Japanese rider closes the Asia Talent Team’s season in fifth in the final race of the year
Ai Ogura finished the 2017 FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship inside the top five for the Asia Talent Team in Race 2 at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, fighting it out on the last lap in an incredibly close second group. In Race 1, the top Asia Talent Team finisher was 2017 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Champion Kazuki Masaki, who came sixth for another impressive haul of points.
In that first race of the day for the Moto3™ field – re-started and with a shortened race distance – Japanese rider Masaki was battling in the front group and crossed the line less than three tenths off the win. Only slightly further back on track it was a solid race for compatriot Ai Ogura, who just edged to the front of the second group over the line to take P8. In addition, compatriot Yuki Kunii was only a tenth off that in tenth after an incredibly competitive fight to the finish, taking more good points. 2016 Asia Talent Cup winner Somkiat Chantra had a more difficult first outing of the day in P16, and Andi Farid was sadly unable to make the re-start after a crash and the subsequent Red Flag.
In Race 2 it was all reset, with Ogura taking top Asia Talent Team honours in P5 after another close battle in the second group – with the top three having escaped at the front. Yuki Kunii also moved up and improved on his Race 1 to take P8. Likewise Thai rider Chantra, who put in a hugely impressive final ride of the season to complete the top ten in Race 2. Andi Farid was able to race the final contest of the year, but sadly crashed out – as did Masaki.
Earlier in the race, Kazuki Masaki had been with the breakaway group in the lead, and the Asia Talent Team rider was fighting hard for the podium or a win. Sadly his charge came to an end as he crashed out of contention, but after once more having shown his incredible pace after wrapping up the 2017 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and more than holding his own as a wildcard at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in the Moto3™ World Championship the weekend before.
Masaki ends the year sixth in the standings, with Ai Ogura taking P8 overall. Yuki Kunii, despite missing out on some big points due to injury, was eleventh in the final Championship table. Andi Farid ended the season in P17 but only a handful of points off a top fifteen finish, with rookie Somkiat Chantra finishing up 2017 inside the top twenty despite his own injury struggles. In addition, a win and two more podiums for Ogura, a pole for Chantra and two further podiums for Masaki make it a solid season for the Asia Talent Team.
Alberto Puig, Talent Promotion Director: “It's always difficult this Championship, the competitors are strong. I think that from last year to this year we made a step and we had the chance to prove some steps up for the riders, but it's good to see that the level is high and that if they want to win they have to make one step or two. We are happy the way things went, but we had some up and downs during the season - especially with some riders that were injured. Next year we have to make it even better, and try to be faster.”
Now it’s time to rest, recharge and reset ahead of next year – with engines firing up for the 2018 FIM CEV Repsol in March at Estoril.