The team has garnered 35 points netting it a top nine contention in the AP250 as the 2019 season closes, with two top 10 and nine top 15 finishes. Rajiv Sethu and Senthil Kumar now at 17th and 30th spots overall
Idemitsu Honda Racing India the solo Indian racing team in the AP250 (Asia Production 250cc) class of Asia Road Racing Championship 2019 (ARRC) gave it their all at the closing race of the 2019 season held at the Chang circuit in Thailand. Despite Senthil Kumar’s best ever 11th-place finish, with a 13th-place finish from Rajiv Sethu, a five-position penalty on exceeding track limit took them out of top 15 spots, with Rajiv at 17 and Senthil at 30 of the 44 riders.
Rajiv started 16th out of the 30 riders on the grid, and was able to fight to the 10th spot by the ending of the first lap, before dropping back down to 16th by lap 3. The next lap saw him gain a spot, climbing to 11th by the end of lap 6, after which he went on to enter the top 10 by lap 8, before finishing 13th. However, a wide cornering line in turn 12 of the final lap got him a five-position penalty, which put him 18th on the official race2 result.
Meanwhile, in his debut ARRC season, 18-year-old Senthil recorded his personal best lap record of 1:54:323 minutes at the Chang circuit. Starting at 22nd, Senthil made a miraculous recovery, to finish 11th, the best ever finish of Honda rookie rider. However, the five-position penalty again meant he was pushed down to 16th in the amended results, leading to no points awarded to Honda’s solo Indian team, despite a double top-15 finish.
In fact, as a result of the penalty, Md Muzakkir who was the first past the chequered flag, was pushed back to 6th position. Astra Honda’s Lucky Hendiransya’s seventh-place finish in race was amended to 12th.
While four riders, including championship contender Irfan Ardiansyah crashing out during the aggressive race, local favourite Mukada Sarapuech and Vietnam’s Cao Viet Nam too dropped due to technical problems. Post the positions flux after penalty, A P Honda Racing Thailand’s rider Piyawat Patoomyos was declared the winner, followed by Vorapong Malahuan (second place) and Awhin Sanjaya (third place).
Sharing overview of the Honda’s solo Indian team’s debut season at ARRC, Prabhu Nagaraj, vice president, Brand and Communications, HMSI said, “Today was the story of Indian challengers of Honda. For the youngest Indian rider at ARRC, Senthil did his best ever finish at 11th, broke the 1.55 second lap time barrier and gained as many as 11 positions in the AP 250 race for the first time. Rajiv too has grown immensely and our 2019 performance has made others take us as serious competition now.”
Speaking on the race, Idemitsu Honda Racing India rider Rajiv Sethu said,“I put up a very good fight in Race 2. While I was really excited by my 13th finish, the five-position penalty was crushing for me. But at the end of the day, I had taken a wide corner and had to bear the brunt of it. Overall, 2019 was for sure a great season. I am now confident that I can fight in the front. The next season will require a lot of hard work but I am ready for it. I am thankful to my sponsors CWI and Idemitsu, and most importantly my team IDEMITSU Honda Racing India. Now, it’s time to prepare for 2020.”
His teammate Senthil Kumar was quite upbeat as well, saying, “Today, I recorded my personal best lap time in the morning warm up (1:55:688) which gave me more confidence before the race. Despite a bad start in the afternoon race, I gained 11 positions over my 22nd start to finish 11th – which was my best ever finish till date. Despite this [the five-position penalty], today has two positives for me. For the first time my gap with lead rider was just 1.693 seconds and I also bettered my personal best lap time to 1:54:323 minutes.”