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Jun 04, 2014 - 04:49 PM
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Pasin Enjoys Strong Finish To Tough Silverstone Weekend
Posted by: newsla on Jun 04, 2014 - 04:41 PM
Sports Cars
Pasin Enjoys Strong Finish To Tough Silverstone Weekend


A difficult start during his first ever race weekend at Silverstone Circuit pleasingly ended with a very strong finish as Pasin Lathouras, and his stand-in team mate Alessandro Pier Guidi, brought the #29 AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3 home in an excellent fifth place after three hard hours of racing.

 

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Starting from P15 on the bumper 36-car grid for the ‘Silverstone 500’ Pasin was forced to battle right from the green lights to work his way into the top ten and with Alessandro fighting equally hard the pair eventually climbed to P5 by two-thirds distance and then successfully defended the position as the race moved away from them.

That pleasing result came against a backdrop of car issues that dogged the team throughout the free practice sessions, which meant qualifying was in real terms the first session they had available to set up the car. The pair were also working together for the first time, while for Pasin it was to be his first race at Silverstone. On top of that they had the heaviest car on the grid – with 85 kg of additional weight – and with that level of ballast it would be very difficult to manage the tyres and car balance in an endurance race scenario.

The result was a real reward for the two drivers and all the team members while, after the sharp setback of a zero points score last time out, it hoists Pasin back into fifth place in the 2014 British GT Championship points standings with three rounds and four races having now been completed.

Practice & Qualifying

The ‘Silverstone 500’ is the biggest and most prestigious round of the British GT Championship and the entry list swelled up to 38 ‘GT’ specification racecars driven by a swathe of top drivers, everyone desiring to show up well in this endurance race.

For Pasin, he would also need track time to get up to speed with this legendary circuit, the long time home of the British F1 Grand Prix. The 5.891-km, 18-turn circuit in Northamptonshire is ultra-fast and ultra-demanding; learning the lines that have been taken by the champions for decades isn’t an overnight task. The 20-year-old’s first challenge was certainly a big one.

Pasin also had a new teammate, Alessandro Pier Guidi, the Italian deputising for the Thai’s regular co-driver Richard Lyons who was unavailable due to a prior commitment in the Japanese Super GT Championship.

The pair would have to slot in together from the start of the official sessions. However Alessandro is a fast and experienced driver who knows the Ferrari well (in fact he won the GT-D class at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona earlier this year in a 458) so that would be a positive to grab hold of.

This is Pasin’s first season in British GT, in fact his first outside Asia, and demonstrating his commitment to this new challenge, the biggest of his short racing career so far, he’s relocated his university studies from Bangkok to London.

However the positives evaporated as soon as the first free practice session kicked off as the #29 car was down on power, an issue that is amplified on this high-speed circuit where real grunt is just about everything. Only managing P22 in the first session and then P17 in the second was a terrible start for Pasin and Alessandro as the AF Corse engineers scratched their heads as they tried to solve the problem.

The problem was traced to broken catalytic convertor internals which were interrupting the exhaust flow, but with just two free practice sessions before qualifying commenced it left the team heading into the two qualifying sessions in effect starting their set up programme. For Pasin qualifying would be his first real practice session.

With the catalytic convertor problems resolved both drivers improved their times during the qualifying sessions but it was a struggle as the team raced to setup the car. With the extra 85 kg that the #29 car had to carry over the weekend they would simply have to try to extract the most they could. The weather at Silverstone continued to remain cloudy and dry, as it had been all day, but Alessandro had a tough run of it in the first qualifying session, he was down in P17 when the checkered flag came out.

With further tweaks to the car Pasin dug deep and hauled the car to P7 in the second qualifying session, the youngster posting a best lap in 02:05.332. With the drivers’ times combined to make up the grid, Pasin and Alessandro were P15 – that meant they would have a mountain to climb come the race if they were going to make an impact.

Race

From the eighth row of the grid things didn’t look at all promising as the racecars lined up for the start of the Silverstone 500. However all around them it did look much more promising – big crowds surged in for the race, which is rapidly growing in stature. As is the series, many now reckon this is becoming one of the toughest domestic GT championships in the world and it’s certainly looking this way – an impressive entry list, top drivers, the latest GT3 cars, factory representation, highly knowledgeable fans, packed grandstands, strong media interest and plenty of non-stop TV coverage.

However when the lights went green matters soon improved for Pasin. At the rolling start he positioned himself perfectly and over the first lap made up four places, the red #29 car was already nudging at the top-ten within a few laps. Intent was signaled.

By the time the Safety Car appeared and everyone dived for the pits to make their first stop Pasin had hauled the Ferrari into P8, after a stunning opening stint that put the crew into the points positions, all despite the weight they were carrying.

The AF Corse team has been ultra-slick in its pitwork all season and this was the case again in Silverstone as a lightening-quick stop helped the #29 car make up time before quick work from Alessandro got them up to P5. However the additional weight meant the Italian couldn’t keep the BMW and Aston Martin behind him and he dropped to P7. Conserving the tyres due to the weight and the endurance distance would be key – as well as waiting to see how the race unfolded.

Consistency was vital and with the relentless pace set Pasin and Alessandro the #29 car worked back up to P5 as the race went into the final stages. The Italian was in for the last stint and with the extra weight also accelerating tyre wear Alessandro had to dig really deep to keep the #888 Triple 8 BMW Z4 and the #80 Nissan Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R behind him, both these cars able to run a superior race pace.

Alessandro tenaciously clung onto fifth place over the final half hour, he had only half a second’s advantage at the line when the checkered flag waved after 3 hours of racing and the three battling cars were in fact covered by just 2 seconds. It was a strong finish to a weekend that started the back foot and always saw the need to manage the additional weight requirements.

That result also puts Pasin back into fifth place in the championship with 41 points, a real bounce back after the zero points score in the previous round at Rockingham.

Now there is a two and a half week break before the 2014 British GT Championship resumes at Snetterton Circuit in Norfolk, on 21-22 June, for the fourth round of the year. This time its back to a ‘double header’ format with two races (races 5 and 6 of the season).

Pasin Lathouras: “I’m very pleased with the result, it didn’t look like we would be able to put something decent together as we had a pretty difficult start to the weekend. In the practice sessions straight away we had a problem in the exhaust where the catalysers were broken and blocking the exhaust resulting in reduced power so our first practice was actually during qualifying, where although we both had improved our times a lot, our combined time wasn’t anywhere near where we had hoped to be and the 85 kg ballast weight really didn’t help our struggle. But in the race I had a good start, managed to gain four positions on the first lap and slowly picked off a couple more positions by the time Safety Car came out and when I went in to handover we were in eighth. Alessandro did a really great drive, it’s been good to share the car with him, and the team did really good with the pitstops but with the additional weight we couldn’t fight off some of the cars so pretty much for the rest of the race we stayed consistent and worked to chip away at the top-ten positions and that really paid off and at the end Alessandro really worked very hard to keep our track position. So I’m pretty happy, it was great to race at Silverstone at last, it’s every bit the exciting circuit of it’s reputation and I’m happy that we picked up more points.”

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