The 47-year-old car geek also lets us in on how he learnt to drive F1 cars in Europe.
8 DAYS: You’ve been an Audi ambassador since March last year. Just how many Audi cars have you driven?
TAY PING HUI: I was driving the Audi Q7 and just switched to the Audi RS 3 recently. Its engine is very powerful and can go from 0 to 100km/h in about four seconds. Whenever I start my car, I can hear that loud sound coming from the engine. It’s like music to my ears. I’m a subtle guy and I like things that are understated. If you look at my car, it doesn’t scream for attention. Yet, if some Ah Beng tries to race me on the roads, he will find out about the power of this car (laughs).
You’ve travelled to Europe to drive on race tracks. How did that happen?
I went to the Nurburgring race track a few years ago — it’s one of the most famous tracks in Germany. It’s very long; there are over 40 corners and it’s really beautiful. I also went to a driving school in France twice, where you can practise and learn how to drive an F1 car. Last year, I went to Germany with Audi where I got to drive one-on-one with Frank Biela, a five-time champion of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. We drove in the same car, and he gave me many tips. We were going as fast as we could on the race track, and it was such an awesome experience.
What is it about racing that attracts you?
I enjoy driving especially when it comes to the corners. It’s not about going at crazy speeds on a straight road. Even a monkey can do that. However, to be able to have this balance, feeling the tyres grip on the ground, reaching the edge where it’s about to lose traction, and bringing the car back. There is that split second which makes me enjoy it so much. The best feeling for me is when I can take control of the car. It’s true joy (smiles). I believe that races are really won on the corners, and not on straight roads.
What sort of driver are you?
I’m aggressive but always safe. Skills wise, I am someone who continually tries to improve myself. I like to drive my car hard and fast, of course within legal limits. To me, safety is always the top priority. I don’t join in a race if some guy tries to race me on the road as it will endanger other people’s lives. I don’t [expletive] around like that. I always believe that if you want to test the limit of your car and your driving skills, you should go to a track where it’s safe for everyone.
What kind of bad behaviour on the road irks you?
I’m not a very patient driver, and [so having someone cut into my lane without signalling] would make me quite upset. I’m a serial curser so I’d definitely curse in my car if that happens (laughs). It’s unfortunate because there seems to be a deterioration in driving skills and etiquette in Singapore. What I hate most are road hoggers. I mean, if you go on the highway and you drive at 70km/h on the extreme right lane, you choke up the whole lane and people get impatient. That’s when accidents happen. The extreme right lane is not for you to cruise! I used to stare at people when such things happened, but I’ve come to realise that there’s no point because these people are just clueless. Now, I don’t even bother because they’re not worth it. I’d just focus my attention on the road.
Aren’t you afraid of getting recognised when you stare at bad drivers?
Why should I be afraid? They’re the ones who are idiots.
How do you react when people wave to you on the roads?
I smile and wave back. I don’t see the need to be rude or cold to people even if I’m in a bad mood or had a very s***** day. I believe there’s no reason for me to disrespect people in any way. I’m, ahem, capable of being a nice person, in spite of my RBF [resting b**** face]! (Guffaws)
Do you think autonomous cars can be better drivers than some humans?
I’m totally for [autonomous cars]. I believe that cars are getting more intelligent and safer these days, and they will be fully autonomous in the future. Driving will then become just a hobby. Actually, if all cars were autonomous, we will have fewer accidents. Human errors are caused by distraction, fatigue or plain stupidity. If we have Artificial Intelligence and technology to overcome all these, we will have a massive reduction of traffic jams, wastage and accidents. I think autonomous cars are only unsafe when it’s mixed with human driving on the roads, as the machines can’t anticipate irrational human behaviour. However, it will be safer when we have only autonomous cars on the roads.
You have both a driver’s and a bike license. How often do you ride a motorbike these days?
I still own a bike. When I was 18, I didn’t have money for a car, so riding a bike was a good alternative. It was for pragmatic reasons that I started riding a bike, but I fell in love with it after that. But I also love driving a car. I’m a petrol head and I enjoy speed and freedom. Driving a car and riding a bike are entirely different. When you’re riding a bike, you’re mounting a machine. You are on the outside, and you can feel all the elements on you. You can feel the wind in your face and every bump on the road. If you are going fast enough, you can feel your head rattle inside the helmet!