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Will Thailand bid for F1 race?

Dietrich Mateschitz has long been a man with ambitions in motor racing. He has been involved in the sport since the very beginning of the Red Bull story, when the then new drinks company had a personal sponsorship deal with Gerhard Berger. He then became the sponsor of Sauber and ultimately bought the Jaguar Racing and Minardi teams to become Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso. He also acquired the Osterreichring, which is now known as the Red Bull Ring. On top of all of this he has invested in a NASCAR team and in any number of personal sponsorships in the junior formulae, in rallying, touring car racing and so on. His ambition is to win the World Championship, while at the same time increasing sales of his celebrated energy drink.

What is not well known is that Mateschitz owns only 49% of the business. His partner Chaleo Yoovidhya, a Thai national, owns another 49%, while Yoovidhya’s son Chalerm owns the remaining two percent, having been the man who introduced the two major partners. That was back in the early 1980s. The deal was that Mateschitz would run the business, but that the Thais would have nominal control. Chaleo (78) is now the richest person in Thailand, with a fortune estimated at $4 billion, thanks to Red Bull, and to other products that are produced by his TC Pharmaceuticals company, which continues to market the original energy drink Krating Daeng (on which Red Bull is based) in the Asian markets. The success of the Red Bull business has enabled Chalerm to become Thailand’s most celebrated winemaker, while also being the co-owner of Cavallino Motors, a joint venture with the Bhirombhakdi Family, which owns the Singha Beer company. Singha was recently seen as a sponsor on the Red Bull-Renaults in F1 and said that this was designed to promote Formula 1 in Thailand, which would automatically create interest in Ferrari.

Now Chalerm is saying that he wants to build a F1 circuit in Thailand, so that there can be a Thai Grand Prix. He says that this will help to boost the tourism industry in the country. The country does have a 1.5-mile circuit near the seaside resort of Pattaya. This was built in 1985 and named after Prince Birabongse Bhanutej Bhanubandh (known in Europe as “Prince Bira”) who raced Grand Prix cars with some success in the 1940s and 1950s. This is not suitable for Formula 1.

The shift of F1 towards Asia means that Thailand should be considered a sensible contender if Red Bull is willing to put up the money. Why not a Red Bull Ring in Asia, as well as in Austria? Joe Saward

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