Every year, riding to the OR Thailand Grand Prix is a highlight for bikers that shouldn't be missed. The battle for the world championship is so intense that the Thai MotoGP is regarded as one of the most fiercely fought races of the year. In addition, the event held at Chang International Circuit last month generated over 4 billion baht for the country.
The benefit of riding a motorcycle to watch the MotoGP is that you can park your bike very close to the entrance. Meanwhile, those who travel by car must park further away and use a shuttle.
The large number of bikers makes the reception area very colourful, and riding the Yamaha R15M to Buri Ram city was great fun. Yamaha customers also had access to Monster Energy Yamaha factory team riders Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli, which was a a gift to everyone at the Yamaha Pavilion.
Thailand’s MotoGP round was a great success. It has won the best competition award every year since the first event in 2018. Last month, the total number of spectators reached 179,811 people, making it one of the world’s most-attended races.
According to preliminary figures, the revenue generated from this year’s race approximately 4.5 billion baht, up 445 million baht from last year.
As for Thai riders, the first home podium finish for Somkiat “Kong” Chantra, the Idemitsu Honda Team Asia Moto2 rider, was a significant factor in making the race a memorable event. Somkiat became the first Thai rider to reach the podium at a home race.
Meanwhile, two more Thai riders stood out in the Moto3 class. Krittapat “Idea” Khueankham, an 18-year-old rising star with Yamaha Thailand Racing – BOE; and 22-year-old Thatchakorn “Gongs” Buasri from Honda Team Asia, which competed as a wild card team.
THE YAMAHA R15M
For the ride to Buri Ram, which is over 400km from Bangkok, I wanted to challenge myself with a bit of “sport touring”, but in a small and affordable package.
At the age of 57, I chose the Yamaha R15M with a 155cc 4-stroke engine, SOHC, VVA technology and water cooling.
It has a new design that looks like the R7 and has been fitted with technology from world-class racetracks. The exterior appears to be in good form. It has a sporty shape that I like — delicate and slim.
Vehicle data connectivity is getting better these days. The R15M features new Y-Connect tech, but what I liked best is that it comes with a quickshifter, both up and down. The 6-speed sports gearbox with a slipper clutch helps minimise wheel lock from the rear when downshifting suddenly. ABS comes as standard on most Yamaha models.
RIDING THE R15M
I was initially concerned about my physical ability to ride a sports bike over an entire day. So when I went pick up the R15M at the Yamaha Riding Academy, I gave it a close look.
I noticed the handlebar position wasn’t too low, and the seating position was excellent. The 815mm seat height was suitable for me (159cm tall). After checking in with a 175cm-tall rider, it was even better. It demonstrates the R15M is good for riders of various height.
The R15M is very light, weighing only 141kg, making it easy to manoeuvre and park. But the question is, if the R15M is so light, will there be a disadvantage at high speeds?
The answer is, not really. The single-cylinder engine in the R15M performs admirably. Unlike others, I began with no vibration from the handlebars. With VVA technology, it is not difficult to exceed 10,000rpm (after 6,000rpm, the quickshifter runs smoothly). I recorded a top speed of 135kph. The claimed figure is 145kph, but it takes quite a bit of time to go from 135kph to 145kph. It’s enough to have fun thanks to the torque, while the faring is aerodynamic and functional.
The R15M delivered plenty of fun, especially when cornering — it is extremely stable and the brakes performed superbly. I wouldn’t consider the R15M without the quickshifter. It was a lot of fun. The slipper clutch also worked brilliantly for fast downhill corners after rain, and I felt secure on the bike. There was only one problem. The R15M is unsuitable for pothole-infested roads. It’s up to the rider to cushion the bumps through the hands, arms and shoulders. There may be some aches and pains after seven hours of riding.
When it comes to travelling to the OR Thailand Grand Prix, emotionally, nothing beats riding a sports bike. It was the correct decision.
I particularly like the World GP 60th Anniversary design in white, red, and yellow too. It is so gorgeous you can display it in your living room.
The Yamaha R15M isn’t particularly powerful, but it is plenty of fun to ride and delivers a great sporty vibe. It can also be used as a weekend track bike — the R15M can reach high speeds without feeling awkward, and it looks great.
Krittapat “Idea” Khueankham, a rising star of the Yamaha Thailand Racing Team, teamed up with leading Spanish team BOE Motorsport to compete in the Moto3 category of the MotoGP World Championship at Chang International Circuit.
He started from row 29 on the grid, an extremely difficult position. With only one day of practice on a Moto3 bike before the race, Idea put in an outstanding performance throughout, finishing in 27th place and being the only Thai to complete the race. It is regarded as valuable experience for the future “Yamaha Road To World Class Project”, and it was incredible to see Idea race against other experienced riders.
From left: Pongsatorn Euamongkolchai, chief operating officer at Thai Yamaha Motor, Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli.