Hong Kong pair face uphill battle in GP qualifying

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 May, 2006, 12:00am

Two of Hong Kong's top riders have a battle on their hands in Shanghai today to qualify for the main races in their respective categories

Chow Ho-wan, the more experienced of the duo, finished two spots from bottom in the first 125cc class qualifying practice yesterday, while grand prix debutant Ho Chin-feng spun off after only three laps in the 250cc session.

Both Chow and Ho race on behalf of the Macau-based China Zongshen Team, backed by mainland motorcycle manufacturer Zongshen.

Chow, 24, clocked 2.30:536 in his best lap, which saw him barely squeeze within the 107 per cent of the benchmark set by Mika Kallio of Red Bull KTM GP125 at the top.

'I really pushed to the limit today but the bike just didn't respond well,' said the Honda-equipped Chow, who managed to qualify last year. 'I am not 100 per cent sure of my chances to qualify this time around because it's all different from last year, both in terms of the quality of the machine and the support I get from the backroom staff. But I can't blame anyone since the team have their hands tied by a constraining budget.'We are on local Zongshen bikes this year and we don't have the same technical support as we had last year. Horse power is down from 52 to 48 HPs, which is a bit of a blow,' Chow said.

'It's tough racing against some of the world's best riders, but at least I will garner some good competitive experience.'

Chow, who is hoping to step out of the shadow of local bike king, Cheung Wai-on, was given a wild card as no one competed against him when selection trials were held in Shanghai two weeks ago.

'Cheung Wai-on and I have been racing together for at least 10 years and I have always finished behind him. Cheung is unable to make the trip to Shanghai because he has failed to find sponsors.'

Chow started racing when he was 13 when his father took him across the border to race in scooters in Shenzhen.

Since taking up the sport, he has finished second, third, fourth and fifth in the ACM Trophy in Macau - dominated this past decade by four-time winner Cheung.

'I'm racing here in the 125cc class, but I intend to compete in the 250cc class at the Malaysian Grand Prix [in Sepang] in September. Our team doesn't have the sponsorship to compete in all the rounds,' said Chow.

'Competition is therefore very hot to get into the 250cc class because our team has spent a lot of money and there's much better technical support and the bikes are good,' said Chow.

The Aprilia-equipped Ho, a multiple domestic champion in road racing, blamed the constant drizzle yesterday for his early exit from the first 250cc qualifying session. 'I was feeling good with my bike and looking to turn in some decent times, but the slide happened abruptly in the 10th corner, a left-hand one, on the third lap,' said Ho, 29, who owns a motorcycle shop in North Point.

'The bike was slightly damaged and, to play it safe, I pulled out and let the technician address the problems.

'Had it not been for the accident, I would have been able to turn in some decent times. The machine is quick anyway and I believe I still have the chance to appear on the grid on Sunday by putting in some good a performance in the second qualifying practice [today].'