A rain storm that engulfed much of the country on Friday morning kept teams and officials under cover until late in the afternoon at Thailand Circuit, Nakhonchaisri.
Teams made the best of the time to finish preparations to their machines, clear technical scrutineering and mark tyre allocations. However, it was one of last last year’s winning riders, Yamaha R3 Team’s Peerapong Boonlert, who joined a drying track at 16:15, followed soon after by 2017 runner up, Ben Reid and a handful of others who wanted to stretch their limbs and make some initial set-up adjustments.
The success of the inaugural R2M 8 Hour Endurance last year – and the prestige of competing in it – has drawn many more of Thailand’s top racers to the entry list. A 4 Hour race, designed to bring in riders new to endurance racing, will run concurrently with the 8 Hours. The winners of the 8 Hours will go through to the Suzuka 4 Hours, which was won by Thai riders in 2017.
LOOKING FIRST AT 8 HOURS ENTRIES, the Yamaha R3 Team, sees 2017 winners, Peerapong and Ratthapong Boonlert joined by R2M Open 400cc champion Kanatat Jaiman and Anuparb Sarmoon. The team starts as clear favourites based on the pedigree of their riders and bike preparation. Indeed, Peerapong and Anuparb joined forces for Yamaha Thailand in 2017 to win the prestigious Suzuka 4 Hour Race.
Moto Image BRP Racing are another team looking for overall victory. Ben Reid is joined again by 18 year old Zackary Johnson, who won himself thousands of fans with his pace and consistency on their way to second place last year. Reid did the final stint in the dark, pulling out a thrilling chase that brought him within 2.1 seconds of Peerapong. This year, the team switches from a KTM RC390 to a Yamaha R3 and are joined by the bike’s regular rider, Petcharawut Petchuay.
Candy Stripe Moto Racing Team return for 2018, headed by team principal, Issey Wiryahyuttama. She will be joined on the team’s Yamaha R3 by R2M Classic Superbike champion, Mark Harrison, Noppon Trimongkonchaisaree, Pongpanot Kleawvitkit and Varissanan Piyussapan. Both Issey and Mark have extensive endurance racing experience.
Yamaha Riders’ Club have a five-strong entry for the 8 Hour race for Hirun Viriyakul, Rattasart Rungsirithip, Mirong Sirivanischai, Naruchit Khanchitwaranon and Piyawat Hoombunyasuk.
UTR Oneball Racing Team, with a new Kawasaki Ninja 400, are also running with five riders, Gaven Purisima, Thitithon Nanarn, Thanu Chaisakul, Chitphong Ruengaew and Asawin Kongthonpaisarn.
MSP Team Real Motorsport riders are Tawan Sirivanichai, Wanchat Jarusean, Ackarat Tapananon, Adisek Suntep, Sakon Singhad and Panit Navirot (Reserve). The will be riding a Kawasaki Ninja 400.
The 4 Hour race also has its share of big names.
Thitipong Worakorn headlines the 4 Hour race, returning to his own team, PTT Challenger Kawasaki YSS Nok Tuner Tingnote Shop Racing, just one week after winning ARRC Supersport 600 Race 1. He will be joined on another new Ninja 400 by Tanate Sukjaroenbring, Chertchoo Sa-nguankittiphant and Thirarat Laophet.
Another team with a long name and a winning intent is Yamaha PTT KYT Conexecute DID NGK TS Racing Team. Yamaha stars, Ratchada Nakcharoensri and Aekalak Tesung, are joined by Jeerakit Teeranupong.
Yamaha Riders Club field another five riders for the Four hours: PoonlapDutsadee, Krisana Nuchnum, Nattakit Soponpatthananukul and Worawut Phutto (Reserve).
Qualifying Practice is split into five groups from A – E, with riders nominated accordingly. The fastest three qualifiers on aggregate times will go through to a Superpole shoot out, which will determine the first three grid positions, with the remaining places determined by qualifying results.
The action is being streamed live on Wroommm!! from 11:00 through to the compulsory night practice for 8 Hours competitors, which will finish at 19:30.