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Latest News From Thailand Super Series
Posted by: newsla on May 03, 2014 - 07:11 AM
Sports Cars
Latest News From Thailand Super Series


The dash for Sepang is now well and truly game on. A week today the opening races of Thailand Super Series 2014 will already have taken place, the early pacesetters will have identified themselves and those with a lot of work to accomplish will be well aware of their tasks. And a second set of races will await everyone the next day.

 

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But that is for seven days time. Now all the racecars and teams’ equipment is well on the way to Sepang. By shipping container or by car transporter, by sea or by road. Many cars have already arrived while the rest are now within sight of Malaysia.

That ‘rest’ comprised of a second phase of racecars that went south mid last week, the freighting organised by TSS. With a mix of car transporters and shipping containers, this batch comprised of mainly cars from Super 2000, Super 1500 and Super Production, with a trio of late finished Super Cars also joining in the mix.

Amongst the cars to have been in action at Sepang before the TSS season kicks off, we report on two this week - Khun Craig Corliss’ Holden Commodore VE which saw full race action last month and Khun Indharasak Techaterasiri who recently tested his new McLaren for the first time. The former will give his big ‘Australian V8’ another outing as delays have setback his new Mustang project while the latter is all set to bring one of the most exciting names in sportscar racing to TSS for the first time.

In Super 2000’s Class 1 keep and eye out for Khun Pitsanu Sirimonkolkasem, he’s switching to a Honda Civic FD this season and fireworks can be expected. Also in Super 2000 Class 1 and also choosing the FD route is Khun Pramoj Na Ayudhya; he’s stepping up his game further this year with an even faster and more powerful version of the Japanese sedan.

Elsewhere, the Rotary Revolution mechanics successfully completed a real race against time to finish their new Mazda RX-8 and it's now in a container and on its way. Meanwhile The Pizza Company is taking three racecars to Sepang, two running in Super 1500 and the other in Super Production.

Second wave of racecars heading south

After more than a dozen Super Cars headed off to Malaysia by sea a fortnight ago, last Wednesday the remaining cars were packed up to make the trip south. These racecars, primarily from Super 2000, Super 1500 and Super Production, were all loaded onto transporters at Soopanava Port in Samut Prakarn.

A few of the racecars also headed into containers for the journey and this included the two new Nissan GT-R R35s of the NSports-Yokohama-Project Mu Thailand team, the two dramatic machines fresh from a second day of testing at Bira Circuit last Sunday.

With a race against time to prepare the new GT-Rs, they were only ready to depart this week, so joining the ‘second wave’ was the logical choice. They will debut in Sepang, and while they clearly have a lot of promise, there will be much hard work for the team to undertake in Malaysia to start delivering all the potential.

The brand new Mazda RX-8 of Khun Pete Thongchua made it three Super Cars tucked within the ‘Phase 2’ convoy; this car was only completed the day before after a successful race against the clock by the Rotary Revolution mechanics.

Also tucked away in the row containers in the port were the two Parker Innovation Motorsport-run Mazda2 racers of Khun Pete Thongchua and Khun Michael Freeman. The Laem Chabang based team debuted these factory-supported cars in Super Production at the second TSS round last year following a later start to the project, so this is the first time that they are going to Sepang. For Khun Michael it will be his first time at this track too, although Khun Pete has plenty of circuit knowledge.

The Pizza Company MyPay Petronas team was numerically the strongest on the transporters, with three cars headed south, while also raised aloft were a quartet of Super 2000 Hondas, the two Singha Cosmo TT Motorsport Civic FDs of Khun Kittipol Pramoj Na Ayudhya and Khun Thamrong Mahadumrongkul, now finished in new colours, the Siam Gas Racing Kong DC5 of Khun Supachai Weeraborwornpong and another Civic FD, this time the brooding jet-black version of Khun Pitsanu Sirimonkolkasem.

Also lashed down on the double decks were a further four Super Production category racecars, the Honda Jazz’s of Khun Pasarit Phromsombat (RMI Racing Team by SUNOCO) and Khun Thanapol Pruttipong (OMP Vattana Motorsport) as well as the Ford Fiesta of reigning Super Production champion Khun Kajornsak Na Songkhla and the TBN MK I HERE Racing Team Toyota Vios of Khun Nattachak Hanjitkasem.

Another Super 1500 entry was the Race Factory Racing Team Honda Civic of Khun Vutha Jaisamran. The big sister of the TBN MK I HERE Racing Team, the Civic FD of Khun Wijak Lertprasetpakorn, was loaded into one of the containers.

With several additional containers being used exclusively to carry the parts and equipment for some of the teams, finally ‘Phase 2’ of the official TSS loading for Sepang was completed.

And as darkness rolled in over the Chao Phraya River the convoy of car transporters and container trucks headed for the highway and off on the 1,500 km journey south. Next stop for everyone is Sepang.

The Dark Knight

It’s tough at the top of Super 2000, real tough. Last year’s champion, Khun Tin Sritrai, raised the game by ditching his Honda S2000 and turning up with a state-of-the-art BMW E90. The mainstay car of this ‘touring car’ class, Honda’s Civic FD, took the battle to the new German machine, but in the end the mountain proved too much to climb and it all means that with the Tin/BMW combo back on the Super 2000 entry list again this season, it’s going to be a very fast - and now even more polished - package for everyone to try to beat.

Half a dozen Civic FD’s will represent the Japanese brand in Sepang next week and there will be a string of top drivers in these sedan cars, so judging who is going to shake out at the top of the ‘FD pack’ - and then if they can take the challenge to the BMW, as well as the three strong factory Toyota lineup, isn’t going to be an easy question to answer until the dust has settled a week on Sunday afternoon.

But if anyone can get his nose in front, it’s got to be the newest member of the ‘FD’ club - Khun Pitsanu Sirimonkolkasem. That he’s fast, really fast, isn’t in doubt. In fact it could be argued that circumstances beyond his control have held him back from claiming the top spot over the last few seasons and this could turn out to be the year when he really has the opportunity to get back up there and unleash all his potential.

To recap, Khun Pitsanu has enjoyed a very successful career to date, starting with winning the Vios One Make Race in 2008 and immediately following that up with the Yaris One Make Race title a year later. That put him straight into the ‘shop window’. A talent like that simply couldn’t be overlooked and he was quickly added to the Toyota factory line-up, immediately repaying the brand’s faith by winning the Super 1500 production title with a Yaris in 2009 and then bagging the runners up spot a year later.

That form saw Toyota elevating him to Super 2000 and for the last three years he’s been in the thick of the front running action driving the familiar #90 factory-run Altis. And again more success has come his way. Three seasons and three runners’ up spots; in 2012 it was an overall second place in the championship while last year he nabbed the vice-champions slot in Class B, beaten only by Khun Tin’s supreme BMW, and that was despite an agonising double DNF at the third round when his Altis was put straight out of action after being caught up in a massive Turn 1 mêlée.

Now Khun Pitsanu changes direction and he has a strong new mount under him, the Civic FD that Khun Chairat Sangtong has used to very good effect over the last couple of seasons, firstly winning the Super 2000 Class C title in 2012 and then battling amongst the top order last year. The car, which retains its familiar black and gold colours, has been upgraded over winter since changing hands and that has included key changes focused around incorporating a wider track and a new aero package.

"Khun [Chairat's] FD has proved that it’s reliable and competitive for the Super 2000 class," says Khun Pitsanu. "For this year we [have] upgraded the geometry of the stance [and] body parts; the brakes [and] other [parts] are still the same as last year."

This is a driver who is always out to win - but Khun Pitsanu’s unsure yet if his new package can take on the defending champion, although he will be giving his all. "I really don't know [if] it’s competitive enough to fight with BMW," says the 33 year old.

"Winning the races is my goal but we all know it's not going to be easy but I will do my best to be on the podium," Khun Pitsanu adds. Expect him to be on the podium in every race he finishes without issues occurring - and don’t be surprised if he grabs a win during the season. A driver who thinks, can manage a racecar’s deficiencies and read a race - means he should be consistently very well placed and his points tally should keep him in or close to the hunt all season. A ‘dark horse’ for 2014 as the motor racing expression goes.

Khun Pitsanu is also happy to be part of TSS, confirming that he wants to measure himself against the best drivers Thailand has to offer - and that’s why Super 2000 is a logical choice. "TSS is the biggest racing event in Thailand and all the best racing drivers participate," he notes. "I think the event has been proceeding on the right path and I am honoured to be a part of this championship."

Enter the McLaren

Certainly one of the most dramatic names on the Super Car Class 1-GTM entry list is McLaren’s MP4-12C GT3. The first of these English supercars to pitch up in TSS will be in the hands of Khun Indharasak Techaterasiri - and it arrives exactly two years after this driver debuted the first Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 in Super Car. The ‘Raging Bull’ machines have gone on to become grid fillers, so if history repeats itself expect to see more McLarens here in the future.

But for now, in Sepang, there will be just one. It’s a racecar that is clearly more than capable of winning and it's in the hands of an equally capable driver. Following his first test in McLaren’s GT3 level car, a full factory-run example at Silverstone last month, Khun Indharasak has already been back behind the wheel of one of the English sportscars, this time during a short test at Sepang, where he will make his McLaren debut during Race 1 & 2 of TSS 2014 in just a few days time.

Whereas the car he ran at Silverstone was a McLaren factory managed machine, the Sepang test car was the actual one he will race next week. So it was more than just a straightforward test, it was driver and machine coming together in unity. A new and exciting partnership is being born.

There is still work to do though until the 12C GT3 is in the shape Khun Indharasak wants it, as he explained after his Sepang runs. "I've just tested the car once and the car still has a problem with setup," he said. "Next week I want to test and setup."

That will see the 2012 Super Car N/A Champion making full use of the circuit organised test sessions just ahead of the start of the official TSS programme. "I should be okay on times but I don't have much time for setup," he added.

Making a car switch after two years racing Lamborghinis, Khun Indharasak is happy with his first taste of the McLaren and reckons this 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8-engined racecar has all the potential needed to win races in TSS. Certainly in major GT3 races across the world the McLaren has long since proved its winning capabilities. "If compared to the Gallardo the McLaren is faster but in the high speed corners it still needs setup, I can feel understeer," he says. "If [the car has a] good setup the car will get a good time."

It's been quite a short timeframe for this ambitious new project to come together and it's still not certain if factory engineers will be available to setup the car for him in Sepang. "AAI will support the service, but [I’m] not sure about a McLaren engineer coming yet, I wait to hear," he explains.

However, Khun Indharasak adds that if it’s not the case in Sepang, he will have a factory engineer for the second round at Bira Circuit in July. And so the historic home of Thai motorsport could turn out to be the venue to really see the full potential of the McLaren unleashed, right in front of the domestic racing fans.

Career progression

The business end of the Super 2000 grid is dominated by big budget outfits that are all spending big to win - and so it’s very hard for the privateer to compete and their level and to get in amongst them.

However it is possible to bite at the heels of the big boys and several fast privateers did exactly that last year. Amongst them was the Singha Cosmo TT Motorsport team, which stood out after a string of consistently high finishes helped them clinch the runners up spot in the Teams’ championship, beaten in the standings only by the mighty Toyota factory team.

The team’s two drivers, Khun Kittipol Pramoj Na Ayutthaya and Khun Thamrong Mahadumrongkul, will be back once more this year, again driving Honda’s ever popular Civic FD, but there will be one big twist as Khun Kittipol will step up to drive the well-proven Civic FD2 that belongs to Singha Motorsport Team Thailand. "Singha [through Khun Voravud Bhirombhakdi] needs a driver to drive his car in the Super 2000 series and I guess I'm qualified to take the driver's seat," Khun Kittipol explained.

He’s actually driven this particular car before. At Bangsaen last December an engine problem early on put his regular Civic FD out for the weekend and the Singha car was available. The substitute match proved good as, despite any testing or setup time, Khun Kittipol was able to power through to record two strong finishes. The story of this new union really started then, out on the streets of Bangsaen.

The Singha Civic FD should provide a decent step upwards for Khun Kittipol, who has come on as a driver very quickly over the last few seasons. [This Civic FD] is more powerful and better balanced," he admits. Close season upgrades will be limited to a few key tweaks through. "I swapped in my dog box gearbox to this car and it's got a new Motec unit," he notes.

Khun Kittipol and Singha Cosmo TT Motorsport have to start amongst the favourites for the Super 2000 Class B Drivers’ and Teams’ titles, but he’s quite circumspect on setting any targets for the team. "[We] will just do our best," he says. Whilst one of the more low-key and urbane drivers in the paddock, Khun Kittipol is however fast, skilled and ready for the fight - so he’s not one to be underestimated.

But, like was the case at Bangsaen, Khun Kittipol (and this time also his team mate, Khun Thamrong) will be on the back foot in Sepang as business commitments will keep them both away from the track for Thursday practice. Instead they will fly in just in time for Friday’s qualifying action. As the CEO of a major listed company here Khun Kittipol has a board meeting to slot in next week. It’s going to be a case of going from ‘boardroom’ to ‘cockpit’ in less than 24 hours.

Despite the lack of track time, Khun Kittipol is certainly looking forward to the two Super 2000 races in Malaysia. "[It] should be fun," he reckons. [It’s a] shame Luang and I won't be able to go earlier for the Thursday practice session, so [we] will have to go straight for the qualification session on Friday."

Holden set to start second season

One of the most exciting new racecars set to arrive TSS this year will be the Ford Mustang of Khun Craig Corliss. But with any project that’s being realised from the ground up, there are always delays. That’s also been the case here; so it means the New Zealander will be behind the wheel of the brutal Holden Commodore VE he raced in Super Car’s Class 2 last season when TSS pitches up at Sepang next week.

"Unfortunately the Mustang is running a few months late due to new part delays," Khun Craig explained last week. "We will therefore run the reliable beasty Holden for the first and possibly second rounds." The car, a former test machine of ‘Australian V8’ multiple champion Khun Jamie Whincup, will be in essentially the same specification as it ran in TSS last year - apart from a livery tweak. "We have not made any changes to last year’s set up," he notes. "But we have put the 2014 sponsor decals on the Holden."

Unlike most of the other Super Cars, Khun Craig’s Holden has already seen competitive action this year, and, usefully, that was at Sepang as he competed in the opening round of MSS, which supported the prestigious Malaysian F1 Grand Prix last month.

It also saw Khun Craig making more progress with the car. "I was pleased with my improvement," he says. "I qualified fifth and was in fourth after 3 laps before an electrical problem. I improved 1.5 seconds from last year and believe there is still another second [to be gained] for the TSS first round."

Khun Craig is also confident that the Holden will perform well in TSS next week and he says the car, which packs big grunt under its long bonnet, is very well suited to this circuit. "Due to the long straights and fast corners I believe the Holden can be extremely competitive at Sepang this year," he reckons.

Last year he debuted this car in Sepang and was immediately on the back foot after an engine change was required during practice - now he returns with a year spent getting to understand the car behind him, so expect the big New Zealander to be pitching at the business end of the Super Car Class 2-GTM action.

Race against the clock

Before they have even turned a wheel at Sepang the Rotary Revolution mechanics’ have already been locked into as big a battle as any they are likely to see on track next week. It became a real race against time to complete their brand new Mazda RX-8 before TSS loaded up the final batch of racecars last Wednesday for the long trip south.

But this is a team that is fueled by passion to be on the grid and that passion drove them beyond endurance limits to complete the build programme in little more than a week. For this little team, the first battle of the year has already been won.

The ambitious project, to build a new racecar from scratch to replace the team's long running RX-7, had been progressing slowly and steadily. However, while in strictly 'show' format, as at that point it comprised of little more than shell, a dramatic aero kit, a full rollcage and some suspension to push it around on, the RX-8 was ‘previewed’ in the paddock at Bangsaen last December.

Then came a halt to the build phase as the options going forward were reassessed. With the announcement by TSS of the new Super Car Class 3-GTC to slot in under Class 2-GTM for 2014, the project was stalled as driver Khun Pete Thongchua and Team Manager Khun Ma analysed which was the best direction for them.

"We had decided to start up with Class 2 as the regulations mean every car like ours can go [into] Class 2," explained Khun Ma last Monday evening while his mechanics feverishly worked under the floodlights to complete the car. "We started with Class 2, but we saw the [new] regulations and so we tried to go to Class 3, but things can't fit with Class 3, the turbo, the weight, so we cannot go."

With the clock ticking down quickly the decision was made to resume preparations to enter Class 2-GTM. However, Khun Ma still holds the door open that they could later switch classes depending on the outcome of Round 1 next week. "But after Sepang we might change, there is more time to change then," he says.

Last Monday night the Rotary Revolution workshops were abuzz as Khun Ma's team battled to complete a racecar that will go into action at Sepang almost from scratch - the first wheels it will ever turn in anger will be in Malaysia. "We started again a week ago," explained Khun Ma. "So we had discussed [Class 3-GTM] but cannot go, so we thought ‘okay let's start with Class 2’."

Rotary Revolution is an expansive and busy garage, a hub of tuned ‘rotary’ power in Thailand, and it’s always packed out with customers' cars. That’s been even more the case this week as Khun Ma admitted all other work had stopped as they focused totally on finishing the new race machine.

And the passion this tiny team has to go racing, to prove that rotary engines can be both powerful and reliable, seems to swell outwards into the surrounding neighbourhood as they are never short of helping hands. In terms of available labour to complete the RX-8, Khun Ma didn't have any issues; people bustled everywhere, while quite noticeably there was a younger and very enthusiastic element that was engaged in the project. And no one was ‘clocking off’ into the deep of the night. Key suppliers have also been pitching in, Khun Ma reveals.

So at breakneck speed the RX-8 has taken shape, although on Monday evening it still looked a long was from completion even if all the core mechanical components were now bolted into place. "We've been working a week before Sepang, from today we finish at 4am for four straight nights, tonight [will be] all night and tomorrow we will run the engine for the first time," he said. "We do everything in a week, from the engine to the wiring, everything, suspension, brakes, everything."

Khun Ma also noted that their job is even bigger because they are developing a brand new racecar themselves. No one races an RX-8 in TSS, no one else circuit races rotary power here, no race parts are easily available here, and in fact few RX-8s circuit race around the world, so that means established 'blueprints' aren't available to draw upon. "We have to fit everything in, we've never tried this before, this car has never had a shakedown before," he says.

That all nighter paid off as the RX-8 took final shape through the small hours of Tuesday morning before the tired and weary mechanics fired the engine up for the first time just as the sunlight flooded into the workshops. That only left tidying up to do. It all means that this team has already notched up its first ‘victory’ of the TSS season, and its come even before the lights have turned green in Sepang.

Extra toppings for The Pizza Company

The familiar green, white and red liveried racecars of The Pizza Company My Pay Petronas team are now safely packed up trekking towards Sepang, albeit with a livery tweak that has seen the usual swathes of green swapped for a much more softer white for this season.

This team will be one of the numerically strongest in the support programme and they have entered three racecars for the first round. Khun Tony Percy is running a Toyota Vios in Super 1500’s Class B, Ray McDonald will back him up with a newly built-Honda Civic EK9 in Class C while Khun Paul Kenny is driving his regular Honda City in Super Production’s Class C.

The biggest close-season change for the team is that Khun Tony is switching from Super 2000 to Super 1500 this year. "The reason for changing is mainly brought about by budget," he explained last week. "The change in regulations and groupings for Super 2000 meant that I would [have] had to upgrade the [Honda Civic] EP3 to run competitively in Class 1." However he hasn’t ruled out running the car during the next round at Bira depending on how on-going sponsor negotiations pan out.

So for Sepang he’s swapping into the team’s Vios and joining Super 1500. And it’s been a real race against time to be ready. On Tuesday Khun Tony reported that the engine was now in the car having only arrived the day before - but that left him completely out of time for a shakedown and setup test. "The engine [went] in car last night, [the] tuner’s coming today, loading tomorrow, no time to test," he reported on Tuesday morning.

It all means that Khun Tony will be really racing against the clock in Sepang next week to be in fighting shape for the two races. "At least there’s a practice session on the Wednesday to do a little testing and set up work. I am familiar with the Vios though not with the Super 1500 engine."

Although Khun Tony seems to have drawn the short straw this year and missed out on any testing, the team has had a couple of practice sessions at Bira Circuit recently and undertook a pre-Sepang shakedown of the other two cars - the new Super 1500 Honda Civic EK9 as well as the Super Production Honda City - last Sunday afternoon. "Paul has tested already," Khun Tony notes. "The EK9 is a complete new build, so required some track time before the trip, the car was ready, though Ray was away on an assignment in Japan until 24 April."

Khun Tony also explains that following the trip to Sepang, the team will have at least four cars in the garage when TSS rolls up to Bira in July. "For races 3 and 4 we will enter Khun ‘Pop’ Zantika with the Pizza Company pick up truck," he says. "Last year was the first time for the team to run a truck and it took a couple of rounds to get it sorted [but] by Bangsaen last December ‘Pop’ showed his talent in the truck and besides finishing on the podium in race 7 he led race 8 for a good while. This year we hope for great things from ‘Pop’ and the truck."


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