hardcore motocross following (since
there are more motocross racers
hanging out at a local shop in San
Diego than in all of Qatar). And, the
track would be laughed at in any
moto-centric country in Europe. So,
why are the GPs in Qatar?
The GPs go to Qatar because they
are a wealthy Arab nation with a
reputation for throwing money around
like it is water—more accurately, oil.
Luongo goes there because they will
pay his outrageously high sanction
fee, which European tracks are finding
hard to meet. The Qatar GP is a money
pit without any financial return for
anyone except Mr. Luongo.
Surprisingly, Thailand does meet
Luongo’s three justifications for
flyaway races (to spread the word of
motocross, to race in motorcycle-rich
countries and to help the manufacturers sell more machines in regions with
untapped potential). But just barely.
There is a motocross scene in
Thailand with local races and several
decent tracks. Also, Thailand is a huge
market for motorcycle sales. They have
satellite factories and yearly sales in
the millions; however, the bikes they
sell are 125cc-and-under basic transportation vehicles, not $9000 motocross
bikes. Even with these weaknesses,
Thailand is an untapped market—so
untapped that it could take 20 years for
the economy to catch up to European
and American motorcycle standards.
So, going on a flyaway to Thailand
does make some sense. However,
if Thailand makes sense, guess
who else has the exact same sales
figures? India, China, Japan, Indonesia,
Malaysia, Vietnam and Myanmar. In
fact, if Youthstream wants to choose
countries to race in based solely on
how many motorcycles and scooters
are sold, it would come as a surprise
to learn that the only European
countries hosting a GP under this
system would be Italy, Germany, Spain
Thailand had a much better racetrack than Qatar, but then so do most
makeshift racetracks thrown up at
county fairs across the USA. What it
didn’t have were any spectators. It
was a barren wasteland when it came
to people—although it did beat Qatar,
but not the failed USGP from a few
What Thailand did have, and the
European teams weren’t ready for, was
a revolution in the streets of Bangkok.
And because the people were rioting,
the Thai government banned the
importation of any chemical, fuel or
Clement Desalle’s RM-Z450
sputtered on the Thai fuel.
He was livid.
Grand Prix riders have little or no
tolerance for hot weather, and
Thailand was in the 90s. Tony
Cairoli braved the noonday sun.
The GP riders entertained
themselves by racing three-wheeled taxi cabs in Thailand.
THE GRAND PRIX OF THAILAND