With Thailand’s racing calendar badly disrupted by the flooding disaster, Pattaya’s Ben Fortt, one of the country’s most exciting up-and-coming superbike riders, has been keeping himself sharp by taking opportunities to stretch his track skills in testing sessions.
After working on some set-up problems at Bira with the help of top international roads racer, Gary Johnson, the two of them, along with a small group of fellow superbike exponents, made the trip to Kaeng Krachan, near Hua Hin, for a two-day test last week.
Ben Fortt at the Kaeng Krachan racetrack near Hua Hin.
Regarded by racing insiders as a hidden jewel, the undulating 2.9km circuit, originally a small airfield, is set in the otherwise peaceful Kaeng Krachan National Park, just north and east of the beach resort towns of Cha’am and Hua Hin. It is the longest race track in Thailand, the only one that runs anti-clockwise and was built mainly for private use by the owner. Indeed, with stone walls in places where bike racers would normally prefer gravel traps, it is perhaps best enjoyed without the pressure of competition.
Ben had only made one brief visit to the track previously and with the surface covered by a treacherous layer of fine dust, he spent the first few sessions learning his way around. However, as the first afternoon wore on and his confidence grew, the young racer pushed his CEA Suzuki GSX-R1000 harder and his lap times began to tumble, lapping comfortably in the one minute 30s towards the end and looking forward to improving further during the following day.
It was clear from the first session on the day two that everyone was going to go a lot faster. The dust had been blown away by the bikes, rubber had been left on the track and grip was noticeably better. Ben made the biggest improvement of the group, carving another 3.5 seconds off his best time from the previous day to finish with a superb one minute 26.5 second personal best lap.
His efforts had left him with badly blistered palms from the braking and cornering forces, but the team went away with big smiles, happy that they had mastered a new circuit and happy that they had been able to make further improvements to the bike’s set-up.
Fortt is seen in action at Bira Circuit earlier in the season.
“I was confused at first,” said Ben, “Just trying to figure out where I was on the circuit was difficult at first, but I began to relax and enjoy it after the first morning. I really like the track layout and the gradient changes make it really exciting to ride. If you had told me I would be doing one twenty-sixes before we started I wouldn’t have believed it, so I am really pleased with what we achieved.
“I want to thank CEA and the team for making it possible to get this extra track time and also Gary Johnson for his advice on set-up and helping me to find the right lines around such a technical circuit.”
To make up for the postponement of the last scheduled meeting, the final two rounds of the Motorcycle Mag Championships will be held on the 24th and 25th December at Bira, where Ben will be looking for a strong finish to what has been a highly successful first season as a superbike racer.