It was only a simple test, but it had all the atmosphere of a race weekend. Music in the paddock, streams of scooters shooting like missiles towards the track, typical culinary delights like insects, locusts and chili peppers and to top things off, a large number of fans in the central grandstand. These are the images we bring home from the three-day test in Buriram. A cracking start for MotoGP at the Thai track, with more than 40,000 spectators showing up in total, 41,853 to be precise.
The numbers speak for themselves and once again confirm the passion that the Asian people have for two-wheeled sport. We didn't need to wait for the arrival of MotoGP to know this, as it was already clear from what we've seen with the Superbikes. The 2017 edition of the Chang round was in fact the best-supported of the year, with 80,000 spectators, around 5000 more than at Imola.
For many staff members, this was a first visit to the Buriram track and what Gigi Soldano had to say at the end of the first evening as he walked through the paddock made us smile: “If there's this chaos for the tests, what will they do for the race (asked the photographer)? We are also interested to see what the atmosphere will be like come October, but at the same time it's fairly clear that the Thai round will prove to be a success.
Basically, Asia, with its passion, culture and colours, again proves itself to be cornerstone of the two-wheeled world and we wouldn't be surprised if an Indonesian round appears on the calendar in a few years' time. Rather than looking to the future, we prefer to focus on the present, in that there are a few key points to make about the Thai track.
Contrary to a track like Sepang, just a 20-30 minute drive from Kuala Lumpur airport, the Buriram track is a little harder to reach, located in the north of the country, roughly 300 km from Cambodia. It is possible to drive from Bangkok, in around give hours. Or take an internal flight which takes about an hour.
This may prove useful for those planning to attend. We should add though, that all the hotels in Buriram are already fully booked for the GP race weekend. The closest available rooms are already 80-100 km away. The climate? Get ready - because the thermometer can easily reach 40 degrees, but at least there's not the humidity you find at Sepang.