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May 13, 2014 - 02:37 PM
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Latest News From Thailand Super Series
Posted by: newsla on May 13, 2014 - 02:36 PM
Sports Cars
Latest News From Thailand Super Series


The second season of Thailand Super Series kicked off at Sepang Circuit last weekend in the most dramatic fashion as one of the world’s top professional racing car drivers, Khun Tomáš Enge, rolled into town with a set of wheels that could only be described as beyond dramatic, the Reiter Engineering-developed Chevrolet Camaro GT3.

 

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Up against the Czech former F1 pilot and Le Mans 24 Hours winner was pitched the best Thailand has to offer, a man who has ruthlessly dominated the sport here in recent years through a combination of brilliant driving skills, unrivalled mental strength and razor sharp tactical acumen. Khun Vuttikorn Inthraphuvasak also has one of the strongest teams behind him and can count on an equally strong car.

It was a heavyweight boxing match fought out on asphalt instead of canvas and boxed in with gravel traps instead of ropes - no prisoners would be taken, no quarter given. When the immense torque of the Camaro (as well as its immense noise) was let rip, everyone knew that both drivers had closely matched mounts that could take them into battle, that Porsche’s all-conquering 997 GT3-R had a real rival.

Showdown time. Not one second of either race disappointed. When the dust had settled at the end of Race 2, the international superstar had dished out a racing lesson to the ‘locals’. When the dust settled on Race 2, Thailand had just demonstrated that it really does has talent - Khun Vuttikorn doing what he does best, winning.

It couldn’t have worked out better for the fans - with a win and a pole each, these two titans now head for Bira Circuit in a dead heat in the championship points standings. And it didn’t stop there, the Super Car Class 1-GTM grid was packed with talent and the Camaro wasn’t the only sensational new GT3 car on the grid as two McLaren MP4-12Cs were also in the thick of the action.

And that was just Class 1-GT3, in Class 2-GTM the quality was equally deep, a double win this time went to the Ferrari of Khun Voravud Bhirombhakdi. with Khun Craig Corliss taking two runners up spots in the Holden V8. There were new names and new racecars on the grid, including Audi’s slippery R8 LMS Cup, while another brand name to stand out was Nissan, as the two new GT-Rs were fast out of the box and demonstrated that they are going to have to be reckoned with in the coming races.

When TSS was ‘born’, just a year and a few short months ago, TSS President Khun Sontaya Kunplome tasked Race Director Khun Preeda Tantemsapya with raising standards in every area, from racecars to regulations, he and his team had to drive the series to a professional international level.

He can't be dissatisfied with the job so far - from the season finale in Bangsaen last December every single aspect of the championship has gone up another big notch. Although there is a long way still to go, TSS held its head up high against the other international series that were at Sepang Circuit last weekend.

Super Car Class 1-GT3: Saturday

The first Super Car race of the second season of TSS went to green lights at 1120 last Sunday morning, the big GT3 cars edging out of the garages and into the bright sunlight to a huge wave of anticipation, not only from the Thai contingent that had travelled to Sepang but from the wider Asian motorsport fraternity and media who have all really sat up and taken notice of the fast-growing series this weekend.

The first race turned out to be very much about one man and one car - but not just any driver or any car. Vattana Motorsport isn’t a team that sees small horizons and as the official Thai agent for Reiter Engineering, builder of the highly successful Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 cars, it was entirely logical that it ran a close eye over the German concern’s dramatic new project, the Chevrolet Camaro GT3.

The Thai team was impressed so much that the first of the latest 2014 customer-specifications Camaro GT3s from the factory was pre-ordered even before Bangsaen last December and just a few days before the opening round got underway last week it was strapped onto a pallet and swiftly flown direct to Malaysia.

It only arrived in the paddock on Wednesday and the Vattana Motorsport crew, supplemented by engineers from the Reiter factory, worked round the clock to kick it into shape for Saturday’s first race. During the first practice session the team’s number one driver Khun Chonsawat Asavahame and Reiter factory test driver Khun Tomáš Enge shared the big car between them.

The team then decided to put the Czech in the car for qualifying and the races, not least because this car is still being developed and there is no one who knows the car better, but also they want to showcase their new ‘baby’ so with Khun Chonsawat struggling all week with an arm injury it would be logical to keep him in the driving seat of his familiar Gallardo.

It turned out to be a successful strategy as Khun Tomáš planted the big, brutal black ‘muscle car’ on pole and then powered it to a lights-to-flag victory in Race 1, although it was anything but a straightforward run to the flag.

Getting up to speed with TSS rules and regulations, as well as weighing up his rivals, was his first hurdle, as he explained. "It was kind of new for me as I didn’t know what the start procedure was exactly in this championship," said Khun Tomáš afterwards. "It’s [my] first time in TSS so I didn’t know what to expect from the competition in terms of the first corner or first lap so it was kind of a relief for me to find myself in position one after the first two corners and then from then on I just concentrated on the car and not making any mistakes."

Khun Tomáš said he was happy with the Camaro’s performance and pleased to bag maximum points for the team. "The car ran without any problem the whole race and I enjoyed it massively as you [do] when you are in the lead. The car was greatly prepared and for sure Vuttikorn gave me a pretty hard time the first few laps because he was close to me and he drove good race, a faultless race. It was nice to represent Vattana Motorsport, to get a win for them, to score as many points as possible for the championship."

The first race of the year dramatically unfolded as the lights went to green and there was a very visual divide as Khun Tomáš hauled the big black machine to the outside while the sleeker, lower Porsches, Lamborghinis and McLarens all huddled together and jostled down the inside on the run to Turn 1.

Raw power always counts when the lights go green at a rolling start - as well as split second timing from the driver - and that combination worked a treat as the #25 Camaro swung across at the end of the long straight and through the first turn with a length and a half in hand over the #1 Porsche 997 GT3-R of Khun Vuttikorn. Having his best Super Car race start to date was Khun Bobby Buncharoen in the True Visions Gallardo GT3, the first of the Lamborghini runners, who was slightly tardy at the lights but held onto the inside line to hold P3 into T1.

That would really be the shape of the race as Khun Tomáš absorbed the pressure exerted by Khun Vuttikorn, the reigning champion enjoying the challenge of pitting himself against one of the best in the world. He kept close to the Camaro over the opening laps and in fact kept the pressure up all the way to the flag, but the Thai wasn’t able to position the Porsche near enough to make it a real fight.

Khun Vuttikorn was satisfied after keeping Khun Tomáš in his sights for the 10 laps. "I think I did quite a good start," he said. "I try to runaway from the traffic, trying to follow Enge, but no chance until I think he got some gap and he was kind of driving very relaxing. I was still pushing to the end but I cannot catch him up."

Behind these two titans, Khun Bobby comfortable held third place from lights to flag; over the opening laps he drifted into ‘no mans land’ although over the final laps as his tyres went off he slipped back towards the fast chargers behind. In reality though he was able to control the gap and take a well deserved - and popular - third place.

"From the start I’m third and I start not so good but I have the safe line [on the] inside and can [retake the] position," recalled Khun Bobby. "After five laps my tyres are very old because [I] use [them] from qualifying, so lap 7 until 10 [I had] no grip and the brake has a little bit of a problem also."

Despite a strapped up left arm, which he carried in a sling when out of the car, Khun Chonsawat dug deep to bring the #28 Gallardo home for fourth place, taking the position off Khun Vuttikorn’s teammate, Khun Piti Bhirombhakdi, on the fourth lap. That made two Reiter Vattana Motorsport cars in the top four to deliver the points they needed to make the first blow in the Teams’ championship.

Fifth went to Khun Piti, he had a quiet morning but the race eventually came to him over the final laps as he, and Khun Chonsawat in front, were able to whittle down the gap to Khun Bobby in P3, although the trio never got quite close enough to each other to start thinking about anyone making a pass before the checkered flag waved. Khun Piti’s team manger, Khun Jeff, noted afterwards that they had struggled with the car’s balance thanks to the regulation changes on dry weight - pointing out that balancing the rear-engine Porsche is never the easiest task.

Six and seventh place went to Khun Sanchai Engtrakul and Khun Indharasak Techaterasiri. Both drivers have new cars this year, while the former, returning after a spell in retirement, was debuting in TSS and driving the Gallardo that the latter campaigned last year, the Italian sportscar becoming surplus to requirements after Khun Indharasak switched to a McLaren. The pair shadowed each other all race.

Making it two McLarens on the trot was the last minute ‘guest’ entry of Khun Tatsuya Tanigawa in the Team AAI example. This hugely experienced sportscar driver from Osaka in Japan has raced in his domestic Super GT series for almost a decade and a half and was a last minute entry for the weekend, running outside the points.

After a judgment from the race organisers the McLaren driver was permitted to start Race 1 from the pitlane but was to be given the green light only after the full Class 2-GTM field had followed the Class 1-GT3 runners through.

That meant Khun Tatsuya had to work his way through the whole of the Class 2-GTM field before bridging the gap to the top class. He steadily made up ground and eventually closed up on the back of the similar McLaren MP4-12C of Khun Indharasak immediately in front and finishing two seconds behind at the chequered flag.

Super Car Class 2-GTM: Saturday

All eyes were on the grid as the second Super Car tier (which formed up a 100 metres on the grid back from the top class) with many driver-car combinations having been strongly tipped during the pre-season. However when the lights went green it was Khun Voravud Bhirombhakdi in the #89 Ferrari 458 Challenge who powered away into a lead he would maintain to the checkered flag.

The two Nissan GT-R R35s of Khun Traitanit Chimtawan and Khun Naoya Yamano slotted in behind the Ferrari as the pack braked for T1, the latter however was immediately under pressure from the hard-charging Khun Craig Corliss who is now bang up to speed in the big Holden. In fifth came the first of the Porsche runners, the #11 of Khun Aekarat Discharoen who was under pressure through T1 and T2 from the fast-starting Audi R8 LMS Cup of Khun Henk J. Kiks.

By the end of the first lap Khun Voravud had five car lengths on Khun Traitanit while behind him his teammate was dropping back and that was opening up a real battle for third as the ‘day-glo’ orange and black Holden, Khun Aekarat’s 997 and Khun Henk’s R8 formed a train behind the GT-R. On lap 2 the big New Zealander muscled past Khun Yamano into third while Khun Kantasak Kusiri in the Singha A Motor Porsche was catching up the back of this battle.

At the front Khun Voravud was lapping consistently in the 2:15-2:16 bracket, which was around 2 seconds a lap quicker than Khun Traitanit who had to carefully manage his difficult racecar. By half distance Khun Craig was all over the back of Khun Traitanit and he made a move as the race entered the closing stages.

With three laps to go Khun Aekarat squeezed past the fading GT-R of Khun Yamano and then pushed hard to close the gap down to Khun Traitanit in front. Khun Kantasak also picked off the Japanese driver who was busy watching his gauges as he looked to reach the checkered flag in a car that has never gone this distance.

That was it for the race and although Khun Voravud backed off the pace over the final two laps he was still 15.544 seconds clear of Khun Craig. For the Ferrari driver it was his first win with the Italian sportcar as he kicked off his second season running his modified 458 Challenge in Super Car Class 2-GTM.

Afterward Khun Voravud was happy with the speed he had shown. "It wasn’t so easy, it’s the first time I lead [a race in this car]," he said. "But it’s what I expected looking at the qualifying times, if I can stay ahead from the start I think I can manage to be in front."

He led from start to finish and admitted that as the race wore on he was able to stop watching his mirrors. "The only worry that I have was the GT-R because I have quite a mid speed and they are very fast on the top speed," said Khun Voravud. "But I managed to hold them behind and after that I was ten to twelve seconds ahead after five or six laps."

His team has pushed hard at the Ferrari’s plus points to strengthen the package. "What we have gained is around the corners and the braking, that’s the good things," he added. Ominously, Khun Voravud believes there is still more to come from the car. "If I have time to practice maybe half a second to a second," he said. "I still need to get used to the car."

His pace through qualifying and then from lights to flag in Race 1 dealt the first physiological blow to his rivals and this driver, car and team and look in great shape to make a serious run for the title - even if this was just the first race of eight this season. He was quick to downplay any talk of mounting a title challenge but clearly he will be fighting hard to win the championship. "I have hope," Khun Voravud admitted. "It’s good to be on top on the first race."

Khun Craig is now hitting top form in the big Holden and looking really comfortable in the car; he was arguably the most exciting driver to watch in this class around Sepang and he hauled the ‘monster’ higher onto the kerbs than anyone else on his way to the runners up spot.

Third went to the GT-R of Khun Traitanit. This was arguably the performance of the race from driver and team as very few had expected these raw racecars to reach the finishline in the intense Malaysian heat. This driver has much more potential to unlock in himself and his aggressive driving style seemed to suit a car that currently needs to be both pushed and managed.

"I think I’m very lucky today as I have trouble in the qualifying and trouble about the weight of the car and the tyres and my car can change the transmission up and down," he said afterwards. "So I tried to finish the race so I start and then in one or two laps I try to make the gap but after that I try to maintain the tyres as the weight of the car can’t carry more laps."

For the Thai driver to put one over his hugely successful professional Japanese teammate, even if car circumstances weren’t identical, was important for his confidence, although he never appears to lack much of this. Khun Traitanit’s return to racing has been a big boost for Thai fans - as has been the decision of the NSports-Yokohama-Project Mu Thailand team to develop the GT-R programme.

Khun Traitanit was quick to point out that the GT-R is still more of a road car than a racecar and retains many features such as the steering column gearshift paddles, production dash instruments and even the pinging sound of the seatbelt retainer warning.

"I can’t shift up and shift down as fast as [a racecar] because it’s a normal car, I can carry the [key] remote in my pocket, it’s a streetcar," he said with a laugh. With even more laughter he explained that as he’s using the standard gearshift paddles he has no shift light and was counting out the changes to himself during the race. "I have to make the loud noise to count the shift, one, two, three, four, five and then shift down, five, four, three, two, one."

So all in all it was a very impressive start, Team Owner Khun Thongchai Kittisiriprasert can be relieved that his ambitious plans to build the GT-R for TSS had paid off so quickly, this is clearly a machine that can be developed into a podium regular and can go on to fight for wins - although there is a lot of work to do now. "I think today I was lucky but anyway I try my best for the team," added Khun Traitanit. "This car is not ready as I have to protect the tyres all race and everything heats up and there are warnings everywhere in the car. When we go back to Bangkok we have to improve everything in the car."

Smooth and quick, Khun Aekarat worked his way up the order as the race came to him over the closing stages and he was just seven-tenths of a second behind the GT-R at the flag to take a well deserved fourth place. "I start okay, not to bad and try to drive on the pace and keep the tyres for lap 6, lap 7, as today’s track was very hot," he said afterwards, confirming that his race strategy had paid off. "We need to adjust the suspension a little bit [for Race 2] but everything is okay."

Two and a half seconds back in fifth place was the Porsche of Khun Kantasak. The youngster made a good recovery from a tricky start as he began to get used to the German sportscar, an utterly different proposition to the front wheel drive Honda Civic FD he has raced for the last few seasons. This was his Super Car debut.

Next up was the second GT-R of Khun Yamano who had struggled to manage the car to the finish. That meant both the Nissan’s finished in the top six, a very impressive result for these new cars - in fact just a couple of months ago Khun Yamano’s example was still a road car driving on the streets of Bangkok.

Seventh went to the Vattana Motorsport-entered Lamborghini Gallardo LP520-4 of Khun Visarut Chotiwitsavaitkul, it was his first time racing in Sepang, while in eighth was another Super Car debutant, Khun Chairat Sangtong in the second Singha Motorsport Team Thailand-entered Ferrari 458 Challenge. He’s been very successful at Sepang during the last two years but now has a steep learning curve ahead as he beds into the rear wheel drive/mid engine 458 ‘Challenge’ after several years campaigning Civics.

Ninth place went to another TSS debutant, drift star Khun Sarun Sereethoranakul (Porsche 997 GT3 Cup). "I have to save the front tyres, I used too much tyre in qualifying," explained Khun Sarun. "But [for the] next race I will be cautious about this issue."

Rounding out the top-ten was Khun Henk’s new B-Quik Racing Audi R8 LMS Cup, which had struggled with rear end setup issues. After a run of early spins the Dutchman had backed off to reach the finishline and he was rewarded for his perseverance by collecting the final race point on offer. "We looked at the data, we’re good," said Khun Henk after what was his first race in the car.

He had been playing catch up as business commitments had seen him arriving in Sepang late, which limited his running time in his new racecar. "The first three or four laps I’m behind Aekarat and behind Craig but after five laps I got my rear end very loose one way or another and I spun four times so something [was] off on the rear, but okay, we think we have found it, [a] bit too much brake, a bit too much tyre pressure, so we’re on the pace."

The final classified finishers were the brand-new Mazda RX-8 of Khun Pete Thongchua and the sole surviving factory Toyota 86 of Khun Nattavude Charoensukhawatana who was two laps down.

RZ Racing had battled against the clock to finish their new green and black Mazda racecar in time to make the journey to Sepang with a simple target to get on track and finish. They did - it was mission accomplished. "Everything is okay and we are happy with that, job done," said Team Manager Khun Ma. "It’s okay for the first time for this car."

Khun Pete was equally upbeat after completing the race in a car that had turned its wheels for the very first time here in practice. "We were expecting a worse result, but after it runs it’s a lot better than we expected," he admitted.

He also reckoned that there is plenty to be unlocked from this package. "We’re just facing a problem with the engine, it needs more running in time, especially the rotary engine, we build an engine and run it in a road car, but this time we have a lot less running time," said Khun Pete. "Turn the switch and it’s good, the suspension is so good, the car control so much better than the RX-7, maybe it’s because the dimension of the car. We wouldn’t expect the car to finish the race as it started, the car needs a lot of R&D, first run in and first race together."

The reigning Super Car Class 2-GTM champion, meanwhile, had a dreadful start to his title defence, starting from the pitlane after a power-steering wiring problem on the warm up lap forced him to pit to allow his mechanics to make hastily repairs. Then Khun Nattavude suffered a fuel pump problem and despite his never say die attitude he didn’t pick up any finishing points. Making it a zero finishing points score for Toyota was Khun Nattapong Horthongkum in the second Toyota 86; he was out on lap 2 with a blown engine leaving the team with plenty of work to do overnight.

The final DNF went to Khun Umar A. Rahman in the Vattana Motorsport Gallardo Super Trofeo; he went out right at the start after a retaining bolt securing the bell to the brake rotor worked loose and exited via the brake caliper before damaging the wheel rim and tyre. However it would be a straightforward overnight repair.

Super Car Class 1-GT3: Sunday

At the green light on Sunday there was an almost carbon copy rolling start from the previous day as the Camaro dished out its huge power and surged forward into Turn 1, the black monster arriving with a couple of car lengths in hand over Khun Vuttikorn. The only difference was that the Camaro had started from P2. As the field swept right and left through Turn 1 and 2 and Khun Tomáš floored the 'muscle car' into the high-speed right hand sweeper that comprises Turn 3, it looked like Race 2 was going to go the same way as Race 1.

Khun Piti was showing more pace than the day before and he tucked in behind his teammate as the Singha Porsche AAS cars took up a 2-3 position behind the Camaro. Next up were the Lamborghinis of Khun Chonsawat and Khun Bobby although a gap was starting to emerge between the German and the Italian sportscars by the time the first lap had been completed.

A lap later and the 'guest' McLaren, which had again started from the back, albeit this time from the tail end of the actual Super Car Class 1-GT3 grid rather than the pitlane, was up to P6 and locking onto the tail of the two Lamborghinis in front.

On the fourth lap Khun Bobby found a way past Khun Chonsawat and started closing the gap to Khun Piti, but a lap later he would retire. That cleared the way for Khun Tatsuya to start harrying Khun Chonsawat.

Next, a big battle was shaping up between Khun Engtrakul and Khun Indharasak. It was an almost carbon copy of the previous day, both drivers starting to make progress with their new machines and showing better pace than the day before. However try as he might the McLaren driver couldn't find a way to pass the Lamborghini pilot who held his line and drove defensively. This duel would last all the way to the flag, the pair eventually crossing the finishline for P6 and P7 split by just eight tenths of a second.

However, both drivers can be satisfied with progress, Khun Sanchai’s best lap in 2:14.966 and Khun Indharasak’s quickest in 2:15.427 were more than two seconds better than the day before and the dueling duo were almost 25 seconds closer to the winning car than the previous day. Expect both drivers to make a lot more progress at Bira.

As the race progressed Khun Tatsuya found a way past the Vattana Motorsport driver to move into fourth. However the biggest pass of the race was happening a third of a minute further down the road as Khun Vuttikorn closed the gap down to Khun Tomáš, a gap that had never crept up to more than a couple of seconds all race.

And it really came down to tyres as Khun Vuttikorn had preserved his rubber during the qualifying session, turning in just four laps, half that of the Camaro driver, who has also been using the session to continue to setup the raw new racecar.

Both drivers were able to run 2:10s and 2:11s over the opening laps, however as the race reached mid point the Camaro got stuck in the 2:12s and dipped into the 2:13s while the Porsche was able to remain in the 2:11s and 2:12s, it was clear the Camaro was struggling with tyre wear and that eventually allowed Khun Vuttikorn to put a move in at Turn 9 and take over the race lead.

It was a lead Khun Vuttikorn wouldn't relinquish as he maintained his blistering pace at the front, the Porsche's tyres holding up superbly as this most intelligent of drivers calculated his way inch perfect to the checkered flag. In fact, excluding the start lap and lap 2 when his tyres were at their peak, every other lap was either a 2:11 or 2:12, his tardiest lap a 2:12.449 on lap 7. It's exactly what we have come to expect from this driver, perfection, someone who races to improve himself every time he takes the green light.

It was a perfect drive from a driver that could hold his own almost anywhere, but as ever Khun Vuttikorn will always downplay his achievements. "I don’t know what to say, I think it’s because of BOP, he carries more weight, 10 more kilos," he said straight after the podium celebrations. One really hopes that he’s not being too serious.

From his cockpit Khun Vuttikorn also saw that tyre wear was an issue for the Camaro and his decision to hold back his tyres on a track where passing is relatively straightforward was a great call. "From the first half of the race I see that he doesn’t have so much grip so I manage to catch him up and I try to follow and follow and finally I think because of the grip he is losing I can pass," Khun Vuttikorn recalls.

He’s pleased to have measured up against a superstar driver. "I think he’s still the best," he notes. "For me I’m very delighted but I still give a lot of respect to him, so my target is just to lose the gap between him and me, but today I was also lucky."

Over the final couple of laps Khun Tomáš backed right off, preserved his tyres and managed his brand new racecar, which had enjoyed a weekend beyond expectations. The gap at the flag after 10 laps and exactly 22 minutes of racing was 8.511 seconds. For the fans they had witnessed a lesson in the art of race driving, dished out by two masters of their trade.

Khun Tomáš was satisfied with second place to wrap up his first weekend in TSS and it could hardly have gone any better - while wearing his main ‘hat’ as a customer-supporting member of the Reiter Engineering team he had put the Camaro GT3 into the shop window here over four days in some style. It’s a car that people now have to take notice of.

"From the start I could manage to go into the lead and stay in front of Vuttikorn and it was all going well but after a few laps I start to have problems with overheating tyres," he said after the podium celebrations were over. "We probably did a mistake in tyre pressures because otherwise I’m pretty sure the car was handling even better than yesterday. We made improvements in the setup but unfortunately we had to choose the tyres from qualifying and Vuttikorn had new tyres because he didn’t change tyres in the middle of qualifying and I did. So that’s the deal, he saved the tyres from qualifying tyres and he won the race."

Khun Tomáš was delighted with how the Camaro’s debut had turned out, especially as it only arrived in Malaysia mid week and setup work was really ongoing all weekend long, while then the team swapped the Czech into the car just in time for qualifying.

"We had no technical issues [with the Camaro], we were on the pace right from the beginning of the weekend and we win all practices and qualifying and win the first race and win the second race," he said. "I couldn’t not be happy more than 95%, the other five 5% is the one place we missed on the podium on Sunday."

It’s also worth noting that this is the Camaro GT3’s first race win outside Europe, the continent where Reiter Engineering builds all its racecars. That the milestone was actually set in TSS is another emphasis of the steps forward the growing Thai race series is making.

Over the final laps Khun Piti drifted away into no mans land but P3 was a strong finish to the weekend and he was only 7.906 seconds behind the Camaro at the end. Next up was Khun Tatsuya and after dispatching Khun Chonsawat he had set about closing down Khun Piti, chopping out a second a lap, but the Porsche driver had it under control and the gap between them at the end was 2.028 seconds.

Then came Khun Sanchai and Khun Indharasak after another race locked nose-to-tail. "I still don't know how to drive it because this [car] is very hard to drive," explained the McLaren driver. "It needs proper settings, if not it’s hard to drive [but in] Race 2 I change [the] setup and learn how to drive [better] from day one, that’s why [I was] a bit better than first race."

It was in reality a toe-dipping debut in TSS for the dramatic McLaren; however at Bira he will have factory engineers to setup the car - so expect to see Khun Indharasak on the pace. Finally, Khun Suttipong Smittachartch wrapped up the classified finishers in the ageing Altis, one lap down.

As well as bagging the win, Khun Vuttikorn also claimed the fastest race lap in 2:10.193 (153.271 km/h) with Khun Tomáš’ best being in 2:10.896. The only other driver to break through the 2:11 barrier was Khun Piti with a 2:10.951.

Two superb races with two worthy winners, honours were even, the international star and the Thai star with a win and a second place each, a pole and a P2 each as well. That means a dead heat in the points and the prospect of a titanic scrap when the series moves onto Bira. Pattaya's racetrack, the longtime 'home' of Thai motorsport, will see a new sight when the Camaro roars into town and Khun Tomas adapts everything he's learn from in cockpit over a wining career to this sleepy, short and ageing racetrack.

Super Car Class 2-GTM: Sunday

Khun Voravud wrapped up a perfect weekend with another superbly timed victory in Race 2, the #89 Ferrari again proving the class act of the field. He was only challenged by Khun Craig and after the New Zealander spun late in the race, Khun Voravud ran out the clear winner with a 4.429 second margin after 10 laps.

Two wins and two poles from two races gives the Singha Motorsport Team Thailand driver a perfect points score and with six rounds remaining it’s hard to see many other drivers who can put in a run that will be needed to challenge him for the title. Since Khun Voravud debuted the 458 Challenge here last year his team has grown into a full-scale operation with international engineering and support and a car that has been honed to suit Super Car Class 2-GTM. Certainly this is one of the smoothest and most consistent drivers in the class and anyone with ambitions on the title are going to have to get their act together fast. However there is likely to be many changes to the pacesetters when TSS reaches Bira Circuit in two months time.

One driver who is getting a real run of form together is Khun Craig Corliss in the Holden Commodore VE and he added the runners up spot in Race 2 to the same place in Race 1. Driver and machine are fully hooked up as they start their second season and Khun Craig has now mastered a style that gets the best out of this big 'Australian V8' machine. For the fans it's simply superb to watch as he hauled the big beast along, smashing it over the kerbs further than anyone else and wrestling it as it nose-dives under braking. Count on a few spins along the way, as he's a driver that's always exploring the limits of whatever he's driving.

Counting back into last season his second runners-up spot of the weekend made it an impressive seven straight top-four finishes and three second places from the last four races (he was also runner up in Race 1 at Bangsaen).

With his car in sparkling form in Race 1, Khun Craig reported that the Commodore wasn’t touched by his mechanics overnight apart from an oil change. "[I got] a good start but got stuck behind the GT-R for a few laps," he said. "The GT-R is very loose on most corners so one must be cautious when preparing to overtake. Once past the GT-R my sights were on the Ferrari. I reeled him [in] lap-by-lap until lap 7 where I did the fastest lap of the race and got to the lead in lap 8. I was pushing hard and spun at the last turn with one lap to go.

"[I] had to settle for second place but [a] great weekend with two seconds and two team wins," said a clearly delighted Khun Craig, who is now already looking forward to the next round. "No issues with the car and temperature sat at 85 degrees for the entire race; bring on Bira and a 1.02!"

However when the lights went green it had been the two Nissan GTR R35s that chased the Ferrari down to Turn 1 although Khun Craig had quickly stated his intent as he powered the Holden round the outside before diving inside Khun Traitanit into Turn 2 and was already taking a close look at Khun Yamano. Behind the second GT-R, Khun Nattavude was in much better shape this race while at the back of him it all went off as the pack squabbled on the drop into Turn 2. It left two of the top runners out, Khun Henk with rear end damage to the R8 and Khun Kantasak with the front end of his 997 out of shape. Both would limp to the pits to retire. Khun Sarun and Khun Nattapong were the main beneficiaries.

Next time round it was Khun Craig from Khun Yamano and Khun Nattavude as Khun Traitanit started dropping back quickly - he would be gone at the end of the second lap, a turbo pipe had worked loose and a lengthy pit visit to repair it would cost him four laps and any chance of picking up more points. Khun Chairat also spun and lost ground.

While one GT-R was in the pits the other was struggling with Khun Aekarat all over Khun Yamano on the third lap, the Japanese driver backing off as temperatures soared to 145 degrees. Khun Nattapong then took fourth place off Khun Aekarat to put the Toyotas into a 3-4 position, a fighting comeback after their zero finishing points score the day before.

Apart from Khun Craig steaming in the lead and then spinning with the flag in sight, that was the story of the race as Khun Voravud made it two out of two, the Holden made it the same top two in both races while the Toyotas were 17 seconds off the winner but split by only 3 seconds.

Khun Nattavude had struggled with his car again, but this time he delivered a strong result. "The brakes and the tyres, we don’t have a good setup, but about 90% because we don’t have time," he said. "It was very tough, but I have to concentrate on the wheels because the car understeers and oversteers." However, was he satisfied with P3? "Very much," he says. "Because I was struggling."

Then it was two Porsches, Khun Aekarat in fifth and Khun Sarun in sixth who wrapped up his TSS debut weekend by putting to rest a tough opening race with an excellent result in Race 2 that shows promise for the future. "We are good with tyre preparing and car set up," reckoned Khun Sarun as he explained his overnight improvement. "[I had a] good rolling start and [was] fighting in first two corners." He noted that it would have been difficult for him to progress much further. "I’m so glad for sixth place [as the] five leader cars have faster laptimes than mine so [I] cannot catch up them, [I was] quite lonely."

Khun Visarut made it two seventh places for the weekend while Khun Yamano held on for eighth, his second points finish of the weekend. In fact the NSports-Yokohama-Project Mu Thailand team could be satisfied with three points finishes from a possible four for their brand new cars. Khun Traitanit missed out on the final point on offer after coming home in eleventh place.

Between the two GT-R R35s was the Lamborghini of Khun Umar in ninth, racking up his first finishline points of the weekend, and the Ferrari of Khun Chairat in tenth; although he had a tough learning weekend he could be happy with finishing in the points in both races.

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