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I had the pleasure recently of photographing Motorcycle Racing at the 'Chiang Rai Circuit Raceway Mealao', which was built by local motorcycle enthusiast and entrepreneur Jeravut Keawkean. It is located approximately 30km from the city of Chiangrai in the far north of Thailand. The infamous Golden Triangle is only 55km away and a great day ride. I've done the ride a few times now and highly recommend it. If your a keen rider then Chiang Rai and all it has to offer should be high on y
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Photo 1. I first met local rider and businessman Jeravut Keawkean in 2013. I'd heard a lot about him and the motorcycle track he was building, from foreign riders in Chiang Rai. He was kind enough to sit down and do an interview with me and it was great listening to his enthusiasm for what he could see was going to be a great success. He knew if a good track was built, then people would come and pay for the privilege of riding a quality track. The following images were taken over several visits.
Photo 2. The track now attracts thousands of riders and spectators who come to enjoy the contagious atmosphere and relaxed surroundings. Many expat riders have become regular participants on race days which are now drawing major sponsorship from leading brands such as Singha beer, Yamaha and others.
Photo 3. Deep in thought. A rider sits at one end of the straight deep in thought. He's possibly contemplating his last lap and how he can improve his time on the next lap. The track has been designed in such way that it gives the riders a variety of challenges and tests as they work their way around the course. Whether a novice or a seasoned professional, the Chiang Rai Circuit Raceway Mealo offers an adrenalin rush for everyone, including the ladies, who also challenge the guys for fast lap times.
Photo 4. Riders eagerly await their opportunity to enter the track again and put into practise what they have just been taught in lectures. To be given the opportunity to learn racing skills by former and current professional riders is something many never get to experience. Chiangrai is a very popular motorcycle destination for many keen enthusiasts from Chiangmai, 470km to the South. Chiang Rai was founded in 1262 by King Meng Rai and was the first capital of the Lanna Thai Kingdom.
Photo 5. A rider exits the tight LH bend behind him and now begins to increase the throttle for the straight ahead. Another great place for a ride is Chaen Saen. Once one of the major cities of the Lanna kingdom, it was originally called Wiang Hiran Nakhon Ngoen Yang and served as the capital before King Mengrai established Chiang Rai in 1262. The town was captured by the Burmese in the 16th century and sacked by King Rama I in 1803. Left a ghost town for a hundred years, it was repopulated around 1900.
Photo 6. Multiple exposure. I wanted to experiment with trying to exaggerate the effects of speed as the bikes were racing around the circuit. Obviously there is a variety of skill levels amongst the riders that come to the track at Chiang Rai Raceway Circuit Mealo but one thing is guaranteed, everyone has an awesome time!!
Photo 7. Not everything always goes according to plan and occasionally a rider and bike say their goodbyes. Rider training lectures normally go for approx 45mins. After which the riders are given an opportunity to apply what they learnt in the classroom into practise on the track. This particular rider lost concentration going into a corner and subsequently came off. No harm was done other than to his pride. After dusting himself off and calming down he later rejoined the other riders on the track
Photo 8. An experienced rider shows how it should be done. The ride from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is a great ride for the experienced motorcycle rider but be warned, Thai road etiquette is very different to the western expectations of how you should behave on the road. Motorcycles are expected to move out of the way when an oncoming car comes towards you. Expect to encounter cars driving on the wrong side of the road at times coming towards you.
Photo 9. Rider training days are held regularly throughout the year. After each lecture, it's onto the track where the instructors carefully critique each rider and how well they are putting the lesson into practise. Cornering technique and racing strategy are high on the agenda. Every rider wants to win.
Photo 10. An experienced rider on his red Ducati Panigale 1199cc lays the bike down into the corner using his protective knee pads to full advantage.The innovative Superquadro engine in the Panigale, so called because of its massively over-square bore and stroke ratio, has increased power to an absolute production twin-cylinder milestone of 195hp and torque to 98.1 lb-ft (13.5kgm). The original belt-drive concept was replaced with a combined chain and gear-drive arrangement because the valves are so large
Photo 11. Jeravut Keawkean and his young son sit proudly at their pride and joy, The Chiang Rai Circuit Raceway Mealo.The track has become the talk of motorcycle enthusiasts all over Thailand, particularly in the North. Riders are welcome to ride the track Monday-Friday but the real action happens on the weekends when both girls and guys, Thais and farang (foreigners) riders, eagerly compete to see who is the fastest rider of the day.
Photo 12. The Ducati Panigale breaks with their Superbike tradition by adding a name to its 1199cc engine capacity, making a significant association to historic roots in the Borgo Panigale area of Bologna. The 1199 Panigale has achieved an incredible benchmark with a dry weight of only 164 kg. The weight distribution of the 1199 Panigale without rider is 52% at the front and 48% at the rear (vs 1198’s 50/50) which becomes an optimal 50/50 with the rider getting on, ensuring maximum stability and agility
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