Thailand brought Tom Yum Power and a glorious dash of colour to the 2017 Monster Energy Motocross of Nations (MXoN) at Matterley Basin, UK this weekend.
Riders, Kritsada Potaton, Ben Prasit Hallgren and Chaiyan Romphan, together with a supporting crew of five, flew half way around the world to arrive on Friday at the UK’s legendary MXGP venue to represent their home country in what is often described as the ‘Olympic Games of Motocross’.
The Jan Postema Motocross School, a long time friend and mentor for the sport in Thailand had already set up at the track, bringing two motorhomes, five mechanics and three Yamahas for the MX2, MXGP and Open classes. That left the riders to concentrate on learning the track and getting the bikes set up when Free Practice began on Saturday morning.
As the name implies, MXoN, is a competition between countries rather than riders. For Thailand and other nations that do not have riders regularly competing in the MXGP championship, it provides the opportunity to send their top riders to measure themselves against the best in the world. In improving their own skills it enables them to take what they learn home to raise the level of their national championships. The importance to the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of Thailand (FMSCT) was underscored by the attendance of President Thongchai Wongsawan and CEO Kraitos Wongsawan, who brought the MXGP to Thailand from 2013 to 2016 and is planning to resume the Kingdom’s place in the World Championship calendar. Sponsors who share and support the vision included the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT), PTT Lubricants, Yamaha, Just1, Pirelli, Dirt Shop, By Todd, ThaiMXGP, TCEB, Two Wheels Action Magazine, TCEB and True Visions.
The three riders, all either current or former Thai champions and , recognised the scale of the challenge they had accepted. As well as battling travel fatigue they would be competing on bikes they had not previously ridden, on a track they had never seen against the world’s best riders who race there every year in the MXGP World Championship. They were heroes before they put their boots on.
After finding their way in Free Practice, Ben Hallgren was the first to the starting gate for the MXGP Qualifying Race, lining up with Tim Gajser, Antonio Cairoli, Max Anstie and Evgeny Bobryshev, to name just a few of MXGP’s finest. As he entered the final lap, his fule ran short, costing him four places and a likely way through to Sunday’s final. After 20 minutes plus two laps, Ben took his bike across the line in 32nd place in a race that was won by reigning MXGP champion Tim Gajser, from Gautier Paulin and Antonio Cairoli.
Kritsada lined up next for the MX2 Qualifier. After a good start and some tough battles throughout the race, he finished in 35th position, narrowly missing qualification for Sunday’s Final. The race was won by the USA’s Zach Osborne, from Australian Lawrence Hunter and Brian Bodgers of the Netherlands.
In the Open class, Chaiyan Romphan made a sensational start, going into the first turn with multiple world champion, Jeffrey Herlings of the Netherlands and the USA’s Dean Wilson. His race quickly came to an end when he crashed following a mid-air collision with another rider. He landed heavily and was subsequently found to have fractured his collarbone, bringing his MXoN to an early end. Herlings went on to take the win by 29 seconds from France’s Romain Febre and Switzerland’s Jeremy Seewer.
Ben and Kritsada went through to the C-Final late in the afternoon. It was an all-out effort to take first place and entry to the B-Final on Sunday morning. In a hard fought race, which saw both riders high on the leader board, Ben was 7th on his MXGP machine and Kritsada took his MX2 bike to 13th place.
In the end of day team meeting, Khun Thongchai expressed his pride in the riders’ performances, congratulating them and expressing his thanks to Jan Postema for making their participation possible and for the superb quality and preparation of the bikes. The riders all acknowledged the speed of the three Yamahas and thanked Jan and the FMSCT for making the experience possible. All three will return to Thailand with a deeper understanding of the sport and what it takes to ride on a world class motocross track and contribute what they learned to move the standard of riding forward in their home country.
Khun Kraitos also extended his thanks to Jan Postema and his team and his congratulations to the riders. He emphasised that this was a first step to a new junior development programme for Thai motocross that he looks forward to working with Chaiyan, Ben and Kritsada to help develop young riders and ultimately to bring them to the MXGP world championship.