Those would usually mean a death knell to thrilling racing as riders cut risks. Racing bogs down to a mere procession, but not if it is the FIM Asia Supermoto Championship races.
Held at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in the suburbs of Malang City, Indonesia’s first international supermoto event ended on an exhilarating note. As per the usual weather report over the weekend, the day started under intense sunlight and high humidity.
Thousands of spectators had thronged to the trackside by early morning, lining every gap in the barricades. There was a particularly high concentration of fans surrounding the offroad section, prompting Race Direction to open it for racing, starting with the support races, despite the dark volcanic being still soppy and certain sections were waterlogged. The fans had no doubt wanted to witness some high-flying action
- Kiwi Richard Dibben swept through Race 1 and Race 2, crowned overall champion in Indonesia
- Malaysia’s Mohd. Amirul Ashshahid (Gaban) charges to first in Asian Class and third in International Open Class
The support class racers went out and were promptly bogged down, turning the races into an enduro.
A couple of FIM Asia Supermoto riders went out to test the dirt and found that it was impractical to race there. If the lighter KLX150s had found the going tough, what more the heavier 450cc supermotos. The section consequently remained unused. Part of the regulation stated that in an event of rain and if the off-road section is deemed muddy, the off-road section shall be closed as the mud will get onto the tarmac.
Rain started to fall just as Race 1 got under. The front row riders charged into the Turn One neck-to-neck. As they excited the corner, there was a blur of a bike going sideways followed by a 3-bike pile-up.
“Andy (McLiesh) came up on the inside and I was squeezed into Andre (Sondakh). We tangled and all three of us hit the ground,” said Mohd. Al-Amirul (better known as Gaban).
Emerging from the fracas was Asian championship leader, Muhd. Habibullah (better known as Gabit), followed by Lewis Cornish and Richard Dibben. Gabit started pushing immediately and opened up a handy lead, leaving his other two rivals to battle it out.
Cornish and Dibben passed and re-passed each other numerous times, but it was the latter who prevailed.
Gabit had settled into his rhythm by this point, circulating steadily. Cleared of Cornish, Dibben started to put the hammer down, gradually closing the gap to Gabit, but the plucky Malaysian kept the gap at 1-second.
The high pace of the leaders brought them into contact with backmarkers just five laps later. Engrossed in their own battle for track position, Gabit couldn’t find a safe passage through. Dibben saw his chance and bore down on his hapless prey.
Dibben outbraked Gabit into the last turn. Gabit held on and both riders exited side-by-side, almost on top of one another. A huge roar went up around the track. Both riders gunned their throttles at the exact time, but Gabit’s rear squirmed and slid sideways, costing him the all-important drive onto the long front straight.
Still, Gabit kept Dibben in check like a prey turned hunter.
The rain now picked up and turned the front straight into a yellow-coloured river.
“We had only dry weather tyres to play with. The closest to rain tyres were intermediates. I could keep up when entering the corners and but kept losing drive coming out,” said Gabit.
Gabit came closest to retaking the lead when the pair again ran into a group of three backmarkers. Oblivious to the faster riders, the leading rider of the group closed the door going into a righthander. Dibben almost slammed into the rider, while Gabit split the two other riders and managed to show his front wheel next to Dibben.
From then on Gabit kept the pressure up but the 20-minutes + 2 laps race was up.
Dibben pipped Gabit to the line, and Gaban finished in a lonely 3rd.
The intense action was not only limited to the front runners. Competition was so fierce a rider snagged one of the straw bags lining the track, strewing its contents. Another rider rode up a tyre barrier but his reflexes helped him to bunny hop off it. Spectators were similarly wowed by watching the bikes slip, slide, squirm throughout the race. Although the rain subsided slightly by Race 2, it was still heavy by any measure.
The charge down into Turn One was a heart-stopping, all-or-nothing affair, but it was Gaban who held his nerve and claimed the holeshot. In his typical style, Gaban gave it everything, pulling away from Gabit rapidly, followed by the usual suspects Cornish and Dibben.
Just at the moment when it looked like he was going to dominate flag-to-flag, his rear tyre almost went under him, but it regained traction and almost highsided. “It’s then that I decided to keep a steady pace and not throw it down the road. There’s always another day to fight for the championship,” he revealed.
Dibben and Cornish did not require an invitation to hit the front, and resumed their race-long close-quarters battle to the end. Dibben again edged another racer at the line to claim his second victory.
Gabit started to slow as his tyre woe increased. He eventually finished fourth.
The race was witnessed by officials from His Excellency, the Regend of Malang’s office; Tony Nagamaiah, General Manager of Malaysia Major Events, Tourism Malaysia; and some 30,000 spectators.
FIM Asia Supermoto Championships 2016 is a regional supermoto championship organised by Asia Supersports Group, a consortium of three companies namely Bikenation Motorsports Sdn Bhd, CW Media Sdn Bhd and E-Plus Entertainment Productions (M) Sdn Bhd, and supported by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia, Malaysia Major Events, Malaysia Truly Asia, Destination NSW, Tourism Hunter, Newcastle City Council, FIM Asia, Automobile Association of Malaysia (AAM), KYT, KTM Malaysia, Premium World Motorsports (PWM) Sdn Bhd, official distributor of Husqvarna in Malaysia.