Chip-Chip-Chip … that is the sound of ‘Chip” Nakarin Atiratphuvapat’s 11 year career so far: always moving forward with a combination of intelligent hard work, courage and the gift of speed: ‘chipping away’.
Today, the 22 year old from Khon Khaen in Thailand begins his second season as a Moto3 Grand Prix racer for Honda Team Asia at the Losail Circuit in Qatar with clear targets to take further steps towards becoming a consistent top finisher. We saw some of the best of Chip in his debut season, pushing towards the front at many races and memorably establishing himself as one of the fastest riders in the class in wet weather as well as saving a highside at the Circuit of the Americas that defied the laws of physics. The video of his save went viral on YouTube, so check it out if you missed it.
Reflecting his level-headed approach to racing, in every conversation I had with him during the last 12 months Chip stressed not only that the level of riding in Moto3 requires a big recalibration for newcomers, but also what his plan was to take the next step. Chip-Chip-Chip …
Like every other Thai motorcycle racer who has won international recognition, Chip’s story began at Thailand Circuit, Nakhonchaisri, 60km east of Bangkok. He began racing in the one-make Honda Click Super Star class in the FMSCT Road Racing Championship at the age of 11 and impressed immediately with his natural speed. In the following season, 2008, he was picked up by the Castrol Honda IRC DID Direk team and raced in three different underbone classes. Like many of today’s Asian top Asian racers he stayed with underbones for another four seasons.
An important career milestone came in 2011, when R2M introduced the Moto3 Production 250cc class. The closeness and level of competition in the new championship was intense, with up to ten bikes finishing within a second of each other after wheel-to-wheel battles between Chip and the likes of Anucha Nakcharoensri, Apiwat Wongthananon, Aekkachai Chiengwong and Nattawut Rungkigsawas.
After two seasons in Moto3 Production, Chip stepped onto the international stage for the first time, when he entered the Asia Dream Cup in 2013, which ran with the Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC), using Honda CBR 250s. He finished 6th in the championship and moved into the Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup the following year, finishing 8th.
2015 was the year in which Nakarin matured as a rider and burst into public consciousness in the ARRC Asia Production 250cc class. It was a season that saw edge of the seat battles for supremacy with eventual champion, Takehiro Yamamoto and his AP Honda team mates, Aeyy Vorapong and Apiwat Wongthananon. Chip finished second, eight points ahead of fierce rival, Apiwat, famously after winning both races in the final round at Chang International Circuit.
His career continued to progress, moving to the Moto3 Junior World Championship in 2016, before his move into Grand Prix motorcycle racing with Honda Team Asia the following year. The 16 world championship points he scored do not reflect the flashes of brilliance that we saw during the season, but point to his main targets: to improve his consistency and to finish higher in the order.
How high can he go in 2018? Round 15, which is the PTT Thailand Grand Prix at Chang International Circuit, is sure to inspire and uplift Chip’s performance, in front of a crowd that will be expecting to celebrate a podium finish. That aside, the likeable Thai star is capable of placing himself in contention for regular top ten finishes through the season.
In his Moto3 debut at Qatar 12 months ago, Nakarin the rookie qualified 29th and finished 18th, 27.6 seconds behind the winner and three thousandths of a second ahead of team mate, Kaito Toba, so the first step is to improve upon that.