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Latest News From Thailand Super Series
Posted by: newsla on Jun 02, 2014 - 03:39 PM
Sports Cars
Latest News From Thailand Super Series


FORZA FERRARI

The best rise to the top, that’s always the story in the highest level sports - and motorsport is no different. The uncompromising pursuit of the dream of winning motivates drivers, engineers, strategists, teams and carmakers to new heights to reach the uppermost step of the podium.

 

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Winners are special, they dig deeper than anyone else, they fight the hardest, they assemble the best package down to the very last tiny detail and they go out into the action with the best strategies and turn in perfectly controlled races. Of course there is also an element of luck, but for the best that’s almost factored out.

In Sepang, when the dust had settled the winners emerged and names were added to Thai racing records. In Super Car Class 2-GTM it was wholly appropriate that the most evocative automotive brand name in the world, Ferrari, bagged a double win thanks to a brace of inch-perfect drives from Khun Voravud Bhirombhakdi and the professional back up support of Singha Motorsport Team Thailand. Ferraris are expected to finish in P1 - and so in that respect TSS is in step.

Meanwhile in Super Car Class 1-GT3 there were even more fireworks as a big star name rocked up with a big car and claimed pole and the first win of the year. Khun Tomáš Enge has a ‘racing CV’ the likes of which has never been seen before in TSS while the Chevrolet Camaro GT3 is the biggest, most muscular and ultra-powerful racecar to have been seen in the series.

At the other end of the TSS racing food chain is Super Production’s Class C where the budding stars of tomorrow start their journey to the top. One newcomer to TSS this year is Khun Raris Yoovidhya; expect to hear a lot more mention of his name in the future. He’s just started his second season in racing - and his first in TSS - and he made an immediate impact in Sepang.

Finally the new ‘Super Eco’ category proved to the one of the big hits of TSS’s inaugural year - and it’s expected to surge much, much further this season. One driver signed up for this season is Khun Boonlit Wongwisutthirat. He perfectly demonstrates that interest in Super Eco is booming well beyond Thailand as he has tuner support from Japan to help him get his Honda Brio onto the pace. And he’s been in recent testing action at Bira.

Sportscar maker Ferrari is unquestionably the most famous automotive brand in the world - and the most desirable, as well as being one of the most exclusive. And according to the annual ‘Brand Finance Global 500’, it has the most ‘powerful’ brand name in the world. The ‘Prancing Horse’ badge is simply an icon recognisable to any man, woman and child.

So it’s good news for Thai motorsport fans that the Ferrari brand is well represented in TSS this year, thanks to Singha Motorsport Team Thailand, which is running two Ferrari 458 Challenge machines for Khun Voravud Bhirombhakdi and Khun Chairat Sangtong.

Scuderia Ferrari is the most successful brand in the history of Formula 1 (221 wins and 16 Constructors’ titles to date) so it’s also only appropriate that Singha Motorsport Team Thailand kicked off its year in TSS with a strong double P1 in Sepang, a perfect start by team leader Khun Voravud who, adding those wins to the extra points he grabbed after claiming two poles, has now to be considered the driver to beat for the 2014 Super Car Class 2-GTM title.

It’s also been a long - and now successful - journey in Super Car in just a year for Singha Motorsport Team Thailand as they pitched up in Sepang at the start of the 2013 season with one Ferrari 458 Challenge for Khun Voravud, the car setup in standard ‘Challenge’ specification, which left it well short of optimisation to Super Car regulations. That clearly showed up in the races, particularly the ‘one make’ car’s lack of downforce. However the promise was obviously there as Khun Voravud raced to a fighting double podium.

A year on the 458 Challenge has been developed to meet the regulations for Super Car Class 2-GTM 2014 and most noticeably in terms of visual appearance it sports a big racing style rear wing and front splitter while under the skin it has also shed weight. However, Ferrari’s 458 is regarded as one of weaker of the ‘Cup-Trofeo-Challenge’ breed so it’s a real testimony to the skills of this team that they have honed the car into an outstanding race winner.

With a strong backbone running through its trackside operations this season, Singha Motorsport Team Thailand can count on the services of a top European race engineer, Khun Gianluca Soli, as well as the all round input of a leading professional driver, Khun Carlo Van Dam.

And it really came right in Sepang as Khun Voravud made it a clean sweep of the maximum available points, thanks to his two poles and two wins. It sets him up as the in form driver to beat going into the next round and the Ferrari 458 Challenge as the racecar to overcome. It’s quite simply the perfect position to be in as the countdown to Bira Circuit now gets underway.

It also showed that the work undertaken by Singha Motorsport Team Thailand to address the weak points of the ‘Challenge’ package has been successful. "What we have gained is around the corners and the braking, that’s the good things," Khun Voravud noted in Sepang. He added that they haven’t developed the car to its limit yet - nor has he got the best from it. "If I have time to practice maybe half a second to a second [more]," he added. "I still need to get used to the car." That will send a chill through his rivals.

Khun Voravud isn’t too keen to talk up his title chances yet with just one round of the year completed, but he’s a calm, thoughtful and intelligent driver who is improving season by season and he’s very well aware that he is already mounting a serious run on the title, even if he’s unlikely to get such clear space, as he did in Sepang, again. "I have hope," Khun Voravud admits when pressed about his chances of winning the Super Car Class 2-GTM title. "It’s good to be on top on the first race."

With the arrival of Khun Chairat this season, the team can count on an experienced driver who will be able to provide strong support to Khun Voravud. However, after several years racing pace-setting Civic FDs in Super 2000, this driver now has to adapt to a total different style of racecar. He’s gone from a front wheel drive Japanese mass production sedan to a mid engined/rear wheel drive supercar with a powerplant that is nearly two and a half times the cubic capacity.

So, with just a quick shakedown behind him at Bira Circuit before the trip south, the first task was for Khun Chairat to start to ‘tame’ the Prancing Horse machine, tune into its wiles and exploit its many attributes - and he really set about that in Sepang. At the end of the weekend he had delivered two top-10 finishes for the #98 car and took chunks out of his laptimes with each session. Positively, his fastest race lap of the weekend in 2:17.894 (set in Race 2) demonstrated a pace that was consistent with the podium positions.

Khun Chairat can now look forward to the next round in Bira - although he admits he still has a lot of work to do to adapt to the 458 Challenge. "From Sepang, I have learnt that I need to adjust my driving style a lot, that is the steering angle, accelerate percentages, etc.," he said after the long, hot and dry weekend.

"It is much different compared to what I experienced before with [the] Honda especially in high speed corners," Khun Chairat continued. "Forward to Bira, I think I need a lot of practice for better understanding and [to get] more familiar with the car. [I] hope it will turn out well better than the previous round."

Another big positive for Singha Motorsport Team Thailand this year is Khun Carlo. He’s a top professional driver who won world championship titles in karting before taking prestigious F3 crowns in both the East and the West. Now he’s a regular in top-level sportscar racing, including the cutthroat Japanese Super GT Championship, and is also one of the Asia region’s leading driver-coaches.

So the 28-year-old wears several hats on the pitwall. He provides advice to the drivers, input on strategy to the team and leads the car setup, as he explained during the season opener in Sepang. "I’m here throughout the weekend to help mainly Voravud on his driving, his strategy, everything involved in the racing," said the Dutchman.

Khun Carlo’s in the thick of the action developing setups for the cars and in that task he’s given an extra boost, as Singha Motorsport Team Thailand is the only outfit competing in TSS this year to have a ‘spare car’ primed and ready in the back of the garage. And it's given an outing early in the week so it's fettled and ready in reserve.

"As I do with my coaching activities I always drive the car first to put some good references of the data and see if the setup is in the range where I want it to be so," adds Khun Carlo. In fact with three cars on hand this team has left very little to chance this season.

So when TSS rolls into Bira Circuit in just over a month’s time for the second round of the season - and the first to take place on ‘home’ soil - it’s totally appropriate that a Ferrari driver is at the top of the championship points standings, it’s exactly where any driver of a racecar built in Maranello should be found. It’s always hard to beat the hand of history, but that will be the task of Khun Voravud’s rivals.

The Reiter Engineering-developed Chevrolet Camaro GT3 is very much a work in progress and its TSS debut weekend in Sepang was certainly a work progress. The car only arrived in the paddock in Sepang at teatime on the Wednesday, delivered to a team that had never seen the car before - but by late Sunday afternoon it had bagged a pole, a win and a runners up position to its name. Impressive stuff by any standards - a work in progress that quite simply delivered.

Khun Tomáš Enge was the driver behind the wheel; his ‘racing CV’ needs little recapping for Thai motorsport fans but the Czech driver was in fact wearing a few ‘hats’ in the Vattana Motorsport garage at Sepang. Apart from being one of the world’s top sportscar stars he also a development driver for Reiter Engineering and - along with several of the factory’s technicians - he was locked into the thick of the action in the race against time to prepare and setup the Camaro before the competitive action got underway.

That race against time to get the Camaro GT3 up to speed was even tougher as track running was limited due to the bumper programme which saw TSS forming part of the Malaysian Super Series schedule for this event. But, despite all the hurdles, come raceday it all went off to plan.

"To come here to such hot conditions with a new car, no idea what to expect in terms of reliability, in terms of performance, speed of the car, I think we just succeeded 100%, we cannot succeed better," said Khun Tomáš after his win in Race 1. "The start is faultless."

The team running the Camaro GT3 was Vattana Motorsport. One of Thai motorsport’s biggest and most successful outfits, it’s the agent for Reiter Engineering here. Already entering and supporting a string of the German firm’s Lamborghini Gallardo GT3s, the Camaro represented a totally new direction. A big front-engined sportscar, Reiter also has a game plan that potentially could rewrite the GT3 rulebook - the price.

The German company plans to sell this car for 200,000 euros - that’s under nine million baht. For a brand new fully homologated ‘turn key’ GT3 car it’s a staggering price - half that of some of its rivals - and if Reiters’ customers can be led to feel it’s a racecar that is able to win races it could make sweeping changes to the GT3 landscape.

That could apply in Thailand too; a brand new GT3 car for the price of a secondhand one cannot be overlooked. So for Vattana Motorsport, Reiter Engineering and Khun Tomáš - putting it in the ‘shop window’ in Sepang was equally important.

To unbox the new racecar, run it in just one free practice session (shared between two drivers) and then one qualifying session before a lights-to-flag win is as good as it gets. A new track, new conditions and boiling hot temperatures - meant the engineering team behind-the-scenes had to be bang on with their predictions and analysis.

Khun Tomáš is quick to point out that fast flowing sweeps and the long power sapping straights that characterise Sepang worked in the favour of the big American ‘muscle car’. "First of all this circuit suits the car because it has a huge power because of the long straights I can make up some time that a fact," he says.

After making its name developing Lamborghini’s lightweight, sleek and mid-engined Gallardo into a race winner in GT3 series across the globe - the Camaro doesn’t at first glance seem the logical next choice for Reiter Engineering, but Khun Tomáš says that it has attributes that tick customer racers’ boxes, notably a demand for manageable raw power and a racecar that is easy to drive.

"This is what customers like," he says. "It’s what customers always ask for, to have as much power as possible and because of the engine is in the front it’s pretty easy to control the car as well. And with huge power you sometimes have a sliding rear out of the corner, but it is very, very easy to handle for customers. For me every customer that has driven this car really enjoyed it and really enjoyed to drive the car, to control the car, they were satisfied,’ he adds.

To get off to the perfect winning start straight out of the box is what any racecar maker and team dreams of. "For us and for Vattana motorsport as the first team to bring this car over it’s a great relief to win the first race," admits Khun Tomáš. It certainly was a dream start and spirits were sky high in the Vattana garage.

Despite that superb start, the hard work won’t be easing up at all, the Camaro is still a raw racecar and development work, which switches now to a focus on track adaptability, will continue unabated. In fact its next challenge - Bira Circuit - simply couldn’t be any different to Sepang.

"We are still working on the car, we are still flat out and those developments are more setup developments rather than technical development," he says. "But since the beginning of last year we really start to focus on the Camaro and start to develop it and test it a lot and race it a few times in Europe and since that time the car has improved massively."

It’s also pleasing to see Khun Tomáš describing TSS as being at a level where winning really demonstrates the attributes of a racecar. "It’s great to show that the [Camaro] is capable of winning races in front of the other cars like Porsches, McLaren, Ferrari in such a great championship that TSS is."

So what was Khun Tomáš’ own personal opinion of the Camaro? "As a driver you’re never satisfied, you want to go through the corner 10 kilometers faster, but for the GT3 car it’s a perfect racecar." The ultra competitive nature that drives only a small handful as far at the pinnacle of motorsport - F1 - always nudges through.

Next stop next month is Bira Circuit and it couldn’t be anymore different. It will be a totally new challenge for Reiter, Vattana, Tomáš and the Camaro. The driver, for now, isn’t sticking his neck out; it will be a case of how fast they can adapt their new package to a new track.

"We have to see when we come to the next race, which is a completely different circuit to Sepang," he says. "How we are going to perform over there, that’s obviously another question." For now though this is a very happy partnership that has ticked off the first box.

The new ‘Super Eco’ category, which will next month kick off its second season, is creating a real buzz, both with first time drivers and those that have been on the scene for sometime. Straight into the latter category fits Khun Boonlit Wongwisutthirat.

A familiar face to Thai motorsports fans he's been racing for five years now, first driving a Honda Civic EG and then with a Toyota Yaris. But now he's joined Super Eco, adding his name to the entry list at last December's season closer in Bangsaen behind the wheel of a strikingly-liveried Honda Brio.

Khun Boonlit was one of the first to jump onto the ‘Eco racing’ bandwagon last year and his Brio stands out from the rest as he's had important support in turning this little car from a roadrunner to race machine, albeit within the strict confines of the rules that are designed to keep costs as low as possible.

That interest has come from a leading Japanese tuner and that itself emphasises how the Super Eco category has a real eye on future trends. "We have had Tracy Sport from Japan come to develop the car together with us," explained Khun Boonlit recently at Bira Circuit where he was testing the Brio.

"They are looking for new markets outside Japan and already in Indonesia and India they race the Brio," he adds. So it's a logical fit that this company should team up with Khun Boonlit. Experience is very useful in the world of Super Eco where technical advantage is limited and so all fresh ideas are welcome.

"[Tracy Sports] support us about the ECU, they tune [it] up from the stock ECU and send engineers and [also assist with the] suspension," notes Khun Boonlit. He's quick to add that the Japanese firm has made a positive contribution to his Brio's development. There’s more of the Japanese theme too. The striking livery, says Khun Boonlit, is from Japanese inspiration. Team sponsors are RSR, 5ZIGEN and Tec Store.

Khun Boonlit is happy to plant himself in the 'gentleman racer' category; he races for pleasure and always looks stress-free in the paddock. And he says the Brio is the perfect fit for him. "The Eco Car is fun, I come to race just for fun, so if [it's] not fun I don't come," he says.

After his TSS taster in Bangsaen Khun Boonlit is gearing up to contest the full 2014 Super Eco season; he's pleased to be part of the leading race series in Thailand. And expect his Brio to be seen fighting at the front and for the car to continue to improve lap times. "We want to make more development this year," he says.

There were several new faces in the TSS paddock at Sepang and one of those was found in Super Production’s close-fought Class C - Khun Raris Yoovidhya. He’s kicked off just his second season in motor racing - last year he debuted in domestic production car racing, but this year he’s stepped up to TSS to race in the premier category reserved for this genre of cars, Super Production. Khun Raris is driving for RMI Racing Team by Sunoco so he should have all the equipment and back up support he needs to push his career forward.

So why did he choose to make the step up to TSS? Khun Raris says it was down to the unrivalled racetracks on the calendar. "[TSS has] Sepang and Bangsaen," he says. Despite setbacks during the races, which were beyond his control, his first weekend in the series kicked off with a double visit to the podium, P5 in Race 1 was followed up by P4 in Race 2.

However that was tinged with some disappointment as he’s aiming much higher - he’s looking to win in fact. "I'm not happy with that because my team and I aimed for first place [in] Class C," he said, after nursing his Honda Jazz to the finishline in the opening race.

"It my first time here but I do pretty go when qualifying, I got ninth place of [the] twenty one cars including [the] Super 1500 [cars]," he says. "But [in the] first race I got hit by [another car] on the first lap [and] my rear suspension go wrong. And need to drive 9 more laps to finish this race." So expect to see Khun Raris in the thick of the Class C front running action over the final three rounds of the season.

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