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THAI LEGEND TO HANG UP HIS HELMET AFTER BANGSAEN

We’re heading into the final countdown to the 10th Anniversary Bangsaen Grand Prix; the racecars will take to the track for the first time in just four days’ time for the opening practice sessions while this time next week the opening races will be about to get underway.img_1043

There is a huge lot of work going on as everyone prepares for the event, not least the key structural and safety changes being incorporated to prepare the circuit for FIA homologation.

This edition will wrap up the first decade of the Bangsaen Grand Prix and usher in the start of a new era – but it will also see the final racing appearance of one of the biggest names in contemporary Thai motorsport as ‘Kiki’ Sak Nana will be hanging up his helmet after performing one last display of the art of drifting. The ‘Guru of Drift’ is going to sign off in real style and the Bangsaen ‘drift show’ – always hugely popular with the fans – is going to be simply electric this week.

TA2 has arrived! That’s the big news from the last week as the first of this breed of V8 powered spaceframe racecars to arrive here – a Ford Mustang – took to Bira Circuit for its shakedown test last Tuesday morning, and it instantly impressed both the test driver, the team and onlookers as the fearsome machine gave the rafters a really good shaking. It certainly looked right at home on the historic Pattaya track, now the next stop for ‘TA2’ is Bangsaen.

And expect more new cars next week as Porsche’s Cayman sportscar becomes another ‘first’ for Thai motorsport. When it hits the streets of Bangsaen it will be the first ever representative of this popular model line to competitively take to a racetrack in Thailand. The car looks stunning so look out for it settling into Super Car GTC.

B-Quik Racing is beefing up its driver lineup for the 10th Anniversary Bangsaen Grand Prix next week, bringing in Darryl O’Young to drive the team’s venerable Porsche 997 GT3 Cup for his third shot at the prestigious street race. He has five wins out of five and five poles out of five so far – the big question is if the Hong Kong driver can make it eight out of eight? He’s certainly up for the challenge – and we are going to find out if he can keep his record run intact next weekend.

Finally, TSS was delighted to play its part in the official celebrations of the 30th anniversary of Bira International Circuit, which took place a little earlier this month. In a dedicated garage that was decked out to preview the upcoming Bangsaen Grand Prix we presented three very different racecars that each perfectly typified TSS.

Calling time on a glittering career

Thailand has produced a string of contemporary star racing drivers that have gone out into the world and demonstrated their skills, carrying the national flag high and with pride. But without any disrespect to any of our currently racing champs, one driver really stands out – his is the first name off any fan’s lips – but more than just an idol to motorsport fans such has been the winning narrative of his career that he’s long since made the less common transition to mainstream celebrity in his own right.

That driver is Sak Nana, who is known simply as ‘Kiki’ to many millions of Thais. And the news that will shock his legion of fans is that he’s hanging up his helmet and retiring.

Synonymous with the discipline of drifting, Kiki has just one final appointment on his racing calendar – the famous ‘drift show’ at the Bangsaen Grand Prix, coming up next week. It will be an emotional farewell at an event that always features a packed house, but more of that later.

So why after a stellar career that has brought such impressive rewards, particularly during the last few years and especially so in the season just gone where he’s been bang at the top of his game, has Kiki decided now is the right time to retire? “Time’s up,” he answers simply, explaining that he’s reached the peak of his career. “I’ve spent a lot of my life in racing and especially in the last three to five years in Germany I have tried to reach as high a point as I could and I reached it,” he says. “I’ve drifted all around the world and I’ve been top of the rankings in the world, three times in the top five in three of my years and I’ve gone as high as I can, especially racing in Germany.”

Many drivers prefer the comfort of being a big fish in a small pond but that route never really appealed to Kiki, even if his huge home following would have still been 100% behind him win, lose or draw. He took the challenge of mixing it with the best of the best in the world head on – in recent years he has raced in Germany, arguably the toughest domestic racing scene in the world. And Germany is where Kiki has excelled and made his mark. Further arguably, the Nürburgring 24 Hours is regarded by many as the toughest race in the world. Held on the Nordschleife and known simply as the ‘24’ to those who participate in this manic race, it was dubbed the ‘Green Hell’ by Jackie Stewart and the nickname stuck. Conditions are insane, rain, hail and snow can hit the track at any point while the other side could be dry and sunny – it’s so lethal that Formula 1 turned its back on the Nordschleife 40 years ago.

Kiki first went there in 2012 and a year later he won his class – an historic achievement and one of the greatest ever results by a Thai driver in history. When he crossed the finishline he had truly cemented his name into our record books in big block letters.

Two years later he was back on the podium while last year in the ‘VLN’ series he claimed five class wins from ten races. “No grip, can’t see, push hard” he recently captioned a post from VLN on Instagram – that sums up VLN racing, professional race driving in general and of course this man himself.

It’s pretty hard to top the achievements of the last five years and Kiki admits that helps to make it the right time to stop. “I’ve done what I set out to do, what I wanted to achieve,” he says. “I have a daughter and a lot of business commitments, I’ve given racing all my time for the last five years and there are many more things I want to do with my life.”

His journey in the cockpit actually started back in 1991 in Formula Ford at Donington Park, as far removed a setting from the warmth and comfort of Thailand that you could get. He started getting wins and the podiums under his belt in the UK and moved onto saloon cars.

It was in 1997 though that Kiki embarked on a career change that would cement his place in Thai urban folklaw as he began drifting – it was like a duck taking to water and he remembers fondly some of the biggest highlights of his racing career. “I started drifting at the big tuning events, the Birmingham Motor Show and the Max Power Show at the NEC [in the UK], at shows in Ireland and the Motorsport Show at Hockenheim,” he says. “That was between 2000 and 2005 and I drifted in almost every country in Europe, it was great to bring drifting to the shows and to the fans.”

He even represented Thailand during the ‘Race of Champions’ when it came to Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium in 2012. This is what redbull.com, who described him as the ‘Guru of Drift’ after seeing him in action, said at the time: “We were immediately impressed not just by his love of drifting his Toyota GT86, but also his disregard for the rules!” Never a truer statement, he defined his drifting in his own showman style.

While chasing racing glory around the world, Kiki never forgot to keep close to the Thai fans and was always a regular face in Super Car. During the TSS era he will be fondly remembered for racing a Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 and Porsche 997 GT3-R in Super Car Class 1 as well as for electrifying the crowds with the Krating Daeng Drift Team.

Now we are about to come full circle. Next weekend in Bangsaen when the sun starts to drop towards the glittering ocean and the late afternoon shadows begin to lengthen it means only one thing – the ‘drift show’ is about to begin. It’s the main attraction and the fans cling to every available vantage point to get a better view as the squealing of tyres signals that the gladiators have arrived. It ends in clouds of smoke drifting across the ocean’s waters and into the sunset. Now the greatest drifting gladiator is about to enter the ring once more and there isn’t going to be a dry eye in the house.

Kiki promises a special show on a track he loves. “Bangsaen is one of the greatest places to be,” he says “In my heart there are only two places I want to race, Bangsaen and the Nordschleife; in Bangsaen I love everything, I love the track, I love the atmosphere, I love the food, I love the fans and I love the hospitality, I really love the place. Khun Sontaya Kunplome has done so much for Thai motorsport, given so much, so it’s great to drift in Bangsaen. But now it’s time for a new generation to do my job, to show what they can do.

“The track is something special, it’s difficult and it changes, you need twenty different settings in one lap,” he says, while promising to put on a real show. “I want the spectators to enjoy it, I promise a hardcore drift show that everyone will remember and this time I will have a spare car with me; usually I don’t have a spare but I will be able to put on a hardcore show. I will also have a lucky draw for our team’s fans to sit alongside me.”

TSS is clearly as excited as everyone else to see Kiki back in action in Bangsaen but we will deeply miss him. He’s given so much to the sport and offered so much support for the series so we wish him well for the future and now look forward to the grand finale.

Porsche’s Cayman set for Thai racing debut

When Porsche introduced its first generation Cayman sportscar in 2006 the company promised that it would never hit the racetrack with factory support. That all changed a little over a year ago when the covers were yanked off the ‘Cayman GT4 Clubsport’ a track day special which has now spawned the Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR, a pukka racing version designed to win in the FIA GT4 category.img_0153

Now the Cayman becomes another ‘first’ for Thai motorsport as when it hits the streets of Bangsaen next week it will be the first ever representative of this popular model line to competitively take to a racetrack in Thailand. It will also be one of just three FIA GT4 machine on the GTC grid in Bangsaen as Vattana Motorsport will enter its brace of KTM X-Bow cars for Jack Lemvard and Narasak Ittritpong as usual.

The GT4 Clubsport is a serious trackday weapon that kicks out 385 hp from its 3.8-litre dry-sump flat-six engine which chucks away the standard model’s 6-speed manual transmission in favour of Porsche’s PKD unit, operated via paddles. The suspension struts are lifted from the 911 GT3 meaning it’s a handling charm on the race track and the capability is reinforced by the addition of 15-inch vented brake discs at the front and rear with hefty 6-pot calipers up front, all of which are squeezed inside thumping big 18-inch forged alloy wheels.

Before heading for Thailand this car was shipped to Manthey Racing in Germany to be upgraded to full race safety specification, which included fitting an FIA homologated fuel cell, automatic plumbed in fire extinguisher system and a Recaro racing seat.

The driver, Charvanin Bunditkitsada, meanwhile, will be making a welcome return to the TSS programme having previously raced an Elise in the Lotus Cup Thailand from 2011-2013. So why did he choose the Cayman and to make the step up to Super Car GTC? He says that it was a logical choice. “Because it is the mid-engine car and easier to control than 911,” Charvanin explains. “The GTC class is more for the non-professional drivers and I would like to race as a hobby [while] GT3 and GTM are too fast for busy man like me.”

Last week he enjoyed a shakedown test in the car at Bira Circuit as he starts to get back into the racing groove and acclimatise himself with the brand new machine and he believes that picking this option is right for him.

He’s was especially pleased with how the Cayman GT4 handled around Bira, which should translate well to the Bangsaen Street Circuit. “The suspension was superb, [it] feels like you are driving a go kart,” he notes. “Predictable and very accurate.”

‘TA2’ rocks Bira Circuit during impressive shakedown

The buzz surrounding ‘TA2 Thailand’ is growing fast as the countdown to the first car’s official Thai public debut at the Bangsaen Grand Prix enters its final few days. That countdown really wound up a couple of days ago (Tuesday) as the brand new machine, still in ex-factory ‘body in white’, was given a shakedown at Bira Circuit – and it immediately impressed onlookers.

The first TA2 car is a Ford Mustang (there are in fact three bodyshape options available for this ‘one make’ series) and it only arrived in Thailand a week and a half ago. It’s undergone some key changes for this market – just as TA2 (which is short for ‘TransAm 2’) has been tweaked for different global markets.

That means the Mustang has undergone upgrades and the shakedown wasn’t just about turning wheels and systems checks but also to run through and bed in the specific developments for this market. “We’ve come to Bira today to give the car its first shakedown in Thailand,” veteran Super Car driver Craig Corliss, who has driven the birth of TA2 Thailand, explained during the shakedown test. “The car is manufactured in the USA and the quality, workmanship and finish is very high, however we elected to upgrade the car in a few ways to make it more driver friendly, especially for the amateur driver, to avoid damage to the gearbox and engines.”

That’s meant the introduction of some specific components, as Craig explains. “From the factory finished car we have put in a 6-speed sequential gearbox with paddleshift controls, put in the M150 full MoTeC, and we have a Ford 9-inch Detroit locking diff with Traction Control so the car will be very easy to drive.

That builds on a factory package that’s based around a safety focused spaceframe chassis featuring a 6.2-litre GM V8 engine producing 525 hp. The TA2 weighs in at around 1170 kg. “The car is very powerful we’re making some very good power and extremely good torque and the initial test drive today has been very successful although we’re currently running around 60% power,” said Craig. “Even at 60% power the car is very strong, travels well on the track, tyres are good so we’re very happy with the first shakedown.”

Cockpit duties for the shakedown were undertaken by TSS Vice President Preeda Tantemsapya, an experienced racer who was able to accurately assess the new racecar as TA2 Thailand will come under the TSS umbrella. He was highly impressed after his first runs although he had never driven a car of this type before. “It’s very good, a superb racecar,” said Preeda after the test. “But it’s not really to my surprise that it drives this well considering all the equipment and gadgets that are in the car which is using all top brand name equipment. Bangs for bucks wise this is one of the most interesting cars to drive, the looks, the feel, the precision on the corners.”

Most notably the Ford Mustang TA2 comes with ‘American style’ 15-inch rims and big slick tyres which presents a new dynamic, however Preeda said that this setup suited the car well. “Surprisingly with only 15-inch rims the brake is very powerful and responds well and in the corner although the tyre wall is very thick, the tyre manufacturer did a very good job,” he said. “It’s my first time driving in a car with such small radius rims and big tyres, they’re 280 mm, the sidewall being that thick I thought they wouldn’t be so good into the corners but it proved me wrong.”

It has a real bite to match its potent looks, Preeda says. “Coming onto the main straight I was going slowly and revved to 6,000 rpm but I could have gone to 500 more and the top speed although I braked very early is already 207 [km/h] so it won’t surprise me with a good entry on the straight you can almost hit 230.”

With the shakedown successfully completed next stop is the Bangsaen GP. “Our plan is to launch the car at Bangsaen next Monday (20 Feb) and Khun Sontaya Kunplome will be the first person to ceremonially start the engine for the public,” says Craig. “Then the car will be racing at Bangsaen with a professional driver from the USA to really be in a position to show the car off and what it really can do.”

After that the buildup to the full TA2 Thailand series begins. “The car will be for sale after Bangsaen,” Craig reveals. “We currently have one Mustang here and we have a [Chevrolet] Camaro on the way, a [Dodge] Challenger and another Mustang and then we will be taking orders for two-month delivery time from ordering.

“It’s very exciting for Thai motorsport, we’re looking to get thirty cars on the grid,” adds Craig. “We’re looking forward to seeing very close and exciting racing because it’s a one make race and we control the parts so it will come down to the driver and the crew’s setup because we have 2-way adjustable Penske shocks so there’s a few things they can do. I think the public will like it and the drivers even more.”

Preeda concurs that this is the polished article and will inject a new dynamic into TSS. “Overall it’s a top class racecar finish, easy to maintain and at a very acceptable price for the spare parts, it’s not a car that you have many things to do to it,” he says. “I think this is another proof of what we try to offer to Thai motorsport in the near future. It offers good value, uses pump gas and has plenty of torque.”

TSS joins Bira 30th Anniversary Celebrations

TSS was very pleased to play its part in the official celebrations of the 30th anniversary of Bira International Circuit, which took place a little earlier this month. The event had been originally planned for last October but was then rescheduled due to the national period of mourning.

In a dedicated garage that was decked out to preview the upcoming Bangsaen Grand Prix we presented three very different racecars that each perfectly typified TSS.

The first was a striking FIA GT3 category Porsche 997 GT3-R which will seen in action as the Bangsaen Grand Prix next week in the hands of TSS President Sontaya Kunplome, the German sportscar missile now resplendent in a striking black and white wrap.

Then there was a SEAT Léon TCR, which is competing in the inaugural season of TCR Thailand, representing the newest category on the TSS programme which is proving exciting, affordable and rapidly growing in popularity, just as it is all around the world.

Finally, our mantra is to be able to successfully cover all the motorsport bases and in particular to help people get a foot onto the racing ladder, so it was the perfect time to display an example of the robust fleet of Honda Jazz racecars that comprise the very capable ‘learner level’ machines used by the grassroots aimed TSS Racing Academy (TRA).

O’Young aims to extend winning streak

B-Quik Racing is beefing up its driver lineup for the 10th Anniversary Bangsaen Grand Prix next week, bring in Darryl O’Young to drive the team’s venerable Porsche 997 GT3 Cup for his third shot at the prestigious street race, making it a three strong entry into Super Car GTM as the Hong Kong driver will be running alongside the Audi R8 LMS Cup machines of regulars Henk J. Kiks and Daniel Bilski.

Darryl is an obvious choice to step into the Porsche that’s been driven so far this season by New Zealander Shaun Varney. Darryl has a perfect record at Bangsaen. His first time on the streets of the fishing port was during the 2014 edition and he won both Super Car GTM races at his first time of asking. For 2015 there were a trio of GTM races squeezed into the programme and Darryl proceeded to bag all three wins.

It means he will arrive in Bangsaen next week for the delayed and rescheduled 2016 event having won five races out of five so far and certainly with three more races to come he will no doubt be looking to make it an unprecedented eight wins in a row.

He’s certainly raring for the fight. “I’m really excited to return to the Bangsaen Grand Prix for the third year in a row with B-Quik Racing,” says Darryl. “The team have given me a perfect car the last two years and we achieved five consecutive pole positions and wins, so the aim for the team is clear to try and extend that streak. The Porsche – Michelin – B-Quik package has proven perfect on the streets of Bangsaen, but the competition is strong and I expect this year to be the most challenging of all.”

However, the competitive bar has gone up again this year while the ageing Porsche 997 GT3 Cup continues to standstill so it’s going to be tough to keep the run going. Last year on his way to a hat trick of wins he was pushed very hard, in particular by the Ferraris of Voravud Bhirombhakdi and Kantasak Kusiri.

An exemplary racing career underpins his bid. Most recently Darryl was the GT Asia Series Drivers’ champion, in 2015, while he’s also a previous double Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Champion (2005 and 2008). Big race highlights include wins in the Bathurst 12 Hour, Sepang 12 Hour and Macau GT Cup, while he’s also finished P2 in class at both the Le Mans 24 Hours and Daytona 24 Hours as well as racking up three seasons in the FIA World Touring Car Championship and one in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Darryl reckons that they are ready to give it a shot at glory, while he’s also looking forward to checking out the revised track. “We have worked hard to be well prepared for the race and I have full confidence in B-Quik to give me a great car again,” he adds. “Thanks to Henk and the entire B-Quik team for the opportunity to race in the Thailand Super Series again and I expect great things with the upgraded street circuit.”

Source. Edd Ellison

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