The PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team and riders Khairul Idham Bin Pawi and Kaito Toba have completed their first WorldSSP race of the 2024 season at the Phillip Island circuit in Australia with very encouraging results. In what was an action-packed race that also included a mandatory pit stop, rookie riders Pawi and Toba showed grit and determination, the former crossing the line fifteenth to score his first championship point and the latter working hard to move up as high as fourteenth before unfortunately crashing in the final stages.

With a new race schedule for the 2024 season, the WorldSSP riders had only a ten-minute warm-up session in which to make final preparations for the afternoon’s race. Pawi was able to take a considerable step forward during this brief phase, improving on his previous fastest time by around a second and a half. Closing with a best of 1’33.943, the Malaysian placed twenty-first, followed close behind by Toba, who also improved slightly on his Superpole time to finish twenty-third with a time of 1’34.327.

The season’s inaugural WorldSSP race got underway at 2.30pm local time (CET+10) and ran over a distance of 18 laps, in dry conditions. Riders were obliged to pit and make a tyre change mid-race due to concerns about the lifespan of tyres on the newly resurfaced track. Friday’s Superpole results meant that Toba and Pawi started race 1 from the eighth and ninth row of the grid respectively. A strong start for Japanese rider Kaito saw him making up five places through the first turns to move into seventeenth place, with Malaysian Khairul lying twenty-first by the end of lap one. Gradually working to get into a rhythm in what was their debut WorldSSP race, the PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda duo was lying eighteenth and nineteenth as riders began to come in to make the pitstop. Toba and Pawi came in for their tyre change on lap nine and returned to the track determined to make up ground. By lap eleven Toba was inside the points zone, up into fourteenth place, with team-mate Pawi not far behind, in sixteenth. A turn 2 crash for the Japanese rider on lap fifteen unfortunately ruled him out of proceedings, but his overall performance and pace up until that point bodes well for tomorrow’s race. The incident meant that team-mate Pawi moved into fifteenth, a position he was able to hold to the line to score his very first championship point.

The PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team will return to the Australian track tomorrow for the second and final WorldSSP race of this season-opener.

Khairul Idham Bin Pawi

“I made a good start to today’s race but dropped a few positions when someone crashed up ahead. I found myself struggling with the rear and didn’t have so much confidence turning the bike as the rear was sliding around. There were some positives of course, as we improved on our lap times compared to the qualifying and I felt better with the gearing too. I scored my first championship point too, but tomorrow we will try to do more; the goal is to improve step by step and so I will do my best again in tomorrow’s race.”

Kaito Toba

“It’s a pity how the race ended of course but the positive thing is that we really improved as the race went on, in terms of both lap times and feeling with the bike, so that’s important. But of course we need to finish the races. We have another chance tomorrow anyway, so we’ll keep working and try to find more. The goal is to improve our feeling and overall performance each time we go out.”

Full Results Courtesy of DWO