Thailand’s Ratchada Nakcharoensri is once again staring down the conventional sporting wisdom that “girls can only be competitive on light motorcycles” as she prepares to join the final round of the 2017 FIM Asia Road Racing Championship at Chang International Circuit next weekend as a wild card entry to the ferociously competitive Supersport 600 class.
At the end of a season in which she has swept away the competition in the R2M Powergirls WS-1 professional class and been a consistent podium finisher in the FMSCT All Thailand Supersport 600 Championship, Ratchada has won her right to join Asia’s elite racers fairly and squarely. Promoter, R2M, ever supportive of developing Thailand’s hottest racing talent, put her forward as a wild card and had her entry enthusiastically accepted. She joins a host of other top Thai riders, including AP Honda’s female prodigy, Muklada Sarapuech, currently one of the front runners in the ultra competitive Asia Production 250 class and the 2015 Asia Dream Cup Champion.
Ratchada’s breakthrough went viral on social media within minutes of the announcement as Thailand’s motorcycle racing community spontaneously performed the digital equivalent of a Mexican wave.
She is stepping into one of world motorcycle racing’s most competitive cauldrons. The ARRC pits the region’s most exciting young riders, like Malaysia’s Zaqwan Zaidi and Japan’s Taiga Hada compete against such GP and World Superbike legends as Noriyuki Haga and Anthony West, with breathtaking battles at every round. As a measure of the competitive level of the series, there are seven riders who have either stood on recent World Supersport podiums or are fast enough to have done so. At a stage in the season where most championships have already been decided, ARRC goes into the last round boiling fiercely, with just four points separating the top three.
Known by her nickname, Tan, to friends and fans, Ratchada comes from a strong racing family and began competing at the age of 11. Her older brother, Anucha, is a Thailand Superbike champion and has himself raced in the ARRC Supersport 600 series and as a World Superbike wild card for Yamaha Thailand Racing team.
Early racing experiences forged her into a tough, no-holds-barred racer, who became accustomed to beating her male counterparts before anyone told her it was in any way exceptional. It is an attitude she has carried through her teens and into her twenties as she continues to disregard her chosen career’s established norms and assumptions about what girls should be able to do on a motorcycle.
In recent seasons, Ratchada has embraced moves by R2M to bring more women into motorcycle racing by promoting women-only classes and has become a role model for a new generation of female riders. In doing so she has developed another dimension to her career as an instructor, a move that has quickly gained followers as more women try to emulate her and to learn how she manages to make a motorcycle go so fast.
As accessible and as engaging as ever, ‘Tan’ took a break from her preparations to talk with Wroommm!!
Wroommm!! Tan, congratulations on making yet another piece of history for women racers! Which bike will you be riding at the ARRC final round?
Tan I will be riding my R6 again with Yamaha TS Racing Team. I am confident in the bike and the team has been fantastic all season.
Wroommm!! What have been the most important influences in your racing career?
Tan Of course my whole family who have encouraged and supported me from the beginning, but I have learned something from every race I have ridden and from every team I have worked with.
Wroommm!! What do you believe is your greatest achievement in motorcycle racing so far?
Tan Winning races and championships in Thailand is always special. The other thing is being able to race and win against many top professional male riders. That is not easy and requires attention to every detail and to being physically fit and strong. We are always told that as women we cannot win on big bikes, where you have to ride hard using high powered engines, so we should only ride small bikes. I am proud to be able to reach that point and to fight at the front. Even if I am the most tired rider at the end of the race I will still fight through to the best position.
Wroommm!! How are you preparing for ARRC?
Tan I am training my body for strength and endurance. Of course I cannot physically match the strength of the men, but I will do the maximum I can so that I am ready to fight and be competitive. Also, when I have time I look at videos of previous races and study other riders and their techniques to see what I can learn from them and improve further.
Wroommm!! What are your objectives for this race?
Tan I am very proud to be competing in this race, with the best riders from all over Asia. I know I am the first woman to get this opportunity and it is fantastic for me. My goals are to learn from the experience of fighting with these great riders and to make a lap time of 1:39-1:40. In the race it depends upon the opportunities and rhythm of the battle, but I would like to achieve top ten finishes if possible.
Wroommm!! Tan, thank you so much. Together with your fans in Thailand and with women all over the world in motorcycle racing, we wish you a fantastic racing experience with ARRC and the greatest success!
The ARRC Grand Finale will be staged over four days, from 30th November to 2nd and will be streamed live, so follow us on Facebook and Twitter for links and for our analysis from the heart of the action.