Saturday, January 12, 2013

ROC: The rest. The Unreleased!

Text by: Ben Photos by: Ben

The Race Of Champions was the perfect occasion to organise a real car and bike festival in Bangkok. While its size was mainly contained to the Rajamangala Stadium and its immediate surrounding area, the Thai organisers planned things well: as you entered the ROC grounds, you were greeted by booths of the different supporting brands of the ROC, such as main sponsor Toyota. The Japanese carmaker showcased the 86, one of the Super Star drivers' weapon for the week end, in its TRD attire.



In the main portion of their booth, they were not only showcasing one of their Gazoo Racing race-spec 86, but also the awesome Lexus LFA.


Before the ROC started, Toyota had the Japanese Gazoo Racing drivers Takuto Iguchi and Kazuya Ohshima as well as the participating Toyota Team Thailand drivers Nattavude Charoensukawattana and Tin Sritrai come down to see the crowds, sign some autographs and answer some of the public and media's questions.


Further down, Toyota showed their involvement in the local race scene with some examples of their Toyota Motorsports Vios and Yaris.


With Toyota's cars catering for over 40% of the local car market, Thailand enjoys a strong motorsports backing by the Japanese brand. This commitment by Toyota sees both Vios and Yaris models being frequently raced here, and they even have their own one-make racing series.


Further down from the stadium, Yamaha had taken over a wide area where they held a festival of their own. The whole event was used to promote their new TTX scooter/bike.


And they did it brilliantl! The centre stage showcased the “TTX Customize Street Battle 2012”, an event that had more than 20 units of the two-wheeler displayed in different customised styling.


This contest pitted people and shops against each other to decide which had made the best variation of the TTX. I personally find it outstanding that a manufacturer encourages people to modify their products.


While some sported quite amazing 3D paint jobs, others were mechanically “enhanced” with parts such as carbon-fibre wrapped exhausts, extended rear arm and jacked-up suspensions.


One of them, sporting some sort of a hybrid engine technology, was given a mention by Jorge Lorenzo, the double MotoGP World Champion who was taking part in the ROC. I think the owner of this TTX won himself 10,000 Thai Bahts.


Yamaha also organised a sort of motorbike gymkhana in which people had to race the TTX. My Thai being (*ahem*) a little bit rusty, I didn't really get the aim of the competition, but I think it’s safe to assume the grand prize was a brand new TTX. Yamaha, you’re doing it right!


The fun did not stop outside the stadium, and all week end long, the races were punctuated by little shows by race drivers or motorbikes. 


Among the entertainers was Kiki Sak Nana, the famous Thai drifter who smoked his Toyota 86’s tyres around the track.


Also giving out a fair amount of smoke was the Gazoo Racing LFA, which was brought down its pedestal at the Toyota area outside the stadium to let its high-pitched V10 scream around the track.


A moment that had me jumping of joy behind my camera is when they rolled out a legendary Group B Rally Audi Sport S1 Quattro. The old boxy machine that came from a racing series that was banned for being too fast and too dangerous rumbled around the track, getting some air time on the bridge hump.


Its rather strong body roll was quite amazing to see, and the show could hardly have been better. 


Yet it did get better when I heard that this Audi Quattro and all its turbocharged symphony was driven by none other than Stig Blomqvist. THE Stig. The man whose TV Show Top Gear's pro-driver character was named after. A legend driving his legendary car. What a surprise!


Still in the WRC world, but 26 years younger than the Quattro S1, we were given the chance to see the new WRC Polo R. SĂ©bastien Ogier brought out his new toy with which he and navigator Julien Ingrassia are planning on dominating the 2013 season of the WRC.


I wish that stonking little car could make its way to the streets!


Also wanting to show off his wheels, Sebastian Vettel rolled out the Red Bull F1 race car with which he competed during the 2012 F1 season. 


On the ROC's small track, he barely got past 1st gear, but the fun element was there. Especially when half of the audience's hearing capability was permanently damaged by the howling of the unrestricted V8.


The bikers too joined in on the fun, and aside from Jorge Lorenzo's little showcase of the Yamaha R1, two more stunt-bikers entertained the crowds between ROC heats.


Bike stunt rider Bill Dixon came all the way from the USA to show off his skills.


Making it look easy, he demonstrated how to do wheelies and such. The man can do about anything he wants on two wheels, and that with about any motorbike he finds, ranging from the sports bike to... Yes, a trail bike.


He did get a lot of love from the Thai crowd, especially with his I <3 Thailand T-shirt!


Streetbike freestyle rider Chris Pfeiffer was also part of the show, and his skills at handling his BMW bike are outstanding too!


He put up quite a show, either smoking out the track with original burnouts...


Or simply performing impressive acrobatics.


Last but definitely not least, car stunt driver Terry Grant was there too. Holder of no less than 15 precision driving World Records, he entertained the crowds with his fun-looking stunt-ready 1937 Ford Sedan. A fun fact about this car is that he seems to be able to lock the steering and the throttle to let it do donuts on its own. At this point, he can simply alight from the car (well, he makes it look simple) and tease the public.


But Terry wasn't here just to tease the crowd - he came with a mission: to outdo himself. Five years ago, he did a World Record of 10 donuts while standing on the roof of his car (without falling, of course). This time he wanted to do more. A lot more. So he set his Ford donut-ing, climbed on the roof and spun. And spun. And spun...


When he finally got down from the roof, he had bettered his old record by an outstanding 15 donuts, bringing the new World Record to 25. This number had a special meaning as 2012 marked the 25 years of ROC. To celebrate his re-entry in the Guiness Book of Records, he decided to hop into his 350Z and do donuts around the Ford while itself was doing donuts. Chris Pfeiffer joined in the fun and did donuts around the cars too! 


It was hell - smoke, cars and bikes everywhere. 
It was awesome.


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