Thailand, a country in which 9 out of 10 people say they have a motorcycle, the second country with the highest mortality in the world due to traffic accidents, a scenario in which car users go without a belt and those in motorcycles, without a helmet and in which an average of 66 people a day die on the road, this weekend hosts its first big motorcycling prize. And it will mark the beginning of a route that will continue in two weeks in Japan and the next two Sundays in Australia and Malaysia. A route with hardly any rest in which, surely, a championship will be decided that can give Marc Márquez his seventh world title.
Debuts Thailand in the MotoGP calendar and does it in Buriram, the city of joy in Thai, 400 kilometers east of Bangkok, a destination where temples abound, grand elephant sculptures crown roundabouts and people always smile. Buriram is also a city that fits, in its football stadium. The team, the Buriram United, leader of the Thai league, was founded in 1970 near Bangkok and just eight years ago it settled in the city that today gives it its name after the property passed into the hands of a politician in the area. , the same one to whom this great prize is owed today. And the triumphs of Buriram, who has won 17 titles since then. The stadium, the Chang Arena, located a few meters from the speed circuit, has a capacity for 32,600 spectators and is filled every game day, however much it seems difficult to assume when the official data of inhabitants in the city is verified: 28,333, according to the last known census, three years ago.
The Chang Arena and the circuit share the main sponsor: the Chang brewery, the most popular in the country, the one that has grown the most since its founding in 1995, and in constant comparison with Singha, slightly more expensive, the Thai beer best known internationally, the Main sponsor of the grand prize, brilliant maneuver at home of the competition. In addition, the logo of the track is almost identical to the shield of the football team. Not in vain, the two playing fields are owned by Newin Chidchob, a politician, member of the government who was overthrown in a coup in 2006 and, since 2010, president of the football club. He was also the one who insisted on building a circuit for the country to celebrate a grand prize of Formula 1, but finally had to settle for hosting a MotoGP event, a more economical project and for which he has the support of the government, which agreed to pay almost eight million euros as a fee for the grand prize.
It is not possible to guess today how many people would have liked to see Hamilton and Vettel live, but it is known that the expectation is maximum with Márquez and company. Despite the prices, nothing cheap for the local public – a three-day ticket for a lateral tribune costs 53 euros for the change, that of the main grandstand, 107-, a public accustomed to going out to dinner and not leaving more than three euros per head. Of course, for everyone to have the chance to taste the show, tickets have also been put up for sale that only give access to the commercial area: 13 euros a day for looking at the stores where the official Rossi shirts are sold . The organizers say that the stands, with capacity for 100,000 people, will be filled and that during the whole weekend there will be about 200,000 fans attending the Chang International Circuit, including those who watch the races on a screen.
The rest, those that more, will be distributed in some tribunes that, beyond the central tier, of work, seem caught with wires. Good organization of the event, magnificent facilities, that of the grandstands is the only detail that seems to chirp in a circuit that likes and has corrected the only point that the pilots pointed out as dangerous: the entrance and exit of the pit lane, for those who have won a few meters. "Within the possibilities that exist, I think it is now safer," agreed Márquez.
On paper, the Spanish part as a favorite on a track where they dominated the Honda last winter, when they tried the track for the first time MotoGP riders. A track with two well-differentiated segments, the first one with a lot of straight, very fast, boring, many say; the second, more twisted, narrower, more entertaining after all. There will be where you can make a difference, where the Ducati -who knows if Lorenzo, who walks with crutches- try to complicate one race to 93. Only if Márquez stays ahead of Dovizioso on Sunday can he prepare himself to sing the Alirón in Japan. Before that, both will have to deal with the suffocating heat, more than 30 degrees; the terrible humidity, over 70%. And the showers by surprise.