by Dr. Iain
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
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,