The opening race of the 2023 Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup went down to the wire as rookie Riichi Takahira beat Veda Pratama by 0.113s at the Sepang International Circuit, with Zen Mitani completing the podium in Malaysia.
Launching from pole position, Pratama grabbed the holeshot into Turn 1 with Mitani and Reykat Fadilah in hot pursuit as the riders negoicated a damp but drying Sepang layout. A lead group of Pratama, Mitani, Takahira and Fadilah formed on the opening couple of laps, but the chasing pack soon closed back in.
Eight riders found themselves in the podium fight with seven laps to go, but Takahira soon turned up the wick. The #9 threatened to pull clear but with three laps left, Pratama was briefly back in the lead. On the penultimate lap, Takahira and Pratama had gained crucial ground on Mitani, Amon Odaki and Fadilah as it became a two-way fight for victory in the opening race of the season.
Takahira held the advantage through the opening half of the lap and just about held Pratama at bay down the long back straight. Takahira made no mistake at the final corner and took a debut win in the ATC, as Pratama and Mitani completed the podium.
Fourth place Odaki was a couple of tenths shy of a podium, with Fadilah only 1.7s off the win in P5. Ryota Ogiwara and Jakkreephat Phuettisan crossed the line together in P6 and P7 respectively, as Farres Putra, Hamad Al-Sahouti and Ahmad Darwisy completed the top 10. Watch the race below and tune in for Race 2 on Sunday!