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The Kids are flying

While many kids enjoy soccer or swimming or maybe painting classes after school hours, one group spend their time on motorbikes, flying through the air, accelerating down the straights, sliding round the bends and occasionally falling off at speed. Anongnat Sartpisut went to the motocross circuit in Kathu, Phuket, to meet some of the mini-heroes and find out why they do it.

Many people would choose not to spend their days off out in the hot sun surrounded by clouds of dust and exhaust fumes, but for some the attractions of speed and leaping high in the air are too much to resist, no matter how much dirt and heat they have to stand.

Young "supercross" racers do it for the love of the sport, to challenge the strength of the body and mind, and, above all, for the love of speed.

Four or five racers practice at the circuit every day after finishing school. It has become an integral part of their daily routine. If they miss practice, these little supermen say, their bodies will not have the strength and stamina needed to compete effectively.

Speed alone is not enough in racing. Perseverance is needed to complete the many grueling laps of the track.

Speed and skill:

The child-size bikes are far from kids' stuff. The engines range in capacity from 50cc to 150cc, giving the bikes an all-up weight of about 60 kilogrammes-twice the weight of most of the riders. The bigger bikes will do about 80 kmh and take about 10 seconds to get from zero to that speed.

Unlike road racing, however, supercross is less about speed and more about the ability to twist and turn on a variety of surfaces, some firm and some slippery, which is why the bikes are fitted with special tyres.

Although the racers naturally get a kick from the speed of their machines, supercross is about expertise in controlling the bike, getting round bends and over jumps just that little bit faster than the other competitors.

It's the real thing:

The sound of throttles being opened wide is a sign that the young racers are ready to take off into the air with their motorbikes at the Andaman Circuit Motorcross. The racers, all fully kitted out for the race, are as young as five years old.

The rules of children's supercross and adult motocross demand a variety of safety equipment including full-face crash helmet, safety goggles, body armor, gloves, special trousers, elbow and knee pads, and special socks and shoes.


On the day we visit, it has been spitting with rain so the track is a little damp. But that is no problem for the little racers as they jump around the track in a group. Suthichai "Ken" Theuakkaow, 11, pulls away from the others to take a clear lead. No one in the trailing pack is able to catch him and gradually he draws away.

This should come as no surprise; Ken started riding supercross when he was 10 and, after just a year, he is the Thai national 110cc champion in his age group.

He practices every day, rain or shine-riding is his chief happiness in life. "I love to ride," he says. "Riding gives you strength and you make friends. It's also allowed me to travel all over the country."

Riding supercross, he explains, requires excellent coordination of the arms, shoulders and legs to control the bike, as well as good eyesight and concentration. Being skilled at riding a bike helps, but is by no means enough. To succeed in supercross you have to double the amount of effort you put in and have the courage to open the throttle wide to shoot over the steep mud hills and show off various techniques and tricks,

Like Superman:

When they come to the muddy bits of the track, the group of young racers all slow down, but on the smoother parts they all accelerate hard. The jumps are especially important; the rules state that a supercross track must have at least 12 mounds between one metre and five metres in height.

These kids fly through the air like Superman. Ten-year-old says Ken, "Jumping through the air is the best bit. If you can jump, you can do anything."

No fears, no tears:

At the end of the day's session, even though some of the kids have had spills, there are no tears, just determined jaws, wide grins and eyes glittering with excitement. How tired they are, or whether they made it onto the winners' podium or not, are not nearly as important as the grin on their faces after a race or a practice session.

Riders are preparing for the next race. They don't do it for the prizes, they do it for the challenge of throwing themselves round the track; and they will all tell you it beats the heck out of a painting class.

Andaman Circuit Motorcross is in Kathu, between Phuket City and Patong, next to the Phuket Go-kart track. The cost to use the track is 200 baht a day or 70 baht a day for members. Address: 46/235 Phrabarami Rd, T. Patong, A. Kathu, Phuket 83150. For more information contact Kittithat "Ko Bao" Kiratiwutiphong at Tel: 08 7268 9546.

  Photo gallery : The Kids are flying

The Kids are flying

The Kids are flying

The Kids are flying

The Kids are flying

The Kids are flying

The Kids are flying

The Kids are flying

The Kids are flying