I promised you the interview of Pete Thongchua and here it is! He’s not exactly very adept in drifting but he’s still eye candy! There’s so much more to him than being an actor and a driver… Let’s find out more about his story shall we?
He was once the top actor in Bangkok and graces magazine covers till today, even though he was never really interested in the entertainment scene. Pete Thongchua, now 43 years old with three children in tow, still holds his every bit of his boyish charm and cool demeanour. Although he is no longer at the peak of his acting career, he has no qualms about it as he has been and still is living his motorsports dream.
His father was a rally car driver and has businesses directly related to motorsports, but sadly, Pete never received a single cent or even an ounce of support from his dad for his motor racing involvements.
Undeterred, Pete went on to pursue his passion in motorsports, driving for various works teams and today, drives for the Mazda Motor Sport Team and PTT Motorsports Team.
Presently, Pete is working on a new television programme called “Test It? with Pete” where he goes around trying out anything with wheels from cars to trucks to tractors and even trains.
Getting the opportunity to meet him during the filming of the third episode of this series at the Bangkok Racing Circuit, I spent some time understanding his story of how he never wanted to be a celebrity and preferred to race, but ended up becoming one of Thailand’s famous superstars to remember…
Q: What was your first motorsports encounter?
A: I was born in the United States, but I moved back to Thailand with my family at the age of six and a half. When I was seven, I watched my dad race and I was very curious about it. However, my father never approved of me being in motorsports and till today he has never bought me a car or even given me any money for racing.
Q: So how did you get yourself into motorsports?
A: This is quite a long story: When I came back to Thailand, I was picked out to be a child actor and model and I managed to save up enough money to send myself back to the States when I was 13. I went to an academy of arts in San Francisco to study graphic design and I used to go street racing during high school days!
Later, my father’s friend planned to open a bar there so I went to take up a degree in bartending, but in the end he set up a restaurant instead. I didn’t want to waste my bartending degree so I went to find a job at a bar operated by a young Thai couple.
My boss was a fan of racing and one day he took me to a track, tossing me the key to his souped-up Mazda RX-7. I was only 17 years old then, and have never driven his car before but he signed me up for a race anyway. I was the only Japanese car entry and I spun at the start as I was overwhelmed by the power, but I managed to come in fourth.
Q: What a nice boss you had! He gave you your first taste of real racing at the track! What happened next?
A: He continued to lend me his car to race but there came a point to go on to the next level and that meant a need to upgrade the performance of the car. He couldn’t finance that as his partner was against racing, but anyway I decided to return to Thailand at 22 years old.
In 1994, I took part in a formula car race without any sponsors and I won my second race. I caught the attention of TOTAL Lubricants and they said if I win the series they will sponsor me and move me to touring cars. Indeed I won the series and they kept their word, so I drove for the Singha National Panasonic Team for two years before I switched teams to Spoon Sports for the next three years.
Then the Toyota factory team picked me up and I drove for them for eight years in one-make races, GT races, touring car races and even super trucks. Thereafter I started my own team and Mazda came in to back me up. It’s been six years since I’ve been working with Mazda. With the team I take part in Super Cars Thailand, the All-Thailand Cross-Country Rally (which I won in 2008 and 2009) and other GT car races.
Q: What about drifting?
A: I actually learnt drifting way back in 1997 when I was still driving for Spoon Sports. I was sent to Ebisu, Japan for a month to learn drifting from Team Orange drifters Nobushige Kumakubo (who later became 2006 D1GP champion) and Kokushi. However, I never competed in drifting until last year when I joined the local drift series M-Max Speed Party and All Star Professional Drift Thailand. This year I am competing in the same series again.
Q: Between motorsports and acting, which do you prefer?
A: My whole life has always revolved around cars and I’ve always preferred motorsports to the entertainment scene – like 80-20. I started acting in TV commercials at the age of seven when I first returned to Thailand. When I went to the States again I thought that was it for my little acting career. But when I returned, the scene still wanted me and I actually became quite a hardcore actor. I like cars better and there were times when I wanted to quit the scene but they wouldn’t let me!
Q: Do you still act these days?
A: I stopped acting full-time nine years ago but have made the occasional guest appearances. I got married about 10 years ago, then I quit acting and headed to Los Angeles in 2002 with my wife to produce a Thai movie “Province 77” which is about Thai sub-culture and hip hop. I haven’t acted in a long time, until last year when I took on a comeback role in a TV series as a favour to my friend, and now there’s my own show.
Q: What do you do when you are not filming, drifting or racing?
A: I have a workshop RZ Racing and a company that does road shows and events for the automotive industry and we also help to produce prototypes.
Q: For someone your age, you really know how to keep fit. What are your secrets?
A: I’ve never been to the gym in my life! I do a lot of BMX biking and go-karting, but I think it is my work and my three precious ones who keep me fit. I have three children – my daughters Seya and Meya who are six and four years old respectively, and my son Rotor who’s two and a half years old. Yes I named him Rotor as in rotary engines because I love them!
Q: Will you let your son get into motorsports or do you share the same thoughts as your dad?
A: For sure I will let my kids go racing; already the three of them have been following me to my races. One thing – my kids must know how to drive faster and better than other kids. Whether they want to go racing or not, I let them pick what they want to do with their lives.
Q: What’s the toughest challenge in life?
A: Life is unpredictable and we never know what’s going to happen, so making every moment of every day the best moment is something that I try to do, but it’s not easy to maintain the best every single day. Move into here and now and just make the most out of it! Wicked!
*This was first published in REV.