A few months ago in Thailand there were only 16 riders on the 40-man starting gate for the two Thai GPs, for two weeks in a row there were more than few local wildcard riders padding the field—all of whom would earn Grand Prix points no matter how fast they were. Now the Grand Prix circuit travels to Shanghai, China, for the last round of the 18-race FIM World Motocross Championship. And the field looks bleak. Not only have Tommy Searle, Ivo Monticelli, Alessandro Lupino and Anthony Rodriguez dropped d out of the 450 finale with injuries or financial limitations, but Youthstream has replaced them with five Asian-based riders of unknown capabilities. Those riders are Peng Tianwei, Nakpane Madjade, Romphan Chaiyan, Deng Liansong and Xu Jianhao—not exactly household names in London Brussel, Paris, Stockholm or Rome.
The same holds true in the 250GP class, where 7 barely qualified riders will race for GP points—points that would be hard-fought for on European soil, but almost given away at the Fly-Away races. Best of luck to Hu Bolin, Cheng Hao, Wang Ke, Li Jia, Li Yuzhang, Pu Yang and Peng Yongming. Those 7 riders will be joined by WMX female racer Larissa Papenmeier, 29, who under the FIM’s 23-year-old rule is not technically allowed to race the 250 class because she aged out several years ago. But, in the spirit of gender inequality, Papenmeier doesn’t have to abide by the same rules as the men who were kicked out of the class when they turn 23. This isn’t the first time a woman got a free ride in the 250 GPs—Stefy Bau (2005), Mariana Balbi 2009), Livia Lancelot (2014) and Chiara Fontanesi ( 2017).