next step should they move onto the International stage.
In the Asia Production 250cc class, young riders fight it out on similar machinery such as the Honda CBR250R, Kawasaki Ninja 250 and Yamaha YZF-R25. Yamaha show support for this class by helping young riders with a mentoring programme and giving them a chance to participate in Valentino Rossi's ‘Master Camp’. A week long training camp held in Italy with the ‘GOAT’, with the goal of developing up-and-coming talents.
Finally the Underbone 130cc class is a great spectacle as large grids of very young riders compete on twin shocked machines (150cc machines on single shocks for ’17). Teams spend a huge amount of time developing their bikes to try and get a 1 bhp advantage and it’s a great entry level/stepping stone into the racing world.
Öhlins Motorcycle Product Specialist Byron Draper explains his role and that of the Swedish brand here in East Asia “Basically we have been keeping an eye on this series for a while. It has been increasing in both popularity and professionalism the last few years. On top of this we have noticed the use of more and more of our products but there was a lack of support to help these riders.
It’s a special series because while it might seem like a National level series it is like a mini version of World Superbike in a way; the races are all “fly away” type affairs with the team’s equipment being shipped around to each race in containers. There is not a fleet of team trucks that show up at each event. As Öhlins distributors take care of their own territories this makes it difficult for just one of them to attend all ARRC events and represent the brand.
As we have a lot of experience in paddock support we decided to look into the series this year for a full programme in 2017, however once I attended the pre-season test I saw that many Öhlins customers needed our immediate help so we started some support immediately.
Hisazumi Takasaki (Öhlins Racing Asia & Pacific Region Manager) plays an important role in making Öhlins ARRC Track Support a success with the support of Indonesian distributor Eddy Saputra.
Öhlins see this type of involvement as positive support for our customers, a good insight into how this region operates and of course it’s good to get in from a marketing angle, showing we can support different diverse regions. Feedback from many of the teams and riders has been very positive also. Being able to have service work, setting changes and consult us about bike setup in the paddock over the race weekend proved to be a valuable thing. This is why plans are going into place now to have full support at all ARRC events for 2017.
The promoters of the series are also positive about our involvement in as it raises the standard of the series still further. As you can tell, I’m already looking forward to ARRC 2017!”
See more about ARRC at: http://www.asiaroadracing.com