Racing Fan Hopes Cambodians Join Him on the Fast Track

Philippe Lenain spreads out the blueprint for his $500,000 go-cart track being built near Phnom Penh.

There’s everything the small-scale race enthusiast would want: a state-of-the-art track with electronic sensors, a viewing tower, 22 go-carts, and a restaurant overlooking a course surrounded by moats and trees.

“I really want to build something where people can come out and just have fun,” the 35-year-old managing director of Indochine Insurance says.

The track is just part of the French native’s lifelong passion for motor racing, a passion he hopes will spread to the people of Phnom Penh.

“Since I was a little kid, I’ve always been fascinated by racing cars,” he says.

Lenain believes his love for racing will catch on. He sees a newly emerging Cambodian middle class ready to take 15-minute spins on the track for $6 per ride when the facility opens in April.

He will have competition, though. There is also a go-cart track on Route 1 at the World Amusement Center,

past the Monivong Bridge

To those who might say a developing country like Cambodia needs schools or hospitals before of a go-cart track, Lenain says investment also is part of development.

The land for the as-yet-unnamed track near Kandal province’s Muk Kampul district, about 18 km from Phnom Penh, was bought from the town for about $250,000, and that money is already helping villagers improve their living conditions, Lenain says.

“This money invested goes right into the Cambodia economy, that’s for sure. I do believe we are participating in the development of Cambodia,” he says, adding that 50 people will be employed at the track when it is completed.

Lenain recently competed for the second year in the 24 Hours Endurance Race held in the US at Daytona, Florida.

Most people don’t know how simple it is to compete in car races, he says. As with golf, there are different levels of skills. Of the 80 cars in the annual race, only   20 were driven by professional drivers; the other drivers were   amateurs like himself.

“Just like on the golf circuit, you have to prove your ability to compete. If you have a license to race, and you can show your ability, then you can join a team,” he says, although he will pay for his place on the team, Lenain added.

This year, Lenain raced on a team put together by a Daytona Porsche dealer. Lenain and his Cambodian sponsors contributed $10,000 to the team effort.

In the 24-hour race, it was the 944 Turbo Porsche that had to endure more punishment than the drivers, who raced in 90-minute stints. After the green flag was waved, their car experienced engine trouble for the next nine hours, but Lenain and his teammates persevered.

As the night wore on, other cars dropped in and out of the race, and the team members saw their Porsche rise in the rankings. “I was driving for a stint at dawn,” Lenain said. “That was magic for me. Everyone was very tired, but we felt such excitement to make it through the night.”

By 11 am, just two hours short of finishing the race, the car finally quit for good. But only about 30 cars completed the race.

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