The heat was on in Si Racha. The second round of the 2014 FIM Motocross World Championship took place in the furnace close to the tourist city of Pattaya for the Grand Prix of Thailand and the humidity and gnarled-out terrain provided a meaty test for some of the fastest off-road motorcycle racers around.
Some weird circumstances helped dictate the final rankings at this event – only the second ever to take place in the country where motorcycles and scooters are almost as common as the unforgettable beaches.
Customs restrictions on the FIM-spec fuel meant a higher octane gas was used for this Grand Prix with the consent of the teams and the governing body… But nobody was quite aware of the effects when the petroleum was sloshing around in red hot racebikes at over 35 degrees.
The result was some spluttering power and a high level of risk with Si Racha boasting some of the biggest and baddest jumps on the slate.
One victim was CLS Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Tommy Searle who was sent tumbling from his factory-backed KX450F bridging the longest ‘double’ on the track. The Brit suffered a huge smash and was lucky to walk away from the accident. A broken wrist – which he stayed to have fixed in Thailand before returning to his native UK – was the sole repercussion.
The accident in the first moto was a hefty scare (Searle’s front forks were obliterated) and it fashioned the second race for the likes of Gautier Paulin who was charging back through the pack after an indifferent start but then started to slow his lap-times with some errant behaviour from his factory engine.
Team-mate Steven Frossard ducked out of the race altogether with the memories of two years out injured fresh in the mind and the 450cc motor inconsistent with its delivery.
While the mystery problem affected other teams and brands – aside from the victors at KTM – MX2 was also not immune. CLS Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Dylan Ferrandis grabbed Pole Position on Saturday but was hindered in Sunday’s races as was Arnaud Tonus. The Swiss was aggressive and attacking to win a host of positions up to third place in the first moto but his 250 four-stroke stopped on a downhill in the second race and he had to pull through the field all over again. Tonus ended up sixth with French youngster Ferrandis fourth in the overall standings.
Confusion and frustration reigned in hefty sections of the paddock but above all it was a vital learning experience, especially for the many old-hands behind the spanners who probably thought they had seen most things in the evolution of the sport.
After clocking the airmiles across Asia, Grand Prix stars can now take a breather and escape the hotels. Two weeks of downtime allows a bit more breathing room in terms of fine-tuning 2014 race-spec machinery (back with normal regulated ‘juice’ for the tanks) even if the crates will soon be broken open again for round three and the flyaway to Brazil; the first of two engagements in the country on the 2014 fixture list.