Published on October 15, 2007
Robert Tadashi Boughey, the first member of a potential Thai A1GP racing team, has had the thunder of the track in his heart since he was three. That's when his dad took him to a meet in Pattaya.
Now 24, the American-Japanese Boughey is representing this country under the name Chawakij, bestowed on him by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
It means "high speed", and he certainly does his best to live up to it.
With a calm in his on-track demeanour for which he's earned a reputation, Boughey is competing as a Premo Power team driver in next week's Asian Formula Renault Challenge 2007 in Beijing. Next year, if all goes well, he'll be driving for Thailand in the A1GP World Cup Motorsport.
Having tasted the sights and sounds of racing as a child at Pattaya's Phira Circuit, Boughey got behind the wheel himself as soon as he could, and ultimately, in 2004, won the Formula BMW Scholarship as a member of Minardi Team Asia and was named Prize Rookie of the Year.
Turning professional, he won the Formula 1 support race at the Bahrain Grand Prix the following year and came second in the Formula BMW Malaysia event.
"Every time I start the engine I can hardly believe that I'm doing what I'm doing," Boughey says. "But racing gives me peace of mind. There's an absolute stillness at 250 kilometres an hour."
The words are indicative of his interest in meditation.
"My family are Buddhists," he says, "and concentration is extremely important in car racing. If I don't feel calm before a race I'll take a moment to do some mental exercise, maybe visualising the circuit.
"Racing takes you into another world, and actually - despite the speed and the risk - when you're inside the car, nothing on the outside has any impact on you any longer."
On top of pure talent at the wheel, Boughey admits, there is a luck factor in winning.
"I'm not afraid of driving because I'm confident in my ability to control the wheels, but the unknown part - the part that's out of my hands - can happen anytime. You may practise hard and have the best statistics you can get, but in actual competition these mean nothing.
"Even though you start at the bottom of the race, you could lose - and you could also win."
BMW Motorsport has done more than giving Boughey a dream career, it's top-notch training at the wheel, in the gym, at the bank and in dealing with sponsors and the news media.
Under the Thai flag, he's hoping to promote the country's motor sports.
"Motor sport is very niche, though it's very marketable," he says. "The Chinese spent almost $600 million [Bt19 billion] to build a circuit for the Olympics. Our neighbour, Malaysia, has had overwhelming success with motor sports."
Thais, it has to be said, do their fair share of auto racing in the wrong place - on the highway. Boughey stresses the safety of track racing, guaranteed as far as possible by modern technology, and the fact that every driver knows the risk and has done the calculations.
"On the track I bear in mind the risk to my life and I'm prepared to accept any consequences, but on the road there are too many lives at stake, too many people who aren't ready for the risk. You can't take chances with other people's lives."