We’re quickly heading into 2017 and the fifth year of Thailand Super Series (TSS) – while it already promises to be the most exciting season yet. The Bangsaen Grand Prix’s entrance onto the world stage means this season’s round will see the street racing extravaganza hosting its first major international racing series – Porsche Carrera Cup Asia.
But well before that date in July arrives we have the rescheduled 2016 Bangsaen Grand Prix looming fast – to be held next month, it’s the 10th Anniversary edition and preparing the seaside resort town for the event is swinging into top gear with the New Year holiday’s now firmly over. As we head towards FIA Grade 3 homologation, many new pieces are slotting into the jigsaw and they include a major resurfacing programme.
Meanwhile, TCR’s growing presence in Asia has been further strengthened by the recent launch of a China series in addition to the existing Asia Series and TCR Thailand, the first national TCR series on the continent, which was launched last year and is set to complete its first season next month at the rescheduled Bangsaen Grand Prix.
TSS was joined during the last round, which was held at Bira Circuit, by the Caterham Motorsport Championship, a so far Sepang Circuit based series exclusively reserved for the historic Caterham Seven single seater racecars. It slotted into the bumper overall programme as a ‘guest’ series and the cars proved to be very well suited to the confines of the historic circuit.
Meanwhile, remaining at the Bira Circuit round, there was really just one name that everyone was talking about in the paddock when it came to the headlining touring car category, Super 2000, and that was Pattarapol Vongprai.
Finally, we would like to take the opportunity to congratulate B-Quik Racing on winning the highly competitive GTC class at the Sepang 12 Hour last month.
Resurfacing programme completed as Bangsaen looms
The many strands that are pulling the Bangsaen Grand Prix towards FIA Grade 3 homologation are once again being prepared, piece by piece, as part of the overall cohesive plan which was put on hold as the nation entered a period of mourning and then tweaked due to the effect of rescheduling of the event from late last November to February 21-26.
Recent on the ground activity has seen the biggest resurfacing work in the history of the Bangsaen Grand Prix.
“Due to the circuit being public roads quite a lot of the surface has been patched and patched again which makes it quite bumpy,” commented TSS Vice President Preeda Tantemsapya. “Keeping this in mind plus the growth in speed of the cars we felt it was time to activate a plan to improve the road surface, especially on the stretch from Laem Tan Cape to the pit entry, this has seen a lot of work on the road over the last few years and is a high speed section.”
The resurfacing work will provide a smoother and safer track and while the upcoming tenth edition of the Bangsaen Grand Prix will have these bumpy sections resurfaced, although the rest of the circuit is in very robust shape, it’s actually the first phase of a three year plan which will see the entire circuit resurfaced by 2018 as promoter Racing Spirit continues to unfold a strategy of evolving the event onto the international stage, driving further and above the requirements for FIA Grade 3 homologation.
Porsche Carrera Cup coming to Bangsaen
This year will see the Bangsaen Grand Prix shifting from its traditional end of year calendar date to July, just in time for the eleventh edition and that’s one of a number of major strategic changes that accompany the kick starting of the second decade of the street circuit – changes that are all primarily focused on the street racing extravaganza taking up a new position on the international stage.
Another of those sweeping changes will be the arrival of FIA Grade 3 homologation (at next month’s rescheduled event) and couple both together we are very pleased to welcome our first major international series to Bangsaen, as the dazzling Porsche Carrera Cup Asia (PCCA) will link up with the street racing event for its fourth and fifth rounds of the 2017 season.
PCCA, which was formed in 2003, thus now enters its fifteenth consecutive season, having clearly cemented its position as one of Asia’s leading ‘one make’ racing series. This year the series will again be contested by drivers behind the wheel of Porsche’s current-generation 991 GT3 Cup, which also receives some new MY2017 upgrades. It’s a proven breeding ground for the stars of the future and previous PCCA champions include Earl Bamber, Darryl O’Young, Alexandre Imperatore and Chris Van Der Drift.
Bangsaen will become the second street circuit on the provisional calendar, as PCCA will also support the Singapore F1 Grand Prix as usual on the Marina Bay Circuit, although the two temporary tracks couldn’t be any different in nature – thus providing unique challenges for both drivers and teams.
According to the provisional calendar issued by PCCA during last November’s 2016 closer, the series will visit Bangsaen on 7-9 July having first kicked off its season by supporting the F1 race in Shanghai (China) and then visiting Fuji (Japan). After the visit to Thailand PCCA will head for a double date at Sepang in Malaysia, the second will support the Malaysian Grand Prix, before wrapping up the season in Singapore (its third appearance on the F1 bill for the year) and finally a return trip to Shanghai.
TCR grows in Asia with arrival of China series
TCR’s growing presence in Asia has been further strengthened by the recent launch of a China series in addition to the existing Asia Series and TCR Thailand, the first national TCR series on the continent, which was launched last year and is set to complete its first season next month at the rescheduled Bangsaen Grand Prix.
In the spirit of the TCR concept the three championships have now begun working together to establish a meaningful cooperation. This year, TCR Asia Series will run two joint events with TCR Thailand and two with TCR China.
“This proves the TCR concept of National championships being able to join with the Regional championships,” TCR Asia promoter David Sonenscher explained. “As more national championships open up across the Asian Region, the grid numbers will begin to grow more quickly, and with it, interest in the category and more opportunities for drivers to climb the Touring Car ladder.”
TCR Asia and TCR Thailand will run together at Buriram (25 June) and Bangsaen (9 July), while TCR Asia and TCR China will share the bill at Zhejiang (6 August) and Shanghai (27 August).
“We are very happy to join the TCR family. We believe TCR China will be successful under the fair TCR International regulations and our endeavour. Racing together with the TCR International Series at Zhejiang International Circuit will be a great opportunity for Chinese drivers to compete with the international drivers. We hope we are able to develop TCR China well in terms of commercial, entertainment and media,” said David Huang, CEO TCR China.
TCR Thailand promoter Paritat Bulbon stated: “The cross pollination between the national and regional series is what really attracted us to TCR in the first place as it allows Thai competitors to be able to compete against the best in Asia and the world on a level playing field, smoothly helping drivers to integrate onto the international stage while providing even greater return on the investment they made to join TCR Thailand. We’re very proud that we were the first national promoter in Asia to commit to the TCR concept and we’re looking forward to the arrival of TCR China, which will clearly accelerate the regional growth of the TCR platform.”
As an added bonus, both the TCR Asia and TCR China competitors will run in an invitational race at the Guia Circuit in Macau on 19 November.
“I am delighted to see that the collaboration between the TCR promoters worldwide becomes closer and closer. This kind of exchange is one of the founding pillars of the TCR building and we must all work together to make it higher and stronger,” TCR promoter Marcello Lotti commented.
TCR Thailand and TCR China will also race together once apiece with the TCR International Series, at Buriram (3 September) and Zhejiang (8 October) respectively.
Veni, Vidi, Vici
With all due respect to Super 2000 championship runaway leader Kittipol Pramoj Na Ayudhya who came to Bira Circuit for the penultimate round of the season last September with a clearly focused mission to rack up the points he required to seal the title with a round to spare – a job he did to the utmost perfection – there was really one name that everyone was talking about in the paddock when it came to the touring car category, that was Pattarapol Vongprai.
Not too many people knew who he was either although by the end of the weekend his name had been firmly etched in paddock consciousness. The 20-year-old was making his serious Super 2000 debut at this round (although he actually made a somewhat overlooked one off appearance in the category as a youngster at Bangsaen back in 2013) in the Honda Civic FD that was formerly raced by Chairat Sangtong in Super 2000 back in 2012 and 2013 and then by Pitsanu Sirimongkolkasem in 2014 so was a well-proven winning machine even if it had been sitting idle for sometime.
The driver was a little bit of an unknown quantity, although he’s already started to make his mark in racing. In 2015 in another series he bagged a class championship title to signal his intent and last year he joined TSS during the opening round in Super Production before switching to Super Compact for the second round where he was in the thick of the action.
Those races were all in B-segment Honda Jazz racecars; the leap to Super 2000 was not just a jump in cubic capacity but the proposition of a C-segment car with totally different characteristics. However as soon as Pattarapol was strapped into the grey Civic FD in free practice he started to make a nuisance of himself at the business end of the timesheets.
On the Friday when qualifying came around he really stirred the pack up by planting the Civic on pole position, although he was docked several places for a flag infringement to line up on the grid in fourth place. The rest is history. When the lights turned green Pattarapol proceeded to battle his way into P1 and hold his advantage all the way to the checkered flag. He then did it all over again in the second race, this time thanks to the top five reverse grid starting order he had to fight through to the front.
Job well done – rarely does a driver make such an impact on his debut in a category that has a reputation for cut and thrust and simply isn’t recognised for making rookies welcome.
So what sort of challenge was it for Pattarapol to step up to a Civic FD and master its dynamics in such a short time? “Driving the [Civic] FD at Bira was more challenging for me because it’s a fast car with front wheel drive so if you push to much it costs you with understeer and if you push to much in the race the tyre will get into a really bad condition during the middle of the race so it’s more of a challenge for me to control my pressure to keep it stable and keep driving fast.”
Expect this driver to go a long way in the future. In fact since that weekend he tried out one of Vattana Motorsport’s Lamborghini Gallardo GT3s as well as the Super Car GTC 2016 title winning KTM X-Bow GT4 for a few laps each in Buriram, although Pattarapol admits that this test was just to gain more experience and get a feel for these cars.
The next challenge though is the rescheduled Bangsaen Grand Prix next month. He really rocked the boat in Bira on his debut, the demanding streets of Bangsaen will offer a completely new challenge to the youngster and he will be up against a plethora of top drivers that won’t give an inch as they chase the glory of victory here to put on their racing CVs. Pattarapol is taking it in his stride and aims to do his best. “In Bangsaen I hope that I can get P1 in qualifying and also at the end of the race,” he says.
Caterham’s visit Thailand for the first time
TSS was joined during the last round at Bira Circuit round by the Caterham Motorsport Championship, a so far Sepang Circuit based series exclusively reserved for the historic Caterham Seven single seater racecars, which slotted into the overall programme as a ‘guest’ series.
The Caterham Motorsport Championship is based on a similar series held in the UK, the original home of these cars, and first kicked off last year so this was its second season – and the trip to Bira Circuit was not just its first visit to Thailand but the first time the series had ventured outside of Malaysia.
The cars are broken up into two classes with two very distinctively different powered versions of the Caterham Seven. The top class is contested by the ‘420R’ which features a 2.0-litre dry sump engine with 210 hp mated to a 6-speed Quaife-sourced sequential transmission and that means this lightweight ‘rocket’ is good for a top speed of 230 km/h and a 0-100 km/h time of 3.8 seconds. It also adds up an impressive 400 bhp/tonne and means the 420R can blitz its way round Sepang Circuit in a very handy 2 minutes and 22 seconds. The second string class is powered by a 1.6-litre engine coupled to a 5-speed manual gearbox; it has 140 hp on tap and can reach 205 km/h while making the dash from 0-100 km/h in 4.9 seconds.
The Sevens are pretty well kitted out too with a plethora of track specification parts including a lightweight racing flywheel, side exit exhaust, limited slip differential, beefed up cooling system and quick release steering wheel while on the safety front there is an FIA homologated rollcage, race seat with 6-point harness, plumbed in fire extinguisher system and electrical cutout switches.
The championship’s first race outside of Malaysia didn’t fail to surprise and historic Bira’s short and narrow characteristics perfectly suited these small, lightweight and highly agile racecars. The drivers’ reported that they loved the different feel of the cars around Bira, most notably the kart-like handling while speeding around the Double Apex and through the S1 and S2 Chicanes.
There was also some local TSS flavour thrown into the proceedings as B-Quik Racing’s Shaun Varney signed on in the Supersport class with the aim of racking up some extra track time as the Super Car GTM Porsche driver was in fact making his first visit to Bira Circuit.
During Saturday’s opening encounter the racing starting early for Halim Mu’Azzam as he launched off the starting grid before the red lights went out, soaring up the middle of the grid to take the lead briefly before the 420Rs took their place at the front of the pack.
Marcus Chye stormed into the lead with guest driver Rocky Siow hot on his heels and looking at every opportunity to pass. Marcus would in fact hold off the other 420R drivers for the whole race before crossing the line to take the checkered flag, only to be disqualified having ignored a drive through penalty for encroaching over the pitlane line. Guest driver Arnaud Dupuis would also be disqualified for the same reason, an unfortunate end to his first Caterham race after a strong performance running in the top three.
Tan Pye Sen overtook Rocky Siow after a daring move into the chicane to take second position and eventually the win; that was his first win of the year.
The Supersport class produced some nail biting racing with Halim Mu’Azzam and Shaun exchanging places for the lead on several occasions during the early stages of the race. In the end B-Quik Racing’s New Zealand driver claimed top honours in his first Caterham Motorsport Championship race after finishing nearly 15 seconds in front of Halim.
For Sunday’s second race Malcolm and Arnaud had to start at the back of the grid in their 420R machines as a penalty for their infringements in Race 1. However by turn three Malcolm and Arnaud had stormed up to the top two positions.
Arnaud was doing a great job defending Marcus with the lead changing a couple of times before Marcus took the top spot down the back straight. His advantage was short lived though as an over-eager Arnaud touched the rear end of his car entering the second chicane, forcing Marcus into a spin. Marcus then suffered handling issues from the incident and would eventually trail home in last position.
It was a very tight battle for the Supersport lead with Halim not allowing Shaun to pull out any sort of an advantage. However, after making several attempts to pass, Halim finally made a move stick towards the end of the race.
It was looking like a race win for Halim until Shaun made one last dive down the inside of the second chicane on the last lap, reclaiming the lead and holding it around the last corner to take the checkered flag first. An impressive double victory for Shaun on his debut in the Caterham Motorsport Championship.
There was no clear leader in the 420R class as the top three drivers – Arnaud, Pye and Rocky – were within one second of each other, and exchanged places many times. Making moves through Turn 2 and diving down the inside of Turn 3 were the favourite options of this battling trio.
After an exciting battle for the lead Arnaud Dupuis made a gusty move on the outside of Turn 2 to storm off into the lead. Crossing the checkered flag in first position, Arnaud would then be classified second due to a 30-second penalty for making a false start.
This penalty would hand Pye his second win for the weekend with Rocky Siow finishing in third spot. Meanwhile, Shirendra Lawrence would claim third position in the Supersport class after an intense battle with Malcolm Chang.
B-Quik tastes victory in the Sepang 12 Hour
TSS would like to congratulate B-Quik Racing on winning the highly competitive GTC class at the Sepang 12 Hour last month. B-Quik Racing is one of our stalwart teams in Super Car and with its two ‘GTM’ drivers, Henk J. Kiks and Daniel Bilski, in the cockpit, joined by Dutch Acura factory driver Peter Kox, they simply got the job done.
For 12 straight hours the drivers banged in the laptimes that needed banging in and they continued to do that unabated when the rain arrived at half distance and continued sporadically for the rest of the race. A Thai pit crew that learnt their skills competing in TSS backed them up.
“What can I say, I’m just over the moon,” said Henk afterwards. “We were very well prepared for this race, I think that made a big difference for us this year. The race was everything you expect of the 12 Hour, rain throughout the night, but the pitwall played this well, we worked the conditions to our advantage and we got the hammer down. We put this together ourselves and we won ourselves and that makes it a bit more special. We never imagined something like this a few years ago.”
Daniel Bilski added: “First of all, I’m just so happy for the team after starting with endurance racing only three years ago and to win the class for B-Quik Racing is a big, big thing and everybody contributed and can be rightfully proud of their contribution to the team. The pitstops themselves were great; to do a full service stop with tyres, fuel, driver, brake pads and discs in under 4 minutes was awesome. To win has been great, not just for the drivers and for Henk but for the whole B-Quik racing organization.”
Henk, Daniel and B-Quik Racing will be back in action in Bangsaen next month; both drivers have already scored podiums in the GTM class during this season and will be looking to bolster their standings in the final Drivers’ championship rankings during the season closing triple-header. In fact the team has just acquired another Porsche 997 GT3 Cup, which is now on its way here from Europe, and will be expanding its Super Car lineup even further during the 2017 season.
Source. Edd Ellison