Following a stellar start to the compressed weekend of racing at the final round of the FIM Asia SuperMoto Championship in Kuala Lumpur, the 2018 season came to a stunning conclusion on Sunday. With his race victory in the Moto1 race, it was Denmark’s Simon Vilhelmsen who overcame a tough start to the weekend and an injury to claim the Best International Rider title. With a third place finish in the Moto1 and a second place in the final Moto2 race, it was Malaysia’s Muhamad Habibullah or Gabit as he more affectionately known, who prevailed to take the Overall Championship title in the Asian Class.
Kicking off the day’s proceedings with the Moto1 race, it was the Championship leader Vilhelmsen that got off to a great start overtaking his main rival Cornish as the lights went out. But it was the German pole sitter, Jan Deitenbach who managed to retain the lead into the first sequence of corners. With the challenge of the tight and twisty street circuit, drama began to unfold early on with battles for positions up and down the field. This included an epic duel between Gabit and Cornish for third. With the leading trio outpacing the majority of the field, it did not take long before they began encountering back-marker traffic leading to some drama on track. An unfortunate fall for Championship contender Cornish brought a premature end to his race, which resulted in Gabit inheriting third position.
With the top three riders lapping consistently faster than the rest, the race quickly began to focus on Deitenbach, Vilhelmsen and Gabit towards the latter stages of the race. A mechanical gremlin for the leading rider did see the lead of the race change hands from Deitenbach to the Dane, who took control of the race all the way to the flag for his sixth win of the season.
The win also assured the fourth ranked rider in the world enough of a mathematical advantage to claim the overall crown as the Best International Rider. Settling for a second place finish was Deitenbach ahead of Gabit, an important result for the Malaysian in his bid for the Asian class title.
With the heavens opening up in the afternoon’s Moto2 race, it quickly turned into a more cautious race for the riders in the wet, slippery and treacherous conditions. Making the most of the wet start, it was Japan’s Makoto Arai who surprised the lot when he took over the lead of the race from Deitenbach with Gabit lurking dangerously close behind the duo.
The trio of Arai, Deitenbach and Gabit then began stretching out a gap to the rest of the field, which also meant catching up to the back-markers in the race. Utilising all his experience of racing in the wet, Gabit quickly began threatening Deitenbach in an epic duel for second, which saw the Malaysian eventually prevail to take the position. After quickly closing down on Arai, he then began challenging the Japanese for the race lead.
A costly fall by Arai whilst battling the conditions, the traffic and a menacing Gabit, created an opportunity for Deitenbach who took the chance to take the race lead with Gabit slotting in behind the German. With the race approaching the closing stages, it became a race to the line between Deitenbach and Gabit, one that went in favour of the German with Gabit in second. A great recovery ride saw Arai close out the season with a hard-fought third place finish.