Thursday, February 28


OUR first trip to Bangkok was in 1977 on the way back from London to Christchurch.

The next time we went to Bangkok was on our way from Sydney to Tokyo for the Coca-Cola Suzuka 8-Hour race in 1981 - a trip organised by the ever enthusiastic Ross Hannan, Graeme Crosby's major Australian sponsor.

Back then the streets were full of raspy, smoking air-cooled two-stroke motorcycles of around 100cc.  We wondered then why Thailand had not produced a Grand Prix rider of note.

It took a while, but in 2006 Ratthapark Wilairot joined the GP scene in the World 250 Championship, and has scored some good results in the intervening period.  He was also punted off the track by Marc Marquez on the cool-down lap after practice at Phillip Island at the end of the 2011 season and spent some time in hospital as a result, but he is back riding for the Honda Gresini Moto2 team on a  Suter chassis after switching from the Moriwaki frame last year.

But Thailand has many more motorcycle exports than Wilairot.  Triumph's Bonneville is made in Thailand.  So is Kawasaki's 300 Ninja and the 650 Ninja.  Honda makes its CBR250R single there, as well as the CRF250L and the just released CBR500 parallel twins.

Ducati too plans to make bikes in Thailand so you can see the importance of this nation to motorcycling.

Mike Hanlon, my old Aussie sparring partner, is based in the Thai capital and has recently reported on the Bangkok Motorcycle Festival.

He reports: "The Bangkok Motorbike Festival has no entrance fee, parking is free, and the general public flocks to the event in a country where two million motorcycles are sold each year, roughly double the number of cars sold.  To put that in perspective, Thailand's 70 million people buy roughly four times as many motorcycles each year as America's 313 million people do."

For Mike's full report, click here