Another high-speed chess match muscles round Losail, and another classic group battle decides third in Round 2 Race 2
He's done it: Taiyo Furusato officially heads home from Losail International Circuit with four wins from four after defeating Danial Sharil in another classic duel. The two escaped at the front and went toe-to-toe once again, with the gap over the line just 0.041 as the Japanese rider managed to stay ahead on the drag to the flag. Third was a huge group battle with a familiar face taking third: Hakim Danish. The Malaysian made it three podiums from four at Losail, moving up from P11 on the grid.
As the lights went out it was a replay 1-2 as Furusato nailed the start and Danial Sharil tucked in just behind, the two already with a little daylight just behind them. It was initially a familiar group fighting it out for third too, although as the laps ticked on there were some riders showing impressive progress. Marianos Nikolis, Tom Drane, Masaya Hongo and Tetsuya Fujita were all up in the battle against the more seasoned podium fight of Danish, Carter Thompson, Kanta Hamada and Gun Mie.
At the front though, there was a little less chaos. Furusato held firm but Sharil stayed in close touch, with nothing between the two. The Malaysian tried it once mid-way through the race as he made a move at Turn 4, but running wide at the exit let Furusato back through and the status quo rolled on.
Onto the last lap, the number 21 was looking eager to find a way through and he struck at Turn 10, keeping it clean and taking over at the front - but not for long. On the exit of Turn 12 the Malaysian was ever-so-slightly wide, something that could have been even more crucial if not for what happened next: a move from Furusato. The Japanese rider took it back and round the final corner, Sharil hung in there knowing it was all coming down to the drag to the line. Close as ever as they thundered down the start-finish straight, the gap saw the Malaysian get closer than on Saturday but still... it wasn't quite enough and Furusato leaves Losail undefeated, with four wins from four. Nevertheless, it's an incredible podium for Daniel Sharil once again, underlining his return to competition and competitiveness.
The fight for third essentially ended in a war at the final corner followed by a mad dash, and it was Danish who took it this time around as the rookie Malaysian just denied Carter Thompson in another incredibly close podium defeat for the number six. Marianos Nikolis, after getting seriously stuck in in the battle, came over the line for his best finish yet in an impressive P5.
Gun Mie was forced to settle for sixth, with Kanta Hamada next up in seventh. Tom Drane impressed to get another top ten and this time in P8 and part of that big group, with Masaya Hongo classified ninth after losing one place due to a track limits infraction. Tetsuya Fujita wasn't quite able to stay with that group to the flag but he completed the top ten, winning a duel against Sharul Sharil for the honour. Fadillah Aditama and Rei Wakamatsu got tangled up - literally - at the final corner and failed to finish.
That's it from Losail after two incredible rounds of racing to begin the season. The IATC will return to action later in the year, but in the meantime catch up on all the action on asiatalentcup.com and on the YouTube channel.