It was back to Thailand for me at the end of December to enjoy another crazy week at one of the absolute best racing festivals on the planet; the 2012 Bangsaen Festival of Speed. My hosts for the week, MAX TV Thailand, graciously arranged for the entire trip, and in very short notice mind you, so all that was left for me to do was pack the Nikon D3, a couple of lenses and document as much of their weekend ( and everyone else’s ) as possible. Here’s how it all unfolded…
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It was actually a very late call to head to the event and I wasn’t sure it could all be arranged in the space of only 7 days ( especially with Christmas and the New Year right around the corner ) but the management at MAX TV Thailand were absolutely outstanding in organizing everything for me, including basically anything needed to make my stay a supremely comfortable one. I arrived after a long flight from Japan on the morning of the 19th and met up with MAX TV Thailand’s Managing Director, Parleerat Panboonhom, affectionately known by her friends as “Louk Tan”, (which also happens to be a popular fruit in Thailand) and her brother Paven Panboonhom; both of whom would be racing at the event this year in the Super 2000 and Super 1500 classes.
I had met Louk Tan and Win Paven during the 2011 Bangsaen event and from there, the connection and friendship between Max TV and 7Tune was forged. Fast forward 9 months and, in a pleasant twist, I was surprised to find the team at the final round of the 2012 D1 series at Odaiba where a brace of Thailand’s finest drifters, including Auttapon Prakopkong and Davide Durango were set to compete head to head with Japan’s finest! A short few days later, I found myself flying from a freezing Tokyo to balmy Thailand once more for the party of the year in collaboration with Max TV Thailand! 7Tune definitely takes me to some interesting places in the company of some amazing people.
Together with a dedicated team of industry and motor racing professionals, Louk Tan has managed to create a premier Automotive channel hosted on a cable network in Thailand. Think of MAX TV Thailand as being a cross between Top Gear UK and Hot Version DVD and you are somewhere around the mark of what this team of media professionals gets up to on a regular basis in the Thai motor racing and automotive industries.
The Bangsaen Festival of Speed is unlike any other racing festival on the planet; a 5 day slug fest of metal, rubber, sand and sun where everyone races hard during the day and parties hard at night. It was my second time at the event having attended the flood plagued 2011 event which was put forward by event organizers to February 2012 in order for the country to recover its resources and dignity. And what events both turned out to be – simply the best car related fun you could ever possibly have over the course of an entire week.
Louk Tan and the team from max TV Thailand are one big family, close knit and the best of company. I was warmly welcomed and treated like a Prince; their hospitality second to none and their professionalism in the field both on and off the track, refreshing to see and stimulating to be a part of.
Over at the Bangsaen track which is set in the picturesque and lively beach town of Bangsaen city in Chonburi, Bangkok, preparations were already in full swing, with the cars being shaken down after a long hiatus. (The circuit is literally just to the left of shot in the picture above!) I missed the opening Wednesday practice sessions but there were still 4 whole days of racing and partying to go!
Both Louk Tan’s and Win’s cars were in basically the same configuration as last I saw them in February but Win in particular, driving the Honda Fit you see here, was in for a shout at a podium finish in the series. Louk Tan on the other hand, was just hoping to finish the race this time around, having DNF’d in the Bangsaen the last 4 years in a row! For one reason or another, she has been the victim of first lap incidents that left the FD2 with terminal damage so we were all hoping 2012 was going to return better fortune.
It’s always refreshing to see such a dynamic and approachable young woman involved at the deep end of motor-sport anywhere in the world and you won’t find a more consummate professional than Louk Tan who has been campaigning for over a decade in tin tops and is the student beneficiary of some of the countries greatest racing names…
…including Nattavude Charoensukhawatana, better known as “Mad Cow” ( Right ) and Sirakoop Medhanee ( Left ); both of whom are veterans of circuit racing in Thailand and abroad and have many successes linked to their names. Mad Cow in particular is the Thai equivalent of Japan’s Keiichi Tsuchiya, freshly available at Bangsaen after some stunning drives in the 2012 Thailand “Race of Champions” – which featured none other than multiple WDC F1 champions, Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher. Nattavude was telling me at one point during the weekend, that he stayed in the same room as Michael and David Coulthard and I could just feel my jealousy meters creeping up a bit! That’s a room I’m pretty sure any hardcore motor racing enthusiast would want to share and then, die a happy death!
The other point being that both circuit drivers are also a part of Max TV Thailand’s program and are regular fixtures on the show each episode. Both are approachable and jovial individuals and supremely polite and professional. In Japan, things are very VERY different and Japanese drivers ( who are often celebrities in their own rights ) are just not as approachable or relaxed, so Thailand offers a very different experience for a motor sporting enthusiast. I wasn’t complaining because it offers me something refreshing, relaxing and completely opposed to the seriousness and officialness that makes Japanese motor racing what it is. I mean, where else in the world can you sit in a reclined deck chair next to the pits in your shorts and sandals, right on the coastline of the beach with a beer in your hand, munching on food stall grilled chicken ( which is OFF THE HOOK delicious ) and have a chat to some of the most famous Thai drivers in the world? In Thailand it’s possible. In Japan?…not really.
On the Friday before the main event on Saturday where both Louk Tan and Win Paven would be competing in their respective classes, I was behind the scenes for their shoot on the beach with Max TV Thailand.
Win, Nattavude and Sirakoop are presenters for the show but were joined by two of Thailand’s best drifters, Auttapon and Davide. Together, they make a pretty dynamic team although I couldn’t understand a single thing they were saying in Thai! ( It would be nice to have some English translations or even better, have them presenting some sections in English! ) It was clear though that they have a good chemistry between them and was obvious that the jokes were flowing freely.
Friday night was spent together at a local famous restaurant – the food in Thailand is absolutely amazing pretty much everywhere you go ( and at rock bottom prices ) but Bangsaen in particular, is well known for its fresh seafood. I have never eaten so much seafood in a single week and that’s coming from a person who lives in Japan; the King of Seafood eating nations!
Back at my comfortable suite at the Tide Hotel resort in Bangsaen later the next morning, I made final preparations for the following day, where things would really get serious.
Win, was up first in the Super 1500 Junior class in his Honda Jazz.
I made my way to the top of the hill on the scooter to watch the action unfold and on the opening lap, a stream of Honda’s and Toyota’s came screaming up the crest and over the hill at well over 150kph.
Win had a good start and kept out of trouble, ending the first lap in 4th place.
There he would remain untroubled for the entire 8 laps, pacing himself and the gap between 5th and 6th. The Bangsaen circuit is NOT for the faint hearted and is treacherous at certain sections and blindingly quick in others.
In the end Win finished the Super 1500 Production Junior class championship in 2nd overall…
In the Super 2000 category, things were really heating up both on and off the track. Thankfully, the weather was crystal clear all weekend but track temperatures were up around the high 40’s, making conditions quite tough for the 11 laps the drivers would need to do around the 3.8 kilometer circuit.
Louk Tan qualified in 15th and was dreading a first lap incident. Having watched competitors in previous other categories all dive for the turn 2 apex which leads uphill into the mountain section of the course, I advised a wide line into the corner in order to help her stay clear of any Banzai moves from those behind her. The ploy worked with the FD2 coming into view for turn two where I was positioned and Louk Tan, up three places to 12th on the opening lap, traced a wide line through the sharp left hand bend and took off up the hill in pursuit of the leading 10 cars. It was a satisfying moment since that was the scene of 3 of her last 4 DNF’s
On the second and third laps, she had managed to build a gap to those behind her…
…but the car started developing issues.
Among them a gearbox problem which killed 3rd gear; crucial for some sections of the track and slowly but surely Louk Tan started to lose pace.
By the end of the 10th lap, the brakes were also starting to seriously fade…
…so managing the issues and trying to keep ahead of those on her tail presented a major challenge.
Before I knew it, the race was over and the winner decided but on the slow down lap as the cars circulated back to the pits, Louk Tan’s car failed to come around. I feared a mechanical issue or worse and upon returning to the pits learned that merely two corners from home, the brakes on the FD2 had completely given out, sending the Civic crashing heavily into the barriers and Louk Tan to hospital. To a collective sigh of relief, she returned later in the day with a firmly bandaged knee but was in high spirits – vowing to complete the weekend in a spare car.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be but the major racing events for the team on the weekend were finished so there was little else to do but enjoy the atmosphere and each others company. The FD2 was a mess though and wasn’t going any further on Sunday. I hear the car is salvageable and Louk Tan has vowed to return in 2013 to complete those final two CORNERS!
On behalf of 7Tune, I want to extend my deepest gratitudes to Max TV Thailand and its team members for their outstanding hospitality and friendship… ( especially, my two new big brothers, Worrios and Ton, who looked after absolutely everything and anything for me during my entire stay ) I look forward to seeing you all again in 2013; and this time, I will also be bringing my helmet and suit! 😉
The Bangsaen MUST be driven!!
There is a TON of content still to come from the 2012 Bangsaen – In the next post I will head over to the PTT Thailand booth for up close and personal coverage of the awesome sideways action that took place with some of the countries best drifters!!
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7Tune – The ULTIMATE Motor Racing Experience Since 2004
Photos and Words – Adam Zillin