Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1 and MX2 have spent a couple of days acclimatising to the weather and taking in some of the sights in Thailand for this weekend’s second round of the World Championship.
Round two of the FIM Motocross World Championship brings the second new adventure in the space of a week for the Suzuki factory MX1 and MX2 teams. The very first Grand Prix of Thailand is set to take place just outside the tourist haven of Pattaya and before the Si Racha circuit sees action this weekend, Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1’s Clement Desalle and Kevin Strijbos and Rockstar Energy Suzuki Europe’s Max Anstie and Julien Lieber were able to discover a little about their surroundings.
Organised by Thai Suzuki Motor Corporation, the riders – with assorted team members – were taken for a spin of Pattaya and some diverse activities, all mounted on the latest fuel injected Suzuki Let’s scooters. The wheelie, stoppie and burnout capabilities of the cool-looking machines were put to the test and passed with flying colours. Five-times World Champion Joel Smets – now working in an important advisory role within the MX1 team – showed the youngsters how to keep a front wheel hoisted and was easily the king of the wheelies, much to the delight and encouragement of the locals!
The small tour began at the Pattaya floating market; a large network of stalls suspended above a lake and selling everything from local delicacies (grilled insects) to fish-bath Spas. After a small circulation – and no shortage of temptation – it was time to get closer to some wildlife and the Thai Thong Elephant Park presented the chance to stroke an eight month-old tiger and also swap handlebars and footpegs for the head and ears of an elephant. Desalle, Strijbos, Anstie and Lieber all took turns making a lap with the large animal (while the rest of the team walked over the 15-strong Crocodile pit) and then happily fed their ‘ride’ bunches of bananas.
After another short and stunt-filled journey on the capable Let’s scooters, a more spiritual stop on the tour would bring the day to a conclusion. The stunning wooden temple – the Sanctuary of Truth – provided a moment for reflection as the sun dipped behind the immense carvings and dedication to the ideals of Buddhism. With dusk approaching, hotels and dinners beckoned as thoughts turned again to the fast-approaching Grand Prix.
“I have to admit I loved the wheelies!” said Strijbos, the most senior member of the riding quartet. “It was great to see some of the local culture and see how different everything is compared to what we have at home. Before we start thinking about the race, it is great to spend a bit of quality time in Thailand and admire how other people live.”
“Riding the elephant was cool and very fun and I doubt there are many places in the world where you can get so close,” admitted Anstie. “To see and touch the Tiger… Wow! It feels very different to be here and it’s nice to discover it on a scooter.”
“There are loads of bikes and scooters here and I was surprised to see how many,” commented Desalle. “It is obviously the main way to get around and it’s important with all the traffic! I guess the weather helps. Being on two wheels on the road let’s you appreciate the sounds, what you see and what you can smell. It was the best way to get about and see Pattaya.
“I loved having the picture with the Tiger, even though I was a bit worried!” the Belgian added. “I mean you have to be careful with those! I like this animal especially, so it was a nice moment.”
“Being with the other guys and seeing all this has been fun,” reflected Lieber. “The scooters were great and we were doing some crazy things. I just liked hanging out with the guys and this is different to what we’d normally have at a GP.”
One week after Desalle took his RM-Z450 to victory in Qatar, the Belgian will now field the bike at Si Racha with the red plate as early championship leader. The circuit will be a new challenge for all of the Grand Prix riders but the soft terrain has elevated sections and will provide a different test compared to the flat and floodlight course encountered at Losail. Perhaps the biggest factor for Desalle, Strijbos and the two Rockstar Energy Suzuki Europe racers on the RM-Z250s in Anstie and Lieber will be the heat and high humidity that will ensure both 35 minute and 2 lap races will be extremely demanding.
Words: Adam Wheeler. Photographs: Ray Archer (MX1) and Juan Pablo Acevedo (MX2).