Monday, May 28, 2012

No Stranger To Love (Of RWB)

I've always enjoyed my travels. When an opportunity comes for me to get unto a plane and set off for another country, it always feels like a new adventure. Perhaps, this comes down to me not really being the sort to have many chances to fly out of our little red dot on a regular basis. But through the course of my limited journeys and the "Speed-Huntings" i manage to sneak in, i have had the pleasure and blessings in being able to meet some very cool people and visiting some awesome car shops and shows. Yasuaki "Bob" Suzuki from Studie AG, Mark from Fatlace, Charles from the Hong Kong BMW Club, Luke from Maiham Media, Dino the real "SpeedHunter", Alexi from Nori-Yaro and so much much more. Yes, even the friendly designer and his hentai colleague i met at a Tempura joint in Shinjuku counts as a memorable experience. With my horrid Japanese and their limited grasp of English, it was thru them that i learnt, "Listening isn't just by using our ears, but our heart". Those kind words stuck with me since. So where does all this lead? Well, to Thailand i guess. Having pushed my return date to the next evening, i had one mission (besides all the shopping), to make a trip down to RWB Thailand! Sometimes, when visiting a new place, you sort of have an idea of what to expect. For me, on this trip down, i had pretty much no idea at all. Even the taxi driver was stumped after dropping me off, returning twice to ask if i got the right address. As here i was, a tourist, asking to be dropped off in front of a building undergoing final construction work. Of course this was the right place, early pictures and sketches i saw on the interwebs proved this. A sleek edgy looking joint. I entered the compound and wandered off to the back where i finally met Mr Chin Kanitpong, savvy property businessman and from the looks of it, a big RWB fan. As you are reading this, the building that will eventually house RWB Thailand is probably undergoing final touches to ready it for launch on the 1st of June. Sadly, as there was still construction going on, there were no RWBs sitting inside. As i chatted with Mr Chin, it became apparent he was not only into RWBs and Porsches, but into BMWs too! In fact, a short walk later, he opened the doors to one of his toy rooms. And inside... were these babies... A full race-spec Mk 1 Golf GTI in Jager-bombing orange! And what's that lurking in the shadows behind? Only an evil looking E30 M3. Running an E36 M3 engine and also totally stripped out for the tracks. It also sported a RHD conversion done locally. This was no garage-queen, it's built to go fast! Lovely carbon bits all around. At this point in time, i would have left happy, just seeing these beauties and having had some awesome car-chat with Mr Chin. But being a truely awesome and gracious host(+ great car-guy all round), he actually brought me over to his home to take a look at his RWB baby. What does a man have to do to have a garage like this? I might sound like i'm gushing but that couldn't be further away from the truth. It might not be the first time i've laid my eyes on an RWB car, but these machines are still a sight to behold, they just look soooo mad and soooo crazy. Rauh Welt Begriff!!! They might all look quite close, but there really are subtle differences setting each car apart. And i don't mean the stickers. It seems each hand-crafted build takes Nakai-San a few days of intense work to complete, and he does so without the use of complicated measuring equipment, prefering to build the car with 'feel', rather then science. This also means, no 2 cars are ever exactly the same. Peek-a-boo! As i stood there taking in all the details and shooting as many pictures as i could, Mr Chin fired her up, letting the flat-six sing through a custom built RWB exhaust system. Incorporating a bypass switch should you ever feel the need to wake up the neighbours. The fitment might look batshit crazy, but it doesn't rub at all. One of the details which takes Nakai-San hours to perfect during the build process. Custom Work Wheels. Sharing space with the RWB 993 is this rarely driven 996. Perhaps when a 996 kit comes out, this car will undergo Nakai's craftwork as well? Sitting inside too, was this Honda Moto Compo. A strange addition to 2 German Powerhouses right? But it seems, this little motorbike was Mr Chin's toy when he was a young lad of 10 years. How lucky! When i was 10, i was overjoyed to receive Legos. And a parting shot, here's the very friendly Mr Chin. You sir, are a man of great taste, it was great to have met you and big thanks for your wonderful hospitality. Here's to RWB Thailand's success!!!

Videos: E36s Viva La Thailand!

Looks like Thailand has a rather active E36 group of enthusiast!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

BMW 5 Series Drive in The Land of Smiles, Thailand.

While BMW Singapore was having fun hosting the new 3 Series Performance Academy, a small group of us were whisked away to participate in a 5 series drive in The Land of Smiles. With a select range of powerplants available on test, the drive would take us from the Capital of Bangkok, up north to the National Park area of Khao Yai with a full day of activites planned out for us at the local race track, Bonanza Circuit. But before we get started, a big thanks to BMW Asia for inviting me along for the ride. Our trusted steed for the journey up was the petrol-sipping 4-cylinder turbo-charged, 520i. Of course, not just any 520i, we had the awesome Touring. To those of you who read this blog, you'd probably know i have a thing for them wagons. All the space and all the grace. I reckon the touring actually looks better then the sedan, although i'm sure many might disagree with me. Our first stop was at PTT, a Thai state-owned SET-listed oil and gas company. After a short briefing, it was time to kick off the event. Our tanks were topped up with the good stuff and sealed. Gotta get myself a set of those blinky lights. Any reservations or fears we had about Thailand's infamous traffic jams evaporated away the moment we saw the police escort. What? Traffic? First rest stop provided relief for those with weak bladders. It also provided insight into a seperate toilet. That number "20" there, represents the bahts needed to utilize the restrooms, but the bahts you pay for the clean toilets also go to helping a charity for children. Win-win both ways. The rest of the journey up was pretty straightforward, allowing the photographers take some nice rolling shots. The Smokehouse, an interesting lunchstop with some fantastic food. Do give the place a visit if you are ever in the area. If you closed one eye and imagined the sun wasn't cooking your skin, you might just think you were somewhere in Europe. The Toyota Hiace there won't help with the illusion though. Just sharing some fine grub. Lovely interior. I tried to search for this later on in my trip, no joy. Our awesome escorts. Yes, that's a BMW police bike. Like a boss. A short drive after lunch brought us up to Bonanza Circuit. Pictures don't lie, but what they don't show you is just how hot it was outside. These fine gentlemen were our instructors of the day. Meant to give us an insight into the variants of the new 5-Series range, we had at our disposal, the new charged 4-cylindered petrol and diesel cars, a slightly older 6-cylinder NA 523i, and the most powerful of the 4-pots, the 528i. Each with similar underpinnings but unique in their own ways. A series of stations were set up to showcase the new cars' handling and power characteristics. And although bordering on sounding serious, it was in actual fact, chances for us to just take the cars our for a joyful, controlled hoon. The emergency lane change station brought our the cars' fine balance. With everyone piling on the speed after each run, it was also the stage for "cone-killing". Cones were harmed in the course of the event. The slaloms highlighted the differences between cars equipped with and without Active Steering. With a vast array of trick sensors and computer controlled wizardry, it was no wonder the Active Steering equipped car was much easier to control and maneuver about. The final station of the day, was a drag race between the new 4-Cylindered 520i and the slightly older Inline-6 523i. The winner gets a prize. *Hint Hint* Just to silence the critics, the smaller engined 520i trounced the 523i pretty much each and every time. As an added bonus, after the drag races, we were given some time to go round the circuit in the various cars, guided by our instructors. Personal impressions between the 520i and 520d? It's a tough call, and although the 0-60 times might be pretty close, i'd give the diesel powered car the slight edge with just that bit more feel of immediacy when you put your foot down. Points also go to the diesel for being more frugal with the expensive combustible liquids. Unfortunately, we were given strict orders to leave the traction control on, as the tight circuit provided no leeway for errors. At the end of the day, EVERYONE had a great time. Bags loaded up with space to spare. With the sun going down, it was time to leave the track after a fine day of tire torturing. A beautiful sunset, but the Muthi Maya resort resort that lay ahead, was even more lovely. The event continued into the night as prizes were given out for quizzes and of course the fastest drivers of the day. With much gratitude and kudos to the Playstation Gran Turismo team, i managed to edge out everyone over the entire event to clinch the fastest set time of the entire event. I guess all those late nights in front of the telly finally paid off in the form of a 8GB thumbdrive shaped like a BMW key. :) Soon after, morning came again and it was time to head back into Bangkok. We swapped over to the diesel 5 and it was time to hit the B-roads on the way out! Great fun if you're the driver, less fun when you're the passenger. Not because of motion-sickness, but because you'd be secretly wishing you were the one behind the wheel. As i was at the helm the day before, it was my compatriot's turn to pilot the car. Envious i was. Once at our final rest stop before Bangkok, i swapped cars as i continued my journey in Thailand for another day while the rest of the Singapore team headed straight to the airport for their flight home. Once again, thank you BMW Asia for the invite and thank you BMW Thailand for the wonderful hospitality. To end off, here's a video from the event.