Thailand Super Series is back at Bira Circuit. The long time ‘home’ of Thai motorsport plays host to the biggest domestic race series on the occasion of the circuit’s thirtieth anniversary. It promises to be a spectacular event, more than one hundred of the top drivers and top cars racing in Thailand backed up by the top teams – and all with most championships wide open. Get ready for a special few days.
It’s shaping out to be the most competitive and close fought season in Thai motorsport history. Everyone is digging deep and fighting for every last tenth of a second. It’s that close this year and the run in to the end of the season is all set to be even closer!
From the wide-open high speed straights and sweeping turns of the brand new Chang International Circuit it’s an abrupt change as the teams and competitors head back to the cradle of the sport, Bira Circuit. Tight, twisty and ageing it’s a totally different challenge but it’s a track that defines skill, masks a little less horsepower and is one that every driver wants to win at.
The slightly cramped confines of the circuit means that the spectators are closer up to the action and the faded earthen terraces, that have heard so many roars and cheers over the decades, spring back to life. The whole circuit becomes a cauldron of hopes, fears and ambitions; new stars of the future are born here and so often the biggest of reputations have been left in tatters on this bumpy 2.4-km course. It’s simply a weekend of atmosphere that isn’t to be missed.
Picking winners is a fools game at the top of the Thai racing pyramid – Super Car Class 2-GTM has exploded this year and the lists of potential victors is now at arms length. The task for our biggest stars is going to be to hook their sophisticated racecars up to work to their optimum around Bira Circuit, to extract the maximum on a track that just doesn’t allow them to exploit all their muscular characteristics. That’s the same story in Super Car Class 3-GTC and throughout the whole programme, Super 2000, Super Pickup, Super 1500, Super Production and Super Eco, it’s going to be close fought.
Preview: Super Car Class 2-GTM
It’s very difficult to call the result in Super Car’s Class 2-GTM, its ultra-tight, ultra-competitive and close. Going into this round the championship leaders, Khun Kantasak Kusiri and Khun Craig Corliss, are separated by just 8 points.
Khun Kantasak though is currently edging it; the youngster, who has joined Singha Motorsport Team Thailand this year, has two wins and one runners up spots from the four races so far to give him 55 points, while hot on his heels is the lurid green Holden Commodore VE of Khun Craig, the big New Zealander has 47 points. Arguably Khun Kantasak knows Bira Circuit better than any other driver while Khun Craig always gets the max out of the bulky ‘Australian V8 Supercar’ machines here so it’s going to be a very close fight between the pair. They have a win each already and they both really want to nail down the title.
Khun Craig and Khun Kantasak locked out the top spots at the first round of the year between them but during the return visit to the North East at the end of July Vattana Motorsport showed its hand and turned up with two quick Lamborghini Gallardo LP520s for hotshots Khun Jack Lemvard and Khun Akihiro Asai.
These two proven drivers promptly dominated proceedings at the front and were first past the checkered flag in both races although the Japanese driver was given a time penalty post Race 2 and that moved him down to the runners up spot. Khun Jack claimed the first race win but in the second he suffered a loss of engine power although he was still able to potter round and finish P5. That gives him a provisional 28 points. That’s 27 points off the top, more than the value of a win and a sixth place combined, adrift of Khun Kantasak, so it leaves him very much as a championship outsider. However this is one of the best drivers Thailand has produced in recent decades and with 100 points still on offer (from the two races this weekend and the three at the season closer in Bangsaen), he potentially can close the gap down. The biggest problem is going to be machinery reliability, the Gallardo is an older racecar and it’s already cost him points.
The Porsche runners aren’t planning to stay away from the fight at the front either. The German brand’s ubiquitous 997 GT3 Cup is still looking for its first win of 2015 despite ending last year with three consecutive victories and there are some hungry drivers out there while the rear-engined machine should better suit Bira Circuit.
Leading the Porsche charge is Khun Sarun Sereethoranakul. He has 31 points – but an early DNF in the second race in Buriram last time out proved very costly and he needs to score big this weekend if he is to keep the title fight alive all the way to Buriram. It’s a tough call but he’s now established himself as one of the top Class 2-GTM stars and will be able to call on the services of Japanese superstar Khun Keita Sawa who will be guiding him as usual from the pitwall.
Just 4 points behind Khun Sarun, on 27 points, comes A-Motorsport’s Khun Aekarat Discharoen who also suffered a DNF in the second race in Buriram and he will be looking to swiftly bounce back. He won last year with his car in Buriram, tested at Bira Circuit last week, and certainly knows this track inside out.
Other quick Porsches to look out for include the #27 B-Quik Racing 997 GT3 Cup driven by Khun Daniel Bilski who has already made a trip to the podium this year (he currently has 14 points) and a bit further up the classification the new-generation #90 991 GT3 Cup of Khun Pitsanu Sirimongkolkasem (on 21 points) who is quickly getting to grips with his new machine in his Super Car rookie year and is consistently collecting points. He’s not far now from making a serious push at the upper podium steps. Also look out for the #60 997 GT3 Cup of Khun Shuipang Kanjanapas; he’s benefitting from more cockpit time this season and will be aiming to improve his pace at a circuit he knows very well.
After an unrewarding opening round the factory-run Toyota team tweaked its driver lineup and that paid off well for the second round. In came Super GT works driver Khun Kazuya Oshima (who in fact starred for the Thai team in Class 1-GT3 at Buriram last year) and he quickly got to grips with the Class 2-GTM 86. Two fourth places and two trips to the podiums more than justified that driver choice while teammate Khun Nattavude Charoensukhawatana also made the podium. They have 20- and 18-points respectively so will be looking to push up the classification. Toyota Team Thailand will again run a third car for Khun Manat Kulapalanont although this 86 isn’t quite equal in performance to the mounts of the leading drivers and his task is to be well placed to capitalise on retirements and nip in to pick up Teams’ championship points.
Khun Kantasak won’t be the only Ferrari on the grid. His teammate, reigning champion Khun Voravud Bhirombhakdi, has had a tough title defence so far, but has collected a useful tally of points and he’s another driver that will want to end the weekend higher up the classification. Khun Bhurit Bhirombhakdi also has now racked up more time in his Ferrari on his TSS debut year and will be looking to put that growing cockpit experience to good use.
Khun Henk J. Kiks has had a tough year so far in the #26 B-Quik Racing Audi R8 LMS Cup and a fast pace hasn’t translated into results so far. He will be looking to put that right this weekend and the team will have an extra card to play as Audi factory driver Khun Alex Yoong will join the team in the paddock today and tomorrow to help setup the car and coach the Dutchman ahead of the race weekend.
Khun Alex, a former F1 driver, knows the Audi R8 LMS inside out too, he’s the reigning champion of Audi’s pan-Asia ‘R8 Cup’ one make race and last weekend continued his title defence with a win in the latest round of that series which was held at Sepang Circuit – so clearly he’s well placed to extract extra pace out of the car.
Preview: Super Car Class 3-GTC
It’s tight at the top here too as the first three in the classification are covered by just 3 points. Sitting astride of the points’ table is Khun Sontaya Kunplome who has enjoyed a superbly consistent season so far, his four races have added up to four trips to the podium, netting him 43 points. That breaks down to a second-, third- and two fifth-places. If he can keep up that run of form this weekend he can start to look towards the season closer in Bangsaen from a position of better strength.
Khun Sontaya’s secret has been consistency and reliability as his main rivals have suffered DNFs and dropped valuable points. Just 3 points adrift of the #8 Porsche though are Khun Grant Supaphong (Mitsubishi) and Khun Naputt Assakul (Ginetta). They have split the wins from the four races held so far between them – two apiece – but have failed to score in the other races. If either of them can get a good run going then they have to become favourites for the title. Khun Grant has been hamstrung by the unreliability of his powerful-but-fragile ‘Evo X’ while Khun Naputt has suffered some bad luck, which he will hope to put behind him.
Next up in the championship standings is Khun Grant’s teammate Khun Daychapon Toyingcharoen who has two third and a fourth place from the last three races – so he should be looking good for another podium visit this weekend if the #9 Krating Daeng Nissan Skyline again proves to be a reliable proposition.
Khun Daychapon has 34 points and that’s one point ahead of Khun Chayut Yangpichit who enjoyed an excellent run last time out. Back behind the wheel of the Evo he ran towards the end of last year, the car’s upgrades paid off as Khun Chayut finished on the podium in both races and collected a runners up spot.
Then comes Khun Pete Thongchua who had a blistering run in Buriram in July, he made it up the order to finish P2 in the second race after looking very competitive and that was the best ever result by the Rotary Revolution team in Super Car. Clearly this team has made a big stride forward with the green-and-black #17 RX-8 and so expect Khun Pete to be on the podium again. Rotary Revolution will in fact run two cars at Bira for the first time as the first example of their exciting new build RX-7 racecar programme will be in the hands of Khun Narin Yensuk who is jettisoning his usual Skyline R32 in favour of joining this team for the final two rounds of the year.
Also look out for the two Subarus entered by A-Motorsport. Khun Kraingkrai Woraratanatham is making steady progress in his Super Car rookie year behind the wheel of the #71 BRZ while Khun Pinet Piyaoui will be back in the #21 Impreza. The latter driver finally returned to Super Car at the last round following a season out and will be looking to put that weekend’s teething problems behind him.
Preview: Super 2000
The big question amongst the fans this weekend will be ‘can anyone stop Khun Jack Lemvard?’ If anyone can, they’re going to need to do it this weekend as with
three wins and a fourth place from the four races held so far this year he’s in danger of disappearing out of sight. A very high points scoring weekend in Bira versus his main protagonists could even seal the title.
Khun Jack was out of motorsport for more than a year but he’s resumed exactly where he left off. He’s a little bit calmer, older and wiser now, but every inch of his sensational pace is still there and that’s simply not good news for his rivals. Armed with Vattana Motorsport’s quick and thus far reliable #44 BMW E90 it all adds up to a potent cocktail.
Khun Jack’s Achilles Heel though is going to be weight; the BMW is loaded up with ‘success ballast’ thanks to those wins and that means he’s going to be more focused on scratching for points, at least during Saturday’s first race. That will give his key rivals some room for maneuver although Khun Jack will be looking to tot up double figure scores in both races ahead of a Bangsaen coronation.
Realistically there are just two other drivers that still can claim the title at the halfway point in the season. While Khun Jack is now on 70 points, Khun Munkong Sathienthirakul (49) and Khun Pasarit Phromsombat (43) are both title contenders if they enjoy a good run this coming weekend and both have already scored in all four races – and that’s one keys to the title this year. Honda Civic FD driver’ Khun Munkong has amassed a win and a runners up spot as well as a fifth and a sixth place while Khun Pasarit has a second, two thirds and a seventh place to his name in the RMI Racing Team’s Honda DC5.
Next up is TT Motorsport owner Khun Chayut Yangpichit who bounced back after a dreadful season opener with a competitive P2 and P3 during the last round. That zero points score in May has realistically written off his title chances but he’s on a strong run of form, his #19 Honda DC5 is running very well and he will certainly be chasing the upper podium steps. He comes into the weekend with 27 points.
Four points behind Khun Chayut is Khun Jakthong Navasoopanich in the #3 Toyota Altis. He’s fast and capable and the blue-and-white car will certainly be in the thick of the podium action. Khun Jakthong has been somewhat in the wars this season, however he made a double trip to the podium at the season opener and he will be looking to do the same this coming weekend.
Super 2000 has been pretty exciting this year with a lot of drivers and cars standing out and so there are plenty to be closely watched, especially as Bira Circuit will much better mask a few of the racecars that have horsepower deficits.
One to keep and eye out for will the Khun Kantadhee Kusiri in the Team Eakie Toyota 86. The raw new car stuttered around during the season opener but last time out the Japanese coupé started to show pace and Khun Kantadhee came away with his first trip to the podium with his new machine. Khun Kantadhee is one of Thailand’s top young stars and in fact just last weekend raced a single-seater for the first time, that debut coming in European F3 at Spa-Francorchamps. In wet conditions he turned in a very impressive performance on the legendary grand prix circuit and clearly this driver has the skill to win – it’s all about how quickly his car can catch up to the front running pace.
Khun Munkong’s teammate Khun Ekprawat Petcharak is a proven fast driver and he’s shown flashes of speed so far this year but has been held back by engine electronics issues. If those are cleared up, and the team is confident they will be, then he’s also a good bet for the podium.
Painkiller Racing’s Khun Rudolf Yu has impressed since arriving in Super 2000 so expect another smooth and fast performance from the Hong Kong driver. The factory Toyotas, driven by Khun Chen Jian Hong and Khun Pure Hongsapan, have had quite a difficult year and will be looking to turn the corner this weekend on a circuit that should better suit the Altis than Buriram.
And then there is Khun Narasak Ittritpong in Vattana’s second entry, the team’s venerable Civic FD. One of the fastest drivers in Thailand today he joined Super 2000 during the last round but terminal engine problems with the #13 ‘FD’ curtailed his weekend early on and he simply couldn’t show what he’s capable of achieving. If the car is fully sorted then Khun Narasak – known simply ‘S’ to his many fans – has to be considered right in amongst this weekend’s potential winners, but that huge question mark over the car has to be sorted out first.
Meanwhile in Class B and Class C Khun Munkong and Khun Jetsada Yangpichit, respectively, seemingly look to be on the way to the titles after a very good first half of the season.
Preview: Support Programme
If the two Buriram rounds are anything to go by the supporting categories look set for a bumper weekend of action at Bira Circuit. Super Pickup, Super 1500, Super Production and Super Eco have all delivered thrills and spills so far this year and the tight and twisty nature of the historic Pattaya circuit should spice the action up even further.
In Super Pickup Khun Songsak Kornsirisuepsakun has taken a decisive 18-point lead in the overall standings thanks to three wins and a second place. His rivals will need to work very fast this weekend if they want to haul back the deficit and they will be led out by Khun Aekaluck Nakkerd, the only driver so far to interrupt Khun Songsak’s winning spree, as well as returning former champion Khun Jaras Jaengkamolkulchai.
In Class B Khun Aekaluck is already looking like he will be hard to beat for the title but in Class C it’s cutthroat this year. Khun Pheerawat Pajeeyachart leads
the rankings thanks to a first, second, third and fourth place from the first four races – but he’s got to look out for the Krating Daeng drivers who have caused quite a sensation since this top team rocked up in Super Pickup this year. Khun Philip Massoud and Khun Songkran Yamamura have three wins between them so far and only some bad luck has kept them off the top of the classification. Both drivers are amazingly in only their first season in racing and already both look certain to have promising racing careers stretching out ahead of them. Watch out closely for their two – immaculate – black Isuzu trucks this weekend.
In Super 1500 Khun Kajornsak Na Songkhla and Khun Nuttapong Lertlumprasertkul have evenly divided the wins up – two apiece – but a costly DNF in the first race of the year sees the former with an 8-point advantage coming to Bira Circuit. In Class C Khun Teerasak Sakphaet has a 15-point advantage thanks to two wins and two runners up spots, however Khun U-tain Pongprapas won the last two races and comes to Bira with the best current form. He will need to outfox his rival in both races if he wants to keep chasing the title.
In Super Production Khun Thanasit Bhunyatharanonth and Khun Chattraphol Jiemvijid are level pegging on 47 points after scoring well in all four races. Collecting healthy points scores in every race is also the secret to success in Super Production this year. Six points back from them is Vattana’s Khun Settasit Boonyakiat while four behind him is Khun Anon Rodprasert who announced his arrival in Super Production with a superb win at the last round thanks to an inspired tyre choice. He’s two points ahead of Khun Yotsarun Sansuk who kicked off his points scoring for the year with a P1 and P2 at the last round.
Realistically, the 2015 champion is going to come from these five drivers and just 12 points cover them although a little bit further back Khun Thomas Raldorf still has an outside chance of hauling himself into the title action.
As well as being the joint overall championship leader Khun Thanasit also leads out Class B while in Class C Khun Nattanid Leewattanavaragul has edged into the lead thanks to a double win in the last round. The fast young lady driver has made the paddock sit up and take notice following those two races, which were held in difficult conditions. She’s just 3 points though ahead of Khun Thanawat Wongnapachant who won the other two races but struggled to hit the jackpot last time out. The title fight looks like it’s going to be between that pair.
In Super Eco the current championship classification leader and winner of three of the four races held so far this year will be absent and that’s going to open it up for his main rival, Khun Konpichit Toyingcharoen to overhaul his 5-point advantage at the top. The third placed driver in the rankings, Khun Jakraphan Davee, is already 25 points off the top spot so he needs to score big at Bira if he is going to haul himself into the title fight.
Source. Racing spirit
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