by Kevin Cain
It never fails to amaze me, every time I interview one of our guests for this column it demonstrates how little I actually know about Pattaya. And this month was no different as I had the opportunity to have a coffee and a chat with Thomas Raldorf. As the name suggests Thomas hails from Denmark, but his English was fluent and erudite. I had been give little brief about my interviewee other that he was in racing, and as it turned out that was a big understatement.
Thomas first came to Thailand in 1994, and like so many expats, fell in love with the Kingdom. He previously had worked in America and the Bahamas, but the Land of Smiles enchanted him.Three years later an opportunity came along to work full-time as a travel guide in Thailand, but he also traveled extensively in Laos and Vietnam. During this time he found that communicating with his fellow colleagues was proving difficult so set about learning the Thai language, which now he is also fluent in.
We started talking about how he first got interested in motorsport, and it all came down to his father. His father was actually racing cars whilst Tomas was being born, so it is not an understatement to say Thomas had motor racing pumping through his very blood.I was curious to why so many Scandinavians were so good at racing, and Thomas went on to explain that the Danish government is extremely good at promoting and subsidising the sport which encourages people to drive.
Thomas's first dalliance with racing was at a motor club his father had enrolled him into at the tender age of ten. His preference was for bikes but he was persuaded to try a go-kart. That first session hooked him, and from then on it was four wheels all the way.Thomas was heavily influenced during this period by Jan Magnussen who became a multiple world champion with McClaren and indeed his son Kevin Magnussen today drives F1 for Renault.It is easy to see the influences that helped form the obvious passion Thomas has for the sport. During the whole conversation he was delightfully engaging and his genial face betrayed a real love for motor sport. He might be a very excellent driver but a card sharp I very much doubt.
Then in 1998 Thomas thought he would try racing in Thailand. For those like me who are pretty ignorant of motor sport in Thailand, I was not aware how popular it is and how many tracks there are.Thomas bought an engine over from Denmark and built a go-kart, he won the Thai National Championship and beat 11 factory drivers. Subsequently the following year he was driving for a factory team and at the wheel of a 110km kart.This era was fundamental in the growth of motor sport in Thailand, and today Thailand actually has two drivers racing in GP3, which is only two steps down from F1. Both of these Thailand drivers actually were first and second on the grid at the last race at Silverstone. One of the drivers, Sandy Stuvik had been taught how to drive from the age of ten by Thomas.In the years 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 Thomas won the Thai National Go-Kart Championships and now had a big sponsor with The Pizza Company.In 2007 the team decided to step up a level and entered motorsport, undaunted Thomas won his first ever race in a car which was the Toyota Vios “One Make Race”. As the name suggests all the cars are identical and the race is purely down to drivers skill.Thomas and his sponsorship team then graduated year by year into higher class racing, and in 2010 they built a Subaru Imprezza with 800bhp. The second year of racing the Subaru he naturally won the Championship.
I was aware there was a racing track in Pattaya but not what class of racing took place there, Thomas informed me it was 20 years old but technically quite difficult, it is graded at FIA 4 but apparently a new track is supposedly on the way.What did surprise me is that type of cars you can regularly see racing at the Pattaya circuit. Porsche, Lamborghini, Mercedes etc. In fact put a date in your diary to pop along on the 10th & 11th of September to see TV stars, celebrities, well known Thai personalities, all taking to the track in Pattaya. Some of the cars featured will be from the Australian Super 8 series.Other top motorsport events you should be aware of are the massive half-yearly racing events that take place at the Burriram FIA track, and the amazing Bang Seng festival which draws over 200,000 fans during the weekend.
Presently Thomas has gone back to the 1500cc class and is racing a Honda City, He now has a great team of sponsors behind him; Contrix, Singha and CEA amongst others.The plan for next year is that the team will step up to the top level again and are looking at a Porsche 997 to compete with.
Time had absolutely flown by the time I looked at the clock, it is easy to get embroiled into the world of Thomas Raldorf, as his passion and enthusiasm captivates you 100% of the time. Although money in motorsport Thailand is not anything like F1, his team and many others like them get heavily involved with charity work for the local Pattaya community.
Like all the Personalities we feature, Thomas is putting so much back into the country that now is his adopted home.
Sandy Stuvic's honours board:
Thailand National Karting Championship – Winner
Asian National Karting Championship – Winner
Formula Renault 2.0 Asia Championship – Winner
Formula 3 Euroformula Open Championship - Winner