Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) made history at Mandalika this afternoon, scoring the first-ever motorcycle Grand Prix victory for a South-East Asian rider, a huge boost for motorcycling in the region.
The 23-year-old Thai rider from Chonburi qualified superbly yesterday, just one place off the front row of the grid. The former champion of the Honda-backed Asia Talent Cup series made a superb start to the race and once in the lead was never headed, never letting any of his rivals get close enough to attack around this challenging circuit. Finally he increased his lead to an amazing three seconds, taking the chequered flag 3.2 seconds ahead of Italian Celestino Vietti (VR46 Racing Team Kalex).
The result moved him to fourth overall in the World Championship.
Chantra made his GP debut in the 2018 Moto3 World Championship, with a one-off Wild Card start at his home race at Buriram, where a top-ten result won him a full-time ride in the IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia for the 2019 Moto2 World Championship. He achieved his best pre-2022 result when he finished a strong fifth in last year’s Austrian GP.
His impressive pace in pre-season testing for the 2022 series suggested this could be his year, but during the season-opening Qatar GP he fell heavily, sustaining a nasty injury to his right little finger, which required surgery in Barcelona. His recovery from that injury made today’s incredible result all the more special.
Chantra’s success also gives IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia its first Grand Prix win. The team was established to further the cause of Southeast Asian riders and is obviously doing a superb job of that. The squad is managed by Hiroshi Aoyama, the 2009 250cc World Champion.
Team-mate Ai Ogura (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) started his second season in Moto2 with a strong ride to sixth in Qatar and today rode another great race to once again finish sixth, less than two tenths behind the fifth-placed finisher, after starting from 21st on the grid, following a challenging Friday and Saturday. This result puts him sixth in the World Championship. The 21-year-old from Tokyo rode an incredible race, fighting back from 22nd at the end of the first lap to get involved in a frantic battle for position within the top ten.
Today’s Moto2 podium – following today’s shortened race, with heavy rains threatening – was completed by Spaniard Aron Canet (Flexbox HP40 Kalex).
The 2022 Moto2 series continues in two weeks, with the Argentine GP.