Honda, and its "Power of Dreams" slogan, has long been associated with engineering excellence, as reflected in its success in motor sports.
Whether it be a small club race or the world's premier racing Formula-1 event, Honda - a former F1 world champion - has made its presence felt for more than 30 years.
In Thailand Honda is perhaps the most popular choice among racing-car drivers. The Civic three-door in particular is the most popular race car in Thailand, and they are always spotted in abundance at any motor-racing event.
However, in the Kingdom not much support for motor sports actually comes from Honda, despite the popularity of its cars, which are privately owned.
This year, Honda plans to raise its motor-sports status in Thailand a step further and has announced it will stage five Honda Jazz One Make Race events at the Bira International Circuit. The opening race took place late last month, and apart from the Jazz On Make Race, it also included two other events: the Honda Pro and Honda Club races.
According to Honda Automobile (Thailand) president Hiroshi Toda, the event - the Honda Racing Fest - is a unique motor-sports extravaganza for Honda customers as well as the general public.
"We want our customers to feel the same excitement and challenge that is the driving force behind our effort to continually create and develop better vehicles," he said.
In the Honda Club race, members of Honda car clubs - City, Civic and Accord - race on the track with their own cars in order to gain first-hand experience.
Similar to events held by sports car or premium car companies such as Porsche, BMW or Mercedes-Benz, there is also a Track Experience/Hot Lap opportunity for customers, who get to sit beside a real racing-car driver in a real race car.
Pitak Pruthisarikorn, director at Honda Automobile, said the Jazz One Make Race event also included eight new drivers from the University Drivers Search, fully sponsored by Honda. They race with another 15 amateur race drivers, who entered on their own.
"The Jazz One Make Race is an opportunity for amateur drivers as well as university students to show their driving skills in a race-track environment with international rules and regulations," Pitak said. "This is an important step for drivers who want to develop their racing skills and techniques as well as gather racing experience."
All cars are similar and are kept and serviced by Honda. After five races the winner of the event will receive the prestigious trophy from HRH Princess Somsavali.
The university drivers come from Rangsit, Bangkok, Sripathum and Thai
Chamber of Commerce universities. Each selected two representatives.
Alongkorn Yangyuen, a former auto magazine staff member, won both races on April 21, while Kantasak Kusiri finished second in both.
The first race saw Kantasak Kusiri and Alongkorn Yangyuen exchanging the lead, but at the end it was Alongkorn who relied on technique and patience to cross the finish line first. Meanwhile, Natthavuth U-paibul from Rangsit University also made his mark, finishing in fifth place.
In the second race, Alongkorn also dominated.
Meanwhile, the Rangsit University team, with second driver Khemasorn Iewsakul, finished in fourth place, giving the team the second podium finish.
Alongkorn said this was his first time on the track in a Honda and he was put under heavy pressure by Kantasak during both races.
"I am very happy with the results, but for the following races I will have to be better prepared," he said.
Khemasorn said he was proud to have been able to take part and finish in a podium position. "I only thought about doing the best, and I didn't want to let my friends down," he said.
Meanwhile the Honda Pro Club, which is entered by Class A, B and C drivers, saw Honda models like the Integra, DC2, DC5, Civic EG, EK, ES and many others all tuned up for motor racing.
The Club Race, on the other hand, is made up of four categories according to the vehicle specifications - racing compact, racing single cam, racing twin-cam, and super racing.
Apart from motor racing, the Honda Racing Fest also features activities such as go-karting (single- and double-steering karts), Mini Jazz, a customised-car show as well as fun and games.
The prize-giving ceremony and party also includes a mini concert from "Academy Fantasia" singers.
The next four races will be held on June 16, August 11, October 13 and December 15 at the Bira Circuit in Chon Buri.
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