Championship challenger Sean Walkinshaw returns to race action at Chang International Circuit in Thailand this coming weekend, 7th/8th October, where the Super GT season reaches a crucial stage during the penultimate event of 2017.
Oxfordshire driver Walkinshaw, who has been mightily impressive in his first season in one of the most competitive and high-profile endurance racing categories on the globe, makes his first ever visit to Thailand with a positive mindset as he seeks a deserved return to the GT300 podium.
Going into the seventh round of the eight-race season, Walkinshaw and rapid Japanese team-mate Shinichi Takagi are fifth in the championship standings but tied on points for fourth place. Just four points shy of the coveted top three, they are also only 14 points away from the GT300 lead.
Ahead of Sunday’s big race in Buriram, the Autobacs Racing Team Aguri pairing are determined to hit back from a very frustrating, and highly disappointing, enforced retirement from the previous round at Suzuka in Japan where contact from a rival early in the race – when Takagi was running inside the top 10 – pitched the No.55 BMW into the barriers and caused heavy damage.
Costing the duo their place in the championship top three, achieved after claiming a fabulous first GT300 victory in round five at Fuji Speedway, both Walkinshaw and Takagi are focused on regaining the lost ground in the title race as Super GT prepares for its only race outside Japan this season.
During the corresponding fixture last year, when Takagi was partnered by Takashi Kobayashi, the ARTA BMW M6 GT3 secured a podium finish in Thailand so a repeat performance, at least, is very much the target as the season enters its pivotal final stage.
“I really am looking forward to racing at Chang International Circuit for the first time and it’s great to be back in Super GT action with the ARTA guys after a few weeks back home in the UK”, commented Chipping Norton-based Walkinshaw, “Everyone is ready to go and we’re so determined to hit back after the disappointment from Suzuka.
“Our BMW was strong during the Thai race last year, so I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel and get to grips with the track as quickly as possible. We’ve obviously slipped a few points back in the championship, but we’re still in there with a fighting chance so we’ll give it all we’ve got over the last two rounds – starting this weekend with a big push for the podium.”
Starting out his first year in Super GT and the Far East with a top five result at Okayama in Japan during round one, an unfortunate penalty in round two at Fuji scuppered points-scoring hopes but Walkinshaw and Takagi responded in style in round three at Autopolis with their maiden podium.
Retirement from a rain-hit round four at Sugo, when Takagi was barged out of the race midway through, impacted their championship placing but the memorable, and dominant, victory on the return to Fuji in August reignited the GT300 title bid.
Following practice and qualifying at Chang International Circuit on Saturday, 7th October, round seven of the Super GT season will take place on Sunday, 8th October.
2017 Super GT – GT300 Driver Standings (after Rd6)
5th Sean Walkinshaw & Shinichi Takagi, 38pts
2017 Super GT – GT300 Team Standings (after Rd6)
6th Autobacs Racing Team Aguri, 47pts
Source. Marc Orme/Photo. Autobacs Racing Team Aguri