Round 01: Qatar
Ratthapark Wilairot, joining IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia this season, is a 28-year-old Thai-born racer with extensive experience in mid-sized racing since his 250cc days, and as a winner in WSS, is definitely a veteran rider.
Round 01: Qatar Circuit: Losail International Circuit
Qualifying Results: 23th Race Results: 13th
At the 2016 season-opener Qatar night-race, Wilairot utilizes his vast experience to meticulously set up his machine with the team. Although Saturday’s qualifying left him with a 23rd place grid on Row 8, Wilairot calmly moved his way through the traffic throughout the 20 lap race, overtaking slower riders each lap. By the checkered flag he climbed up to 13th place, securing 3 points in the first race of the season.
“I started the race down the field, but it turned out all right,” Wilairot said calmly yet with the hint of a smile as he looked back at the battle.
“With each lap I could consistently make the lap times I aimed for. It’s been a while since I scored points in Moto2, so I’m very happy. I’d like to thank the team, who put in a lot of work over the weekend, and prepared a marvelous bike.”
Argentina’s track is unknown territory for Wilairot, but he should be successful with his current momentum.
Round 02: Argentina
Round 2 of the 2016 season, at the Termas de Rio Hondo Circuit in Argentina, was a week affected by uncertain weather conditions. The sessions went smoothly in the dry until Sunday, when the rain started pouring before dawn. The warm up in the morning was the first wet session of the week.
Round 02: Argentina Circuit: Termas de Rio Hondo
Qualifying Results: 21th Race Results: 17th
The rain had stopped by the time the Moto2 class was racing, but conditions were treacherous due to wet patches still remaining on the track. As the race began at 2:20pm, Wilairot was engulfed in the traffic, but steadily regained his pace, showing the maturity of a veteran rider. He crossed the finish line 17th, barely outside the points.
“I head a reasonable start, but I couldn’t get ahead of the traffic, and lost time,” Wilairot showed his frustration after the race.
“The bike was fine, so I’m disappointed we couldn’t finish within the points. The good points are that I stayed out of crashes all week, and we made some solid progress. The team always gives its best, so I’ll try to show them my gratitude by getting better results in the USA.”
Round 03: United States
Round 3, the Grand Prix of The Americas took place at the Circuit of The Americas, in suburban Austin, Texas. Wilairot was off to a reasonable start to the week in the first practice session, but during FP2 was hit by another rider on the last corner, and fell. He returned to the track near the end of the 45-minute session thanks to his team rapidly fixing the bike, but could only manage 24th place for the day. The fall also caused slight injury to his right shoulder and buttock. Given his pre-season injuries to his left shoulder, he would have to face the remaining session with bruises all over.
Round 03: United States Circuit: Circuit Of The Americas
Qualifying Results: 24th Race Results: 19th
Wilairot’s professionalism prevailed over injury, giving him 24th spot on the grid.
“I’m feeling a bit better today, and we made progress in setting up the bike. If we can improve the feel in the front, I think I could ride with a better rhythm. I’ll aim to pass as many riders in front tomorrow, and finish within the top 15,” Wilairot commented.
Wilairot fought a tenacious race to improve his position, finishing 19th. He was not within the points as he aimed, but managed to reach the checkered flag in a better position than he started, showing his determination as a rider.
“My shoulder pain got worse during the race, and quick turns and braking became harder. I’m glad I could put up with the pain and finish the race. I’m sure I’ll be fine by Jerez, so I’ll be aiming for a better finish there.”
Round 04: Spain
The Spanish Grand Prix, held at the Jerez circuit in Andalucia, marks the beginning in earnest of the European rounds. Pre-season tests are also conducted at this circuit, so the data and experience would hopefully provide an advantage.
Round 04: Spain Circuit: Circuito de Jerez
Qualifying Results: 21th Race Results: DNF
Wilairot completed the first two free practice sessions on Friday in 23rd place, 1.430s behind the leader. His shoulder injured in the USA was steadily healing, and his pace, simulating the race, was not bad. On Saturday he further closed the gap to the leader, down to 1.135s, to qualify 21st, on Row 7.
The race started at 12:20pm on Sunday. Wilairot collided with another rider on Turn 5 during the opening lap, and fell, quickly ending his race. Lightly concussed, Wilairot was transported to a hospital in Jerez following the race, and underwent a thorough checkup to be safe. Although the tests showed nothing to worry about, he spent the night resting in hospital care, in preparation for the French Grand Prix.
Round 05: France
On April 29 after the Spanish Grand Prix, IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia conducted one day of private tests at the Catalunya circuit near Barcelona, before heading to the venue for the French Grand Prix, Le Mans.
Round 05: France Circuit: Le Mans
Qualifying: 24th Race Results: 21th
Wilairot felt discomfort with his left hand during the private tests, but discomfort turned to pain with the beginning of race week at Le Mans. Bandages and painkillers helped him to soldier on, qualifying 24th for the race. He persevered throughout the race, and crossed the goal line in 21st place.
“It was a very difficult race, but I did my best to finish,” fatigued Wilairot looked back on the 26-lap race, albeit with the satisfaction that he completed it.
“I had an injection to deal with the pain before the race, so I could concentrate until the checkered flag. I’m very grateful to the team who worked so hard all week. For them, I’ll make sure I’m completely fit and ready for Mugello.”
A few days after the Italian Grand Prix, X-rays revealed that Wilairot’s right-hand thumb had a broken metacarpal