I was honored to receive a special DVD from Phillip Neal, an enthusiast in the UK. The subject was a race in Thailand at the Bira circuit, following a demonstration in Bangkok, along the route for a Grand Prix proposed by Prince Bira in 1939. The Bangkok GP, scheduled for December 1939, came to naught with the outbreak of WW II, but fast forward to 1988, and the concept was taken up by Narisa Chakrabongse, the daughter of Prince Chula, with the idea of having Prince Bira’s famous cars to run here in Thailand.
The run in Bangkok was up Ratchadamnoen Avenue and round the Democracy monument and was also used a couple of years ago when Mark Webber drove the Red Bull F1 car in Bangkok. Back in 1988 there were 250,000 spectators to see Prince Bira’s pre-war ERA’s “Romulus” and “Remus” make the runs. That’s right, 250,000 Thais turned out to see Thailand’s most famous race car driver’s cars, and imagine what might have been, had WW II not intervened.
The race at our local Bira circuit saw many historic pre-war cars take part, some from the UK and others from Australia. In fairy tale fashion, it was the Prince’s blue ERA which took the lead on the last lap and held it to the finish. A little ‘staged’, but who cares? It was just fantastic to see it.
Fast forward again to today and we have just had the Race of Champions in Bangkok. 2012 World Driver’s Champion Sebastian Vettel was not too enthusiastic over the Bangkok Grand Prix concept. He cited an already full program of Grands Prix during the year, and also noted that less than 150,000 spectators were present at the Rajamangla stadium and that Thailand had no drivers in the top echelon for the Thai people to cheer on.
However, remember that 250,000 people turned out for a demonstration in Bangkok in 1988. There is enthusiasm for all things Thai. It is time for the powers that be in government to get behind local young drivers and foster their talent. That takes real money, not just platitudes and photo-ops.