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THAILAND SUPER SERIES: EIGHT TIMES NOT OUT IN BANGSAEN

The sun has set on the 10th Anniversary edition of the Bangsaen Grand Prix and as ever Thailand’s headlining annual motorsport event lived up to all the expectations with a weekend of action packed racing that kept the crowds on their feet from dawn to dusk.img_3031

As ever the growling beasts of Super Car GTM headlined Thailand Super Series’ (TSS) beachside racing extravaganza and it didn’t disappoint one bit as all three races provided non-stop bumper-to-bumper racing, plenty of passing and lots of dramas, thrills and spills right from when the lights turned green to when the chequered flags waved.

At the front it was all about one man – Darryl O’Young. He came into this year’s event with five poles and five wins from the last five races here (two in 2014 and three in 2015) to his name with the aim to racking that tally up to eight poles and eight wins and extend his record run. No easy task as for the third year in a row he was driving a Porsche 997 GT3 Cup, a now veteran racecar that no longer squeezes its way onto the Super Car GTM overall podiums; in fact no PRO-AM class drivers choose the ‘997’ anymore in their quests for glory. This particular car was also scheduled to be retired by B-Quik Racing after Bangsaen after one final outing.

In qualifying Darryl cleaned up to start the weekend with the record of eight pole positions already locked down. And then from a hot and dry Friday afternoon through to an equally hot and dry Sunday afternoon, Darryl quite simply hogged the top step of the podium in all three races to make it eight wins in a row, a record that has never been seen before in the decade long history of the event.

Darryl did have a little luck in the first race after an incident unsighted race leading Saran Sereethoranakul in the Lamborghini Huracán LP-620 Super Trofeo who had burst into the lead at the start after the polesitter was caught out at the green lights but the Hong Kong driver was able to capitalise on that mid race drama to retake a lead he wouldn’t relinquish. During final two races though he controlled the pace from the front to make it three out of three.

Not only all that, but with the removal of the temporary chicane for this year along with further track widening and remodelling work, the Bangsaen Street Circuit got even quicker and Darryl posted a new record in qualifying – a staggering lap in 1:36.867 – to become the fastest man to ever go around Bangsaen.

Sarun’s second place in the first race – and the maximum championship points it brought with it – put the 2016 Super Car GTM Drivers’ title to bed and the Lamborghini driver emerged on Friday evening as a richly deserved champion having not put a foot wrong all season. Another Thai racing titan has been confirmed and certainly expect his career to continue on an upward trajectory – he will start as the favourite for the 2017 championship.

Meanwhile Paul Kanjanapas claimed the inaugural Super Car GTM Amateur (AM) class title after three polished races where he careful managed his points advantage coming into the weekend, applied the pressure and tussled with his teammate Naputt Assakul through the trio of races, the latter being rewarded by bagging the runners up spot. Meanwhile Thamrong Mahadumrongkul won all three AM races and not just that feat, he mixed it in with the PRO-AM runners, a superb performance from the Ferrari driver who had a great weekend.

Super Car GTM Race 1 Friday (Race 7 of the year)

The first race of the weekend kicked off into the fading light of Friday afternoon with the car’s lights dazzling in the lengthening shadows. Darryl O’Young came into the event with his perfect score of five wins and five poles out of five. On Thursday he got the P1 part of the job done to make it eight in a row, but the races would prove a much tougher prospect as he attempted to keep his run going, especially with two of the sensational Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeos on the grid here. And they looked really at home with the white #55 Huracán of championship leader Sarun Sereethoranakul lining up next to Darryl’s Porsche while the debuting #78 Huracán of Suttiluck Buncharoen was right behind in Row 2. Splitting the two Raging Bull machines was the Ferrari 458 Challenge of Voravud Bhirombhakdi.

Fears that the Lamborghini’s power would prove the deal breaker when the lights went green proved to be well founded as Sarun used the powerful V10’s grunt surge ahead into first place while Darryl was caught napping by the early green light as the snarling pack hard braked for Turn 2. Up into the mountain section for the first time it was Sarun, Darryl and Suttiluck follow by the other Singha Motorsport Team Thailand Ferrari of Kantasak Kusiri, the Porsche 991 GT3 Cup of Pitsanu Sirimongkolkasem, then Voravud, the B-Quik Audi R8 LMS Cup of Daniel Bilski and the A Motorsport Porsche 991 GT3 Cup of Aekarat Discharoen, the factory Toyota 86 of Nattavude Charoensukhawatana and the debuting Porsche 991 GT3 Cup of Tanart Sathienthirakul.

Over the course of the opening laps Sarun looked very comfortable up front, he quickly pulled out a couple of seconds advantage before Darryl started to come back into the picture, first stabilising the deficit and then starting to chip away. But the white Huracán looked to be in control at the head of the pack and it started to look as if it was going to be six wins from eight races this year for Sarun and he also chased the final championship he points required to put the title beyond mathematics.

Darryl was in fact locked in a Lamborghini sandwich as Suttiluck was looking sharp and pacey on his debut in the brand new black Huracán, having moved up to P3 and was now managing the position. Early battles included Pitsanu locked into the middle of a Ferrari sandwich as fourth to sixth dropped back off the leading group and Kantasak tried to find a way past the gold #90 Porsche in front while a little further back Aekarat snapped at Daniel’s heels.

The AM class was providing some real action too; while Thamrong Mahadumrongkul was leading, had mixed himself up in the tail end of the PRO-AM running order and was fending off the attentions of the Nattapong Horthongkum (Toyota 86) and Craig Corliss (Holden Commodore), the fight for second place in AM was ferocious as four Porsche runners got stuck into each other right from the green lights. Nattapong and Craig would take their battle past Thamrong after six laps, Daniel would eventually break free of Aerakat’s attentions and bridge the gap to Kantasak, while the rest of the race started to settle down.

With 13 laps to go Henk J. Kiks in the #26 Audi suffered a puncture coming out of the roundabout section and had to trundle back to the pits where he would retire as the tyre’s innards had wrapped themselves tightly around the drivetrain.

Then, just as the race approached half distance everything sensationally changed at the front. On the ninth lap Sarun came across the stranded Porsche 997 of Pinet Piyaoui that had spun and was sitting in the middle of the track leaking fluids. With double yellows waving the Lamborghini driver had no choice but to slow rapidly as he came round the turn and across the stricken car, while Darryl behind saw room and gunned the #14 Porsche round the inside and powered into the lead. Suttiluck held the line, went to the outside and squeezed himself between the barriers and the white Porsche, clipping the rear corner as he went past, but he was through and into second place. The rest of the pace slowed to a standstill as Sarun from his tight angle slowly manoeuvred the Lamborghini around the outside of the stricken Porsche.

As the cars edged their way past the incident the Safety Car was deployed. The spread out pack formed up behind the Safety Car which then halted the cars in the approach to the S2 Bangsaen Hotel Hairpin as there wasn’t room for the cars to pass. The order was Darryl, Suttiluck, Sarun, Voravud, Pitsanu, Kantasak, Daniel, Nattavude and the rest. It was almost five minutes before the cars moved off again, although the race immediately lost one more runner as Nattavude cut straight into the pits with an overheating car and retired.

After trundling along behind the Safety Car for a couple more laps the race resumed with five laps remaining and Darryl was able to lead the pack away cleanly while behind him Suttiluck had to look in his mirrors to fend off Sarun. The Hong Kong driver was clean away this time and able to maintain a comfortable lead to the line, taking the chequered flag with just under two seconds in hand.

“It was great to get the win,” Darryl said afterwards. “I was pushed very hard at the start and Sarun passed me. Early on I couldn’t stay with him as my tyres weren’t up yet but after my tyres got going I started to reel him in maybe half a second or a few tenths a lap. Then all of a sudden there were yellow flags and an incident and at the last second I saw Sarun was stopped and I saw a gap and went for it and got through the gap safely and that put me back in the lead.

“From there the second half of the race all changed, the car felt great, the tyres were running really well and I was able to control the race, control the pace to the chequered flag,” the winner continued. “So a big thanks to B-Quik again for giving me such a great car and getting six wins in a row and we will try to go for seven in a row tomorrow.”

Sarun pressurised Suttiluck over the final laps crossing the line with just six tenths separating the two Lamborghinis, but the former would then be slapped with a 60 second penalty for his passing of Pinet’s Porsche mid race and would drop down to last place.

Sarun moved up to second place and the maximum points he scored, his six maximum points haul from eight races this season, gave him the final handful he required to finally put the mathematics to bed and seal the Drivers’ title. “I’m very happy because since last year we work very hard and try to give everything,” he said afterwards. “The new car, the Huracán Super Trofeo has worked very well and we won the championship and I’m really happy.”

It was a richly deserved title; Sarun has really developed step by step as a circuit racing driver since his switch from drifting three years ago and he has built up an excellent team behind him, led by Team Manager Somboon Kittitanagorn, that turns out a car that’s bang on the pace, reliable and ‘ready to race’. After two years learning his trade the final piece in the jigsaw arrived at the start of the season with the acquisition of a Lamborghini Huracán LP620-2 Super Trofeo. The combination has been explosive and no one else has had a look in at the title. As the sun set on Friday night over the gently lapping waters of the Gulf of Thailand that combination had bagged six maximum points scored from the eight races so far – and despite two more races to come over the next couple of days – the title was home and dry.

Half a second adrift of Sarun’s Lamborghini came the Ferrari 458 Challenge of Voravud Bhirombhakdi, to claim third place. It was a superb drive from the 2014 Super Car GTM Champion who always goes very well at Bangsaen; he got the job done in qualifying, and got it done again in the race – along the way he also beat his high rated young teammate Kantasak Kusiri, who would finish sixth.

Fourth place went to Daniel Bilski, the Australian driving an excellent race on his first ever visit to Bangsaen and he was the big player over the final five lap sprint to the chequered flag after the restart as he first battled his way past Kantasak to move into fifth and then picked off Pitsanu to climb up to fourth, making light of his inexperience on these unique and technical streets.

The podium was completed by Pitsanu who had an excellent race, one of his best drives to date in the #90 Porsche 991 GT3 Cup, which he is wrapping up his second season driving.

Behind the second Singha Motorsport Team Thailand of Kantasak, came two more 991s, the #11 of Aekarat Discharoen in seventh and the debuting #15 example of Tanart Sathienthirakul, the young Thai driver, better known for racing single seaters abroad, making his TSS debut and putting in a neat and tidy afternoon’s work as he gets used to the characteristics of the rear engine Porsche. Nattapong Horthongkum in the sole surviving factory Toyota 86 (his teammate Nattavude Charoensukhawatana had dropped out on lap 12) and Craig Corliss in the Holden, wrapped up the top ten.

Then came the AM runners with Thamrong Mahadumrongkul nabbing the win in his Ferrari 458 Challenge, but behind them there was a race long scrap going on as once again the Painkiller Racing duo, Paul Kanjanapas and Naputt Assakul, traded places – and championship points – as the title is to be decided between them. Paul came into the weekend with an advantage he had to manage and he got the job done in qualifying and in the first race it was the same story. He worked hard and when the chequered flag came out he had added to his points tally. Aside from Nattavude, Henk and Pinet, the other retirement was Saravut Sereethoranakul who wasn’t classified.

Super Car GTM Race 2 Saturday (Race 9 of the year)

Saturday’s middle race of the weekend saw Darryl on pole again with Sarun alongside, a replay of the previous day. This time Suttiluck was third with Voravud next to him before Kantasak and Daniel locked out the third row. Then came Nattavude, Aekarat, Pitsanu and Nattapong.

There were to be no issues at the green lights for Darryl at the front as the pack surged away. Suttiluck took a hard look at Sarun into Turn 2 but the white Lamborghini had the place covered while Nattavude passed Daniel to claim sixth place as the factory Toyota showed much better pace than the day before and Tanart also got a great start to move up to eighth and close up on Daniel over the opening lap. Further back Thamrong led out the AM class and was mixing it up into the PRO-AM runners while the ‘gentlemen’ were already scrapping away.

Over the first half of the race the order stayed static as Darryl pulled away with the two Lamborghinis chasing him down while the two Ferraris stood station behind them. Nattavude was enjoying a strong race until he suffered transmission problems and the Toyota driver peeled off for a lengthy pitstop mid race while Tanart was trying to get past Daniel to no avail, on lap 10 he finally did though and Aekarat closed up on the black and yellow Audi as Tanat, now released, started to pull away. On the same lap Craig in the big green Holden had a spin at Turn 8 but kept it out of the barriers and recovered the car although it cost him places. Nattavude, who had re-joined, then slowed up and retired on the eleventh lap with a broken final drive.

With five laps to go the top end running order got a real shakeup, firstly after Voravud spun coming out of the S2 Bangsaen Hotel hairpin swinging across the track to whack the outside barriers with both ends of the revolving Ferrari. Following in his wake, Kantasak had to slam on the brakes hard to avoid hitting his teammate and while he was caught up behind the #89 car Tanart was able to close the gap down and get alongside as the #34 Ferrari got back on the power down the main straight. However, Kantasak was able to keep Tanart behind him as the pair surged into Turn 2 and the danger was averted.

Further up the track even more drama was playing out as the Lamborghinis made contact as Suttiluck clunked Sarun. The white Huracán picked up a left hand rear puncture and he trundled off the track and behind the overlaps at Turn 6; it was race over, while the black Huracán was now sporting right hand front bodywork damage that didn’t seem to slow progress.

There was time for one last bit of drama as into the closing laps Aekarat was pressurising Tanat hard for fourth place, the A Motorsport driver enjoying a spot of drifting through the S2 Bangsaen Hotel hairpin as his tyres struggled to keep up the pace. It would be to no avail as on the penultimate lap he slowed up out of Turn 2, parked up on the inside and his race was over with no reward after a hard charging afternoon.

At the front Darryl had matters well under control and he reeled off fast laps to give himself enough of an advantage even when he lost a second or so after running too deep at Turn 8 during the closing laps. Again the tyres played well for the 2015 GT Asia Series winner and he had 2.677 seconds in hand when the chequered flag waved after 31 minutes and 36 seconds of racing on another hot and dry afternoon at the seaside.

“I’m really happy with the race today, it went much smoother than yesterday,” Darryl said afterwards. “Obviously it was tough as the two Lamborghinis and Voravud in the Ferrari were really strong and applied a lot of pressure. The car ran really well, the Porsche is holding strong here, so hopefully we can get another result here tomorrow.” Indeed, the tally was now seven wins in a row with one remaining opportunity in just twenty-four hours’ time to make it eight on the trot.

Suttiluck clinched the runners up spot, an excellent result on his debut weekend in the car and demonstrating that this will be a car-driver combination that’s going to be one to really look out for next season in terms of bagging big hauls of championship points.

Third place went to Kantasak, this time the young driver was the first of the two Singha Motorsport Team Thailand entries home and the outgoing Super Car GTM champion also had the satisfaction of posting the fastest lap of the race in 1:38.259. Kantasak was also just 4.840 seconds off the race winner as the Ferraris continued to hang onto the heels of the two Lamborghinis.

A further eight seconds down the road came Tanat who was claimed his first ever TSS podium after a neat and tidy drive; he was able to capitalise on late race dramas to move into the rostrum positions.

Just under six seconds further back Pitsanu drove a very good race to claim the final podium position, adding to a similar finish the day before to keep the momentum of his productive weekend going nicely.

Sixth place went to Henk in the sole surviving B-Quik Audi as teammate Daniel had dropped out at mid distance. The Dutchman had another good race as he battled up the middle order and picked off positions.

Seventh went to Nattapong in the only Toyota running at the end as his teammate Nattavude had also retired at mid distance. The Toyotas had struggled all weekend but were showing better pace than the first race and Nattapong kept in the points positions, important as they looked to see off any late threats to third place in the Teams’ championship.

Eighth place went to Voravud who recovered after his late race incident and reached the line with a dislodged rear bumper to keep the #89 Ferrari in the points – vital for his ambitions to grab third place in the final championship classification.

Next up was the AM class battle which was as furious as ever; Thamrong was having an excellent weekend as he took his second win in twenty four hours and in fact it was an excellent afternoon as just an hour earlier he had fought his way through the pack to finish as runner up in Super 2000.

Second and third in AM went to the two squabbling Painkiller Racing Porsches of Naputt and Paul. The title chasing roles were reversed from the previous day as the pair continued to take the AM class title round down to the wire – the final race would decide the recipient of the inaugural crown. Paul was taking it slightly conservatively as he managed his advantage at the top of the classification, the gap overnight between the two was 16 points – the championship leader would just need to be classified tomorrow to wrap up the title, but absolutely anything can happen in Bangsaen. It still didn’t stop some good fights and position changes on the track.

The top three in AM were covered by less than five seconds as the new class continued to provide non-stop action and a real stepping stone for amateur drivers to get a foothold in Super Car GTM.

Then came Craig in the Holden who was having a quiet weekend; he was the first lapped runner. The final two cars home were the Porsche 997s of Pinet and Saravut. The former was recording his first finish on his return to GTM after spending most of the season on the sidelines, a trip to the podium for fourth in AM was a good reward, while Saravut locked down the final step in AM.

Super Car GTM Race 3 Sunday (Race 10 of the year)

For the final race it was – who else – Darryl who lined the black and yellow #14 Porsche up on pole position, his eighth consecutive P1 at Bangsaen. That part of the task he had already locked down during Thursday afternoon’s qualifying session, now he had 19 more laps of the 3.7 km circuit in which to turn his seven wins on the trot into eight and perform a clean sweep for the weekend. However he would start the last race on old tyres which would leave him at a disadvantage.

As usual his rivals weren’t going to make it easy and this time Voravud lined up next to him on the front row with Sarun and Kantasak locking out Row 2. Then it was Aekarat and Daniel on Row 3, Suttiluck and Tanart on Row 4, before Henk and Nattavude wrapped out the top ten on the grid. There was one nonstarter as the gold Porsche of Pitsanu was withdrawn.

There was a clean getaway at the green lights and Darryl led Voravud into Turn 2 and up the hill with Sarun, Kantasak, Aekarat, Daniel and Suttiluck tucked in right behind. The was a bit of door rubbing between the latter two as they went over the peak but everyone streamed through the mountain hairpin safely.

Over the early laps Voravud and Sarun kept the pressure firmly on Darryl while further back in the battle for eighth place Henk was having to fend off Nattavude and Tanat, the latter recovering after poor start.

However, the race would see its first big drama at one third distance as Suttiluck’s Lamborghini spun around and whacked the barriers coming down the mountain into Turn 5. Everyone went to the outside, however Tanart avoiding the Toyota locking up in front, also had to lock up and with no ABS on the 991 GT Cup he went wide and made contact with the barriers. Suttiluck made it back to the pits but with front and rear damage he wasn’t going any further in the race.

The Safety Car was called out and with ten laps remaining the race resumed, Voravud pushing Darryl hard at the restart and up to Turn 2 but the Porsche driver had it covered. The race resumed the pattern of the first half as Darryl, Voravud, Sarun and Kantasak tightly held the top four positions and with Aekarat and Daniel hanging onto them the top six was covered by just a few seconds – a superb demonstration of the equality of performance in Super Car GTM and a real treat for the fans who had swarmed into the grandstands all day.

A lap later Nattavude pitted with a broken steering rack on the #39 Toyota to retire and cap off an unrewarding weekend for one of our most decorated racing drivers.

Behind the top six Henk was charging hard and having cleared the other cars he was reeling in his teammate and with three laps left on the clock he had that gap down to a couple of seconds.

With two laps to go Darryl was backing the pack up and the top six was now almost nose to tail – something had to give with just under 8 kilometres of racing distance left! Through the roundabout section where the Porsche had always looked strong Darryl surged away, pulling out a second as the cars headed into the final lap.

There was to be just enough time for one final drama as Daniel clunked Aekarat and they both spun but recovered although they lost places. Henk however was hovering right behind them and needed no second invitation as he steamed through to grab the final podium slot.

Darryl led them across the line after 19 laps with the rest of the podium being made up of Voravud, Sarun, Kantasak and Henk. The winner was delighted – three wins out of three and eight wins in a row in Bangsaen, that was the target before the weekend and he got the job done. “It went really well today,” Darryl said afterwards. “The team prepared a great car. At the start I was able to get a good jump and keep the lead but Voravud and Sarun were driving really well and giving me lots of pressure and pushed me the whole race. I had to be really precise and not make any mistakes and then I had just opened up a four or five car length lead and the Safety Car came out and that kind of closed it all up again.

“In the last half of the race I struggled quite a lot with my tyres and brakes, they were old tyres and I think the guys behind had new tyres so they were able to be aggressive and push me a lot so I started making a few mistakes here and there as I was driving on the limit of the car but I managed to hold them off and take the win so I’m pretty happy,” Darryl continued. “So thanks to everyone at B-Quik and thanks to everyone in Thailand for making such a great race and I’m really pleased to make it eight wins in a row as a team we never thought we could do it but now to have eight wins is pretty awesome.” Pretty awesome indeed.

After a strong race and looking to be on course for the podium Aekarat in the end had to be content with sixth place while Nattapong and Craig were next up. In ninth place Thamrong led the Am class home to make it three wins for the weekend, but he had just 1.3 seconds over Naputt who proved a real revelation this weekend, setting PBs all along the way. Third in AM went to Paul, who managed the championship points situation to end the race with a 13-ppoint cushion in the title race over his teammate.

For Paul it was something of a defensive weekend as he focused on managing his points advantage and avoiding a DNF that would have seen his title slip away; he got the job done perfectly over the three races – as he has all year – and becomes the well-deserved first ever Super Car GTM AM champion having really raised his driving game this season. Saravut and Pinet claimed the final two positions on the AM podium, the latter requiring the A Motorsport mechanics’ to swiftly repair his car following the damage collected during Saturday’s race.

Super Car GTM: Final championship standings

In the final Super Car GTM PRO-AM Drivers’ championship standings Saran emerges clear at the top with 162 points, a massive 53 points clear of the 2015 GTM champion Kantasak Kusiri (109 points). Making it a Ferrari 2-3 in the Drivers’ classification is Voravud, the 2014 GTM champion, who finished on 87 points after a very strong weekend which included maximum points in the final race. Fourth goes to Daniel (82 points), the Australian having a mixed time in Bangsaen on his first ever visit here, then comes the double winner during the second visit to Buriram, Nattapong (80 points), Aekarat (61 points), Henk (56 points) and Nattavude (39 points), the Toyota driver finishing a very tough year with five consecutive DNFs. The top ten in the final PRO-AM classification is completed by Craig (37 points) and Pitsanu (33 points), the latter having missed three rounds this season.

In the AM Drivers’ final standings, it is Paul (146 points) who emerges on top after keeping his Painkiller Racing teammate Naputt Assakul (133 points) firmly at bay all season long. Third place goes to Super Car rookie Saravut (95 points) while in fourth and fifth positions come Thamrong (92 points) and Pinet (38 points). Both these latter two drivers missed half the races this season but both also visited the top step of the podium, four wins for the former and one for the latter. In fact, all the top five drivers in AM won at least one race during the season demonstrating just how even and well matched the class has proved in only its first year – it’s a very strong addition to Super Car GTM and a great stepping stone to the PRO-AM class.

In the Teams’ championship Singha Motorsport Team Thailand continued its grip on the trophy by collecting 196 points, putting the Ferrari squad clear of Racing Spirit PSC Motorsport with 170 points. Then comes Toyota Team Thailand (119 points), B-Quik Racing (78 points), A Motorsport Racing Team (63 points), Yokohama Kiwi Racing Team (34 points), GFPT, H-Drive (33 points), True Visions Motorsport Thailand (30 points) and Painkiller Racing Thailand (22 points).

Source. Edd Ellison

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