Vol. XIII No. 24
Friday June 17 - june 23, 2005

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Local Personalities

Robert Tadashi Boughey – International racing car driver

by Dr. Iain Corness

It is not often that I interview 22 year olds. Most have not experienced enough of life’s adventures to be able to fill a 1000 word half page pen portrait, but Robert Tadashi Boughey, a race driver for BMW, is an exception. He also does not want to sell toothpaste!

We began with the pronunciation of his surname. “Well in America they call it ‘Booey’, but in England they call it ‘Bowie’ like David Bowie,” said the young man, ever so naturally. In one sentence alerting me to the fact that he had been to the UK and the US.

Robert’s father is an American architect who has been in Thailand for 30+ years and has a condo in Pattaya for 20 years, and was involved in the building of Utapao airport. That makes Robert a local lad, even though he was actually born in Bangkok and his schooling was mainly in the nation’s capital.

Robert does have the good looks of the ‘luuk kreung’, that Eurasian mix so liked by the world, but he is not the usual m้lange seen in Thailand. On enquiring, Robert’s mother is Japanese, which then goes a long way to explain his middle name, Tadashi. However, he is a Thai national, and as such was sent by his parents to a Thai school in Bangkok where he stayed until Grade VIII.

I asked Robert whether he could speak Japanese as well as Thai and English, and he nodded in the affirmative, adding that he could also speak French. I then asked him if growing up with all these different languages was a problem. “When you’re a kid, you don’t know the difference. Three languages become fused into one.” However, he did admit that when he went to the ISB school in Bangkok, he had to repeat one year because his English was not good enough, and another admission, “I had a terrible Thai accent!” Despite his linguistic problems, Robert did well at school, especially in the subjects that he enjoyed, being science and biology.

He did well enough to gain a place at Pepperdine University in California, where he is doing a Masters in Business Administration when he is not taking time off to go motor racing!

Now for most motor racers, going racing is an all-consuming passion. They will sell their sisters to get behind the wheel of a race car, so perhaps it is fortunate that Robert is an only child! The accepted ‘apprenticeship’ for modern racers is to start racing go-karts around the age of seven, and then start climbing the motor racing ladder of single seat racing cars after the age of 17. Robert Boughey did none of that, in fact he did not even race a go-kart until this year. What is even more amazing is that he really had no experience in racing cars until he went to the Formula BMW racing academy in 2003.

He did, however, have an interest in racing cars, and used to watch Formula 1 on TV from the age of 13. By the time he was a late teenager and had a road license, he had already attracted the wrath of his parents. “I was always a bit of a crazy kid, and used to drive too fast around Bangkok.” Boughey Senior could see that he was not going to get his son to slow down, so the least he could do was to make sure he was competent, and to ensure that, sent him off to a performance driving school in the UK, but whilst that gave the young man some experience, it did not immediately set him off on a “must go racing” kick.

As part of his American university course, he was expected to do an internship, and some time back in Thailand looked to be the best way to accomplish this, so he was fortunate to score a position with BMW Thailand, in the marketing department. It was here that he heard about the Formula BMW motor racing series, and also heard that there were scholarships that could be won. He approached his parents who were against it, but were not going to stand in his way if he wanted to try. Against numerous hopeful young racing drivers, with years of Go-Karting under their helmets, Robert won one of the coveted scholarships, to allow him to go racing in the ultra-competitive Formula BMW series. Having won the scholarship, he and his father looked at each other, and said that they may as well go racing!

So the young man who had never driven against anything in competition, other than meter taxis in Sukhumvit Road, went around Asia in the Formula BMW series. More than just going around, he came second in the 2004 Rookie Cup, showing that this was a young man to watch.

BMW said that he could try again for a scholarship for 2005, and he won another! This is worth $50,000 and includes tuition not just in the sheer physical side of driving a race car, but also in how to maintain the correct level of fitness, how to enjoy good media relations and how to attract sponsorships. “It’s a short cut to being a well-rounded race car driver,” said Robert.

However, our young well-rounded racer, who has already won his first race this year on the championship trail, would also like to climb Mt. Everest, reads Western civilization history, meditates with a monk in Bangkok and chases girls.

“I’m not the stereotypical race car driver,” said Robert, and I had to agree with him; however, he does have that need to win, a most necessary ingredient. “Second is the first of the losers,” says Robert. “At the end of the day I want to look back and say I did OK. I want to contribute something to the world. I don’t want to end up as a toothpaste salesman.” Colgate-Palmolive shouldn’t keep that job open, I feel!

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