India's Rajiv Sethu finished 14th to grab two points in the first race of the AP 250 cc category in the seventh and final round of the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) 2019 at the Chang International circuit here on Saturday.
Sethu of IDEMITSU Honda Racing India team bounced back well after being pushed out of the top 15 in the morning's qualifier, by gaining two places in race one and importantly gained two points.
His tally for the season so far stands at 35 points, while the team has the same number of points.
However, his Honda Racing India teammate Senthil Kumar after qualifying 22nd, crashed out in the opening lap of the race due to an aggressive cornering.
The 21-year old Sethu started the race well and gained two positions to climb to 14th on the opening lap.
However, Malaysian rider Muhammad Faerozi's crash in lap one proved to be a key moment. While the top riders pushed ahead, the next bunch of seven riders including Sethu made up the next group.
This bunch was behind the leading group with less than a second's gap. Clocking his best lap time of 1:54:539, Sethu remained in 14th spot till the third lap. He slipped a spot in the next lap before recovering to 13th and maintained the pace till lap 8.
The Chennai racer then dropped a place in the 10-lap race to come in 14th, registering a total time of 19:16:421.
The qualifier in the morning saw the top 20 riders involved in a close battle. Riding with the middle bunch in the first half, Sethu was initially stuck in the 1:55 seconds lap time. He managed to breach the 1.54 seconds mark to qualify 16th with a best lap time of 1:54:737, just 2.185 seconds off Thailand's female rider Muklada Saarapuech.
Sethu, who gained two points for himself and the team, is aiming to secure a top-10 finish on Sunday in the second race.
"Today's morning qualifier wasn't as expected. I wasn't fully confident of the front end. So I entered race 1 with a different set-up. I made a good start and was fighting for 11th position with the group.
"There was constant overtaking at every turn thereon. My strategy shifted to defending my position. Even so, in turn 5 of last lap, I overtook 3 riders to move to 11th position," he said.
"But on turn 9 of the last lap, an aggressive contact with Malaysian rider Shahrol pushed me back four positions to 15th. Riding hard here on, I overtook Thai rider Sawapol in the last corner and finished 14th gaining 2 positions over my 16th start. Tomorrow, my aim is to make a strong start, enter the top 10 as soon as possible and maintain my pace thereon."
Speaking about the day's races, Prabhu Nagaraj, Vice President Brand and Communications, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India Pvt. Ltd. said, "Morning qualifier showed our riders are now taking correct strategic calls. Rajiv's decision to exit and re-enter the pit in morning qualifier shaved off 2 seconds from his time, pushing him from 22nd to 16th.
"In the race too, Rajiv fought hard and ended with 2 position gain, adding 2 more points to IDEMITSU Honda Racing India's kitty."
Meanwhile, the first race in the AP 250 cc class was a thriller as AP Honda's Thai rider Muklada Saarapuech spurred by the home fans, led till the start of last 10th lap before losing out on first place in the closing stages.
As the top seven pushed hard for glory, a cornering mistake at the last turn dashed Muklada's dream of a win.
The championship frontrunner Andy Fadly sneaked in to take the top spot while Astra Honda's Indonesian rider Awhin Sanjaya pipped Muklada at the last corner in a photo-finish for second place.
Meanwhile, Honda Group Companies team Honda Asia-Dream Racing with SHOWA performed strongly in the inaugural Asia Superbike 1000cc class with Malaysian rider Zaqhwan Zaidi winning the first race.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)