Honda Team Asia Moto3 rookie, Thai rider Nakarin Atiratphuvapat made his presence known to the world championship in the 2017 campaign. His name was immediately recognized by the world by his super-save at Austin, and the strong performance in wet conditions made even more spectators aware of him. He learned plenty and grew this year, probably more rapidly than anyone, including himself, had expected.
—How would you describe your first world championship season?
“It was never easy. Some races were good, but many races were very bad. Working with my team, I learned a lot, especially how to manage my mental side. If your attitude is bad, everything goes bad. When this season started, I was very excited. But as the races went on, Round 2, Round 3, Round 4, I didn’t get any championship points. I scored my first championship points at Le Mans (Round 5). After that, I gained confidence. Looking back now, I might have been afraid of other riders at the beginning, as they were much stronger, faster, and better than me. But as the season went on and I got accustomed to being in this championship, I gained the confidence to fight with them. Now I can say that believing in myself is very important. I’m still not competitive yet, and have to improve to get good results.”
—What did you learn this year and what do you have to improve next year?
“I learned much about my riding style. I watched fast riders and learned a lot from them, such as how to move and use your body on the bike. I am still on the way to improving my riding skills. There will be a lot more to learn. This year, I fought with many riders, but most of the time it was not in the lead group so that next year, I want to fight with the fastest guys in the front. My target is very high, but I think always keeping a positive mindset is very important, and someday it will bring you to the place you want to be.”
—This year everything was new for you. The team, bike, people, everything. What was most difficult to get used to?
“I think...mental conditions. Because everything was new for me and I had to start from scratch with everything. I didn't know my mechanics, I didn't know the team, and I didn't know the tracks. That’s why, like I said, I thought my level was not good enough to race in this championship. So, I had to keep myself motivated. It was a big change for me and I had to try hard to change myself.”
—For Asian riders, European life is quite different from what they were used to, and sometimes it takes time to adapt to the new environment.
“Exactly. This year, I had to travel a lot and suffered from jet lag. Usually, it takes a few days for me to adjust to it, but European riders don’t have to worry about it. So, I figured out a plan to cope with it. A few days before my travel to Europe, I tried adjust myself to the European time zone even when I was still in Thailand, like staying up late and waking up in the afternoon. And food. Now I get used to European cuisine and I like it, but at the beginning I brought a lot of food from Thailand.”
—Regarding the specialties with Asian riders, they are very fast in wet conditions. And it is the case for you, too.
“In my case, it was just sometimes! But, apart from me, it is very true that Asian riders are very fast in wet conditions.”
—Why are you so fast in the wet?
“Probably because I think in an opposite way from other riders. In dry conditions, I’m not so fast yet, but in wet conditions, maybe it’s better for me. I am happy and feel free in the wet. In Thailand and Asia Road Racing, I rode many times in wet conditions. And in Thailand, we don’t change to wet tires, and race with slicks even in the rain. We have many good riders in wet conditions and I watched and learned from them to go fast in the wet.”
—What is your target for 2018?
“I want to be on the podium. This year, I could reach the top 3 in some sessions, so next year I want to race in the front group and be on the podium.”
—In 2018, we have the Thai Grand Prix. It will be very important race for you.
“Yes! It will be very good in every way for me; the food, climate, and my motivation. I can be relaxed and have a good fight in my home race. I can’t wait!”