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Apr 25, 2014 - 04:48 PM
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Podium For Pasin On British GT Debut
Posted by: newsla on Apr 25, 2014 - 04:40 PM
Sports Cars
Podium For Pasin On British GT Debut


As the crowds streamed out of Oulton Park late on Monday afternoon at the conclusion of both the first round of the 2014 British GT Championship and the long Easter Bank Holiday weekend, it really had turned into just about best possible start to the season that Pasin could have asked for – two races, two strong finishes, and with both bringing big helpings of championship points.

 

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A gritty drive to second place in the opening 1-hour GT race signalled a trip to the winners’ podium at the end of his very first British GT race for the Thai youngster and his experienced new teammate Richard Lyons. The AF Corse drivers’ followed that up by netting a solid and hard fought sixth place in the final race.

Targeting points finishes for his first race weekend in this series and his first at the historic Cheshire race track, as well as the first time driving alongside Richard, the two results exceeded expectations. While it lifts some pressure off the youngster, Pasin was quick to note that he has an awful lot of hard work ahead if he is to establish himself in the British GT Championship – which certainly lived up to its competitive billing during the first races of the season.

And that hard work will continue very quickly, Pasin, Richard and the AF Corse team, will head to Rockingham Motor Speedway in just a week and a half’s time for round 2 of the series – and that’s another new track for the Thai pilot to learn from scratch.

PRACTICE & QUALIFYING

It turned out to be a very positive start to the weekend for the #29 AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3 driven this season by Pasin and Richard. The holiday weekend action at Oulton Park was split over two days, practice and qualifying was held last Saturday with the two 1-hour races taking place on Monday following a break of a day.

For the first day’s programme, there were two Free Practice sessions scheduled for the morning before the two qualifying runs took place late afternoon. For Pasin the practice time would be invaluable as he worked to learn this circuit.

In FP1 the #29 car completed 26 laps split between the two drivers, with a best time of 1:35.746; that was an impressive third fastest, getting the crew, working together at a race weekend for the first time, off to a very positive start.

Pasin and Richard added a further (combined) 24 more laps in FP2 and put in a best time of 1:36.488; but with heavy traffic on this small and narrow track, setting any optimum times and finding clear space over the weekend was always going to be tricky to pull out. The duo were also on old tyres for both FP sessions as the target was setup work and for Pasin to get competitive laps in, so the times for the pair – as well as their rivals, it must be added – weren’t really that representative.

The two FP sessions set the drivers up very well though for qualifying and Pasin had driving duties for the first of the two short and sharp 15-minute duration sessions. Q1 turned out excellent for the youngster; his best time mid-session was a 1:36.960, which was good enough for P4 when the clocks stopped. He had completed 6 timed laps during the session. It was a very strong result, 0.813 seconds off the Q1 pole time against drivers who know this track very well, although Pasin reported heavy traffic afterwards and was sure he could have improved his times if he could have found meaningful space.

Richard, who also encountered much traffic as he turned in his qualifying runs, backed that pace up with a best time of 1:35.347 in Q2, which immediately followed the Q1 session. That was 1.303 seconds off pole and gave him a robust P9. He also completed 6 timed laps.

It meant that the #29 Ferrari would start Race 1 from the second row and Race 2 from the fifth row, excellent grid positions considering this was Pasin’s first time racing here and Richard was returning after a long spell in Asia, in fact it’s 15 years since the Northern Irishman had raced at Oulton Park and that was in a single-seater. Although the races were to come, it did demonstrate clearly that the car and team were all in decent shape and for the Thai youngster to be able to bang in competitive times helped to ease the pressure he is now under stepping up to this new level.

Pasin Lathouras: “We both got new tyres for qualifying and due to the fact that the track is very small and there are so many cars, we tried to be the first to leave the track to get free space. Richard managed to do that for his qualifying but I was stuck in fourth. The cars in front of me were fast also so I just had to back off and leave some space. I managed to get three clean laps before I caught up to the cars in front and then I spent two laps trying to slow down to build a gap and do one more timed lap but couldn’t. Richard then went out [in Q2] and he managed to find a gap for one lap but when he was about to do his second fast lap he caught up to the Aston Martin which was slowing down to create a gap for himself so Richard couldn’t get a clean lap. This happened a couple times so Richard couldn’t improve his time any further.”

RACE 1 & 2

It was certainly an exciting start to Pasin’s ambitious new career chapter in the 2014 British GT Championship. The action on the track was highly competitive and close fought without any pauses for a breather, just as the reputation this series has built up in recent years had suggested would be the case beforehand.

Pasin and his new teammate were locked in the thick of the action from the green lights to the chequered flag in each of the two 1-hour races while the appearance of the Safety Car, deployed during both races, ended up adding plenty of confusion to the mix.

With a professional teammate and an equally proficient team, Pasin was under pressure right from the start of the weekend. But the Thai pilot drove superbly, in Race 1 he defended his Row 2 starting slot at the rolling start on a track he is unfamiliar with and soaked up pressure from the chasing cars to hand over to Richard at mid-distance following slick pitwork from both drivers and crew and with the #29 car well positioned to nab a podium finish.

And after 1 hour and 28.768 seconds and 35 laps of racing Richard gunned the Ferrari 458 GT3 across the finishline to claim a superb second place with Pasin, who had driven the first half of the race, willing him over the line from the pitwall. They had in fact finished just 3.561 seconds off the race-winning Aston Martin.

Race 2 was equally as exciting – and not just for the drivers and teams but the massive crowds that poured into the Cheshire circuit for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend track action; that was despite the temperatures only rising into the mid-teens centigrade in the afternoons and it being pretty chilly in the early mornings. In fact the British GT Championship put on a real show for the spectators with plenty of action-packed support races as well as parades for classic cars and supercars being amongst the many highlights.

There was also a big media presence in the paddock while both races were shown, delayed, across several major satellite TV channels as well as by UK national terrestrial broadcaster, Channel 4.

With the Safety Car deployed again during Race 2, strategy came to the fore once more and fast pitwork helped the #29 car, which had started the race from P9, to keep in the thick of the action – and vitally to avoid getting into any trouble on this short, narrow and tricky track. When the chequered flag was waved after 1 hour and 16.763 seconds and 32 laps of racing, Pasin and Richard had nailed down sixth place to give them a superb double points finish.

With Race 1 netting 18 points for their second place and a further 8 points coming Pasin’s way in Race 2, the youngster now has amassed 25 points – and he’s right in the ballpark as the championship leader is on 31 points, just 5 points clear.

Pasin Lathouras: “Both races had Safety Cars in them and that caused a lot of confusion. It seemed like I was often under pressure from the car behind me for both races, so I had to watch my mirrors, and after the driver change in the second race I was stuck behind the Safety Car for couple of laps. But other than that I think it was a good result for the first race of the season. Richard did a superb job in both races, he’s a very good teammate to have, and the team also did fantastic job, we were always one of the fastest in the driver changeovers. So I’m very happy with the start we have made, getting on the podium wasn’t what we were expecting, and now I’m looking forward to the next round which is coming up quite quickly although it’s a track I have never seen before so I will have to work hard from the first practice session.”

The next round of the 2014 British GT Championship takes place at the Rockingham Motor Speedway in Northamptonshire in a week and a half’s time (May 4-5).


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