Although ‘over the moon,’ Mohd Zaqhwan Zaidi admits that he still can’t believe that he won the 2014 PETRONAS Asia Road Racing Championship SuperSports 600cc title at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar last weekend.
At 19-years old, Zaqhwan earned himself a piece of history to become the youngest premiere class champion with 170 points signing off the year with two victories, four podiums, three top five finishes, a sixth and seventh place and only one DNF. Adding on to his joy, Zaqhwan had also won the PETRONAS AAM Malaysian Cub Prix Championship last month.
The Musashi Boon Siew Honda rider denied Yuki Ito (PETRONAS Hong Leong Yamaha) the championship by a single point while Katsuaki Fujiwara (BEET Kawasaki) bid farewell to the championship in third overall with 155 points.
This is the third consecutive time Musashi Boon Siew Honda has dominated the SuperSports 600cc class, in both the team and riders’ standings with Ryuichi Kiyonari and Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman winning the title in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
“Winning the SuperSports 600cc, ahead of powerful rivals…it feels incredible! It’s like a dream – I can hardly believe it,” said Zaqhwan.
Zaqhwan also admitted that the last lap was a bit of a blur, “I didn’t know what happened in the last lap. I knew I had won the race but was not too sure about the title because when I saw Yuki finish ahead of Zamri. I was really confused at that point. I realized we won the championship when I got back to the pits and saw the team celebrating.”
“Winning the ARRC is really huge and honestly I did not expect it because we were quite behind in the standings after Thailand. It feels amazing, yet strange. I will have to thank a lot of people for this success,” he added.
It was a fitting finale to what has been a thrilling season with six riders heading into the final round as title contenders, 37 points between them. These riders are Fujiwara, Yuki, Zaqhwan, Tamada, Tomoyoshi Koyama and Zamri Baba.
And while most expected the title battle to boil down between Fujiwara and Yuki who were separated by just seven points, it was Zamri who made all the difference.
The 31-year old was determined to help Honda retained the title and in both races Zamri put on a relentless form to hold off Yuki and the rest of the field while ensuring that Zaqhwan finishes in a position that would grant him a shot for the title.
A disappointed Yuki commented, “Losing by a single point…its just tough to swallow. The team has been working extremely hard all year long and to lose out by such a slim margin, it hurts. Hopefully we can learn from our mistakes and return next year bigger and better.”
He added, “Nevertheless it was a great race. A lot was at stake and everyone was racing at their limit. Zamri and Zaqhwan especially, they were on point with their riding. Congratulations to them.”