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Latest News From Thailand Super Series
Posted by: newsla on Jun 13, 2014 - 06:22 AM
Sports Cars
Latest News From Thailand Super Series


There is now less than three weeks remaining until the second round of Thailand Super Series (TSS) 2014 – and the first round of the year to take place on ‘home’ soil – gets underway and the build up is already in full swing.

 

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There have been many new racecars flooding into TSS this season that have caught the eye – such as the new Chevrolet Camaro GT3 and McLaren MP4-12C GT3, however in Super Car Class 2-GTM perhaps the standout name has been Audi and the arrival of its sleek R8 LMS Cup machine comes thanks to B-Quik Racing. Running a sophisticated and purposeful new racecar has entailed changes throughout the organisational aspects – however this is a team that thrives on professional methodologies and it’s been very much a case of making the next step forward.

Super Car’s new Class 3-GTC will debut in Bira next month and it promises to fill an empty gap in the upward path to the pinnacle of Thai racing, an affordable entry point to Super Car where drivers and teams can learn the ropes of the ‘big time’. One of the most exciting cars on the first ever Super car Class 3-GTC entry list will be the Nissan Skyline R32 of Chiang Mai based KS Racing which is the concept of Khun Narin Yensuk.

It feels like the season opener in Sepang is but a distant memory although it took place less than a month ago. Such is the focus and attention now being placed on the next round at Bira Circuit that it’s already part of the past. However when the screams of the racing engines died away on the Sunday night in Malaysia – a major operation to bring the racecars home immediately swung into action and that was swelled by additional cars heading for Thailand for the first time. That operation ran smoothly and soon all the cars were home and the teams started preparations for Race 3 & 4.

Last year Super Eco made its debut and was an instant hit with drivers, the new category offering a cost effective start to budding racing careers. Growth was explosive and there certainly will be a full grid of ‘Eco’ cars in Bira next month. Widening the programme away from just the Thai ‘Eco Car’ contenders is the next step as TSS continues to set the pace – and that means a new brand name will be on the grid – Kia. The Korean brand will be represented through its official importer here, Yontrakit, and that means the little car will have strong backing as it looks to take on the established ‘Eco’ machines.

Finally, the official timetable for TSS Race 3 & 4 has been released with the biggest change being that it has becomes a four-day programme. Qualifying is now staggered over Thursday afternoon and Friday morning while the races will start as early as Friday afternoon for some of the many categories. The main action though – Super 2000 and the three Super Car classes – still takes place across Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Rising standards

Super Car’s Class 2-GTM drew the biggest numbers in the top tier in Sepang with a swathe of exciting new state-of-the-art racecars being added to the entry list – and one of the new machines to enjoy a lot of pre season chatter was the dramatic Audi R8 LMS Cup, which was making its TSS debut thanks to B-Quik Racing.

The new Audi was drafted in to replace the Porsche 997 GT3 Cup that Quik Racing team leader Khun Henk Kiks has used over the past couple of seasons – the rapidly rising standards in this highly competitive class deeming an upgrade from the ageing ‘Cup’ car was a necessity for the 2014 season.

Circumstances however dictated that the true promise of the Audi wasn’t to be unlocked on its debut at last month’s season opener in Sepang as Khun Henk missed the free practice sessions due to business commitments and then tyre issues during the first race and a punt in the rear in the second, kept the ‘New Bumblebee’ from making a decent run at the podium positions.

However it was clear that the slippery R8 LMS Cup has a lot of potential to extract from it – and certainly it will be a decent step forward from the 997 GT3 Cup. The Audi though is a totally different machine to the Porsche and requires a fundamental new learning process for the driver. Khun Henk agrees. “Although the results in Sepang for Race 1 and 2 of TSS don't reflect it, the R8 is a substantial improvement for Class 2 compared with the 997,” he says.

“This [is] especially noticeable on fast flowing tracks like Sepang and probably Buriram where the difference in aero makes the R8 a different animal compared with the 997,” the Dutchman continues. “From a driver's perspective, one has to relearn how to drive. The 997 follows the old adage, slow – relatively – in fast out and relies on its unsurpassed traction under acceleration.

“The Audi is offsetting that with higher corner entry and mid corner speeds but you have to wait a bit longer before stepping on it coming out of the corner,” he continues. “This of course has an effect on racing lines, braking points and everything involved. It’s a fantastic process to go through as a driver, as long as you understand what the different cars are doing under you.”

Khun Henk admits that the gap between the Audi and Porsche will be much closer at Bira Circuit next month. “For Bira and Bangsaen however, the 997s are a major force, the short, tight turns and relatively low speeds, benefit the agile 997s, so there won't be much difference, if any, between the modern cars and the slightly aged 997 platform. That will keep the balance for TSS Class 2 very exciting.” After a qualifying session engine failure in Sepang for the team’s regular 997, which was in the experienced hands of Khun Thomas Raldorf that weekend, the car will be back in action for Race 3 & 4, with the rapid Dane getting a second shot behind the wheel.

The Audi doesn’t just throw up a fresh challenge for the driver to relearn the ‘basics’, it’s posing an equally fresh and exciting challenge for the B-Quik Racing technicians who now have to adapt to running a completely different car. This is a team though that has come an awful long way in a few seasons and was one of the first in Super Car to recognise the future need to meet the best international operational standards – quickly recruiting a trio well proven foreign race engineers to slot into the B-Quik Racing structure to introduce their metrics, develop standards and provide a benchmark for the existing staff to learn from.

“B-Quik Racing, is adapting to the R8 rapidly, although we don’t have the universally available set up knowledge as there is for the various 911's we're coming to grips nicely,” says Khun Henk. “With the support of Absolute Racing [Audi Sport agent for Asia] we have come to know the R8's requirements and sensitivities in a short time. We are now familiarising ourselves more and more and one of the reasons why the car is stripped and put together a few times in our workshop is just to make sure we can deliver the speed of work required when we're on track.”

Certainly a brief visit to the team’s spotless raceshop, tacked onto the end of the B-Quik garage on Nawamin Road in Bangkok, shows professional team methodologies in practice with attired mechanics calmly going about the business of understanding and preparing their new frontline racecar. And they will learn a heck of a lot more as, in-between the second TSS round at Bira next month and the third at Buriram in November, B-Quik Racing plans to tackle South East Asia’s leading endurance race, the Sepang 12 Hours.

“We're also preparing the car and everything around it for the upcoming MMER 12 hours of Sepang,” explains Khun Henk. “The endurance aspect is a totally different angle compared with the sprint racing we do in TSS. Although the preparation from a technical perspective is the same, the practice for pitstops, brake replacements, etc., gives a whole new dynamic. It’s essential that the crew knows the car and can handle basic repairs, literally, blindfolded, so that’s another aspect that we’re working hard on.”

This is though a team that has successfully risen to the challenge of both the ‘New Era’ of Thai motorsport as well as the demands of running first the 997 GT3 Cup and now the R8 LMS Cup. Khun Henk says that running the new Audi is certainly helping them all to make another big stride forward.

In fact they are evolving into a very self-sufficient team, able to manage more and more aspects of preparation and maintenance under their own roof. Being able to innovate and become more self reliant will be vital for B-Quik Racing not only in TSS, but even more so when they tackle the Sepang 12 Hours.

“The R8 requires its own set of tools and equipment to allow quick and easy setup work, we've procured some of that and are in the process of making tools ourselves also,” Khun Henk, who, before racing the 997 in Super Car campaigned a locally-built supercharged Porsche 944 in the now defunct ‘Super Retro’ class. “That’s one of the big changes in our team, we're partly moving from replacing things to making them ourselves and replace or improve. This gives us a better understanding of everything we do.”

Alongside all these changes and evolutions, B-Quik Racing has become a physically bigger operation this year. As well as a doubling of the line-up to two in house car as the 997 GT3 Cup is available to be run directly for customers, they will also be supporting external customer owned Porsches – and will even run a pair of Honda Brio’s in the popular Super Eco category.

“We will run the R8 and the 997 in B-Quik colours and we have customer 997's to take care of too,” notes Khun Henk. “Therefore the core racing crew now consist of ten B-Quik [Racing] people, strengthened by our trusted R&T crew Barry Forth, Duarte Alves and Idris bin Ibrahim. Furthermore we have people from Audi with us during this season to ensure we don’t miss out on anything.”

B-Quik Racing is really a perfect example of the response being made to the rocketing standards in Thai racing, changes that quite simply have to be made by everyone, not least in order to remain fully competitive. “These are interesting times for the team and the [TSS] organisation,” says Khun Henk. “Standing still is moving back, so learning and trying new things brings us forward.”

This is a team that doesn’t just campaign immaculate and strikingly liveried racecars, but one that thrives on rising to the most extreme challenges that motorsport provides, a team that is step by step turning itself into a slickly professional, international-standard operation. Khun Henk is by character one of the more modest characters in the pitlane – but expect this team to take the ‘Bumblebee’ colours more and more onto the international stage in the future.

No sooner had the echo of the racing engines died away around Sepang Circuit last month at the conclusion of the Sunday’s second race of the TSS weekend, and the drivers had headed towards the airport for the two hour flight back to Bangkok, than the operation to bring the racecars back to Thailand swung into motion.

The logistics of the return leg of the journey really did begin instantly; in fact packing was underway well before the evening skies over Sepang darkened. There had been two main methods of shipping the racecars to Malaysia this year – by road or by sea.

For this year TSS particularly wanted to give competitors a wide range of options for the transiting operation and as well as the official programme, teams were also able to transport their racecars and equipment themselves – with some making the journey much earlier so they could take advantage of pre race testing opportunities at Sepang.

The cars that came by road, a 1,500 km trek south, comprised of the bulk of the Super 1500, Super Production and Super 2000 machines loaded onto two car transporters plus several 40-foot shipping containers which included three additional Super Cars, as well as teams equipment and supplies.

The contingent that had come to Malaysia by road was the first to leave. The teams’ personnel along with TSS staff worked at a fast and efficient pace together to prepare, load and secure the racecars onto the transporters – and late into the darkness of Sunday night that convoy set off for Bangkok.

Meanwhile the three Super Cars that had been completed at the very last-minute and thus joined the road convoy down, comprising of the two new NSports-Yokohama-Project Mu Thailand Nissan GT-R R35s and the RZ Racing Mazda RX-8 which had been readied at Rotary Revolution’s workshops with just a matter of hours to spare, had travelled in shipping containers and joined the two transporters on the highway trip.

Also heading northwards with this contingent was a shipping container from Parker-Innovation Motorsport, which contained the two factory-supported Super Production Mazda2 machines as well as the team’s equipment.

Following a safe and smooth return journey, the road convoy’s racecars and containers were quickly back where they had started from, Soopanava Port in Samut Prakan, and unloaded just four days later, on the Thursday.

The racecars heading by sea meanwhile were reloaded into a row of shipping containers sitting on the vast apron behind the paddock at Sepang International Circuit and they were ready to depart for Port Klang, Malaysia’s primary gateway seaport, early during the week after the race. The huge port is only a short hop from the circuit; it’s just under 40 kms away.

The consignment by sea was swelled by some extra racecars with a couple of new machines having been sent direct to Sepang from overseas for the first race of the year. These included Vattana Motorsport’s new Super Car Class 1-GT3 Chevrolet Camaro, which was flown in direct from the Reiter Engineering factory in Germany the week before the races, and B-Quik Racing’s new Super Car Class 2-GTM Audi R8 LMS Cup, which is a former Audi Cup China ‘One Make’ race series 'hot laps' demonstration car.

Some regular Super Car machines had also headed to Sepang from Thailand well ahead of the official transportation process, including four Lamborghini Gallardos under the Vattana Motorsport umbrella that had arrived early to grab some extra testing. These cars now became part of the official process back.

With the first scheduled return shipping kicking off on the Thursday after the race, first to depart were three containers from Vattana Motorsport, which comprised of the new Camaro GT3 (which had been flown directly from Germany to Malaysia) and a trio of Vattana-run Lamborghini Gallardos.

These Gallardos were were made up of the striking machines of team leader Khun Chonsawat Asavahame (FL2 GT3), Khun Umar A. Rahman (Super Trofeo) and Khun Visarut Chotiwitsavaitkul (LP520-4) as well as the customer supported True Visions example of Khun Bobby Buncharoen (GT3) and they all returned to Laem Chabang Port the following Tuesday and then made the road journey to Soopanava Port where they were unloaded and collected by the team.

The second and final batch of racecars departed from Malaysia the following Thursday and followed the same pattern arriving back at Laem Chabang the following Tuesday and with TSS aiming for flexibility in returning the racecars to the teams the shipping containers were then delivered by road to several different locations that helped to improve convenience.

The arrival of turnkey, factory-developed racecars from overseas has reshaped the top level Thai motorsport landscape – almost literally – overnight. The long and fine tradition of local tuning shops developing racecars that could go out and compete at the pinnacle of motorsport here has almost become a victim of the rapid rise of the racing machinery standards here.

But in fact scratch just beneath the surface and there are still talented Thai tuners building racecars to compete in Super Car. The factory Toyota team of course pioneers local skills to winning effect and the two new Nissan GT-R R35s of the NSports-Yokohama-Project Mu Thailand team sent a shiver through their rivals in Sepang and those races were just the first stage of the development programme. Not to forget the exciting new Mazda RX-8 built by Rotary Revolution, an outfit driven by the passion to race.

Now another tuning concern, KS Racing, is set to compete at the top level this season, this time in the brand new Super Car Class 3-GTC category that will launch at Bira next month. This category aims to provide a ladder into the top flight and the entry list is set to include racecars as diverse as Mitsubishi’s Evo, Ferrari’s 430 Challenge and Lotus’s Exige V6.

In the long standing spirit of Thai motorsport this latest project, which is unfolding in Chiang Mai, is one where all parties involved will be learning and developing as they go step by step – and certainly all the ingredients are there to turn it into a programme that will grab the attention of Thai racing fans. With its long, sleek and purposeful lines, Nissan's Skyline R32, the weapon that KS Racing will unleash at Bira next month, is a powerful sportscar that really resonates here.

The project is the concept of Khun Narin Yensuk – he’s a well known face on the Thai motorsport scene, but it’s only over the last few years that he’s focused on circuit racing and this will be his biggest step as a driver and team owner so far. “I [have had] a modify car shop in Chiang Mai [for] twenty years,” he explains. “And I start to race thirteen [to] fourteen years ago. The first race that I race is local drag.”

That passion for tuning eventually led to an introduction circuit racing – which in fact came about in a slightly roundabout way. “Four [to] five years ago, I have one customer from Singapore, he wanted to race in Thailand and contacted me to build his racecar,” says Khun Narin. “But when he raced, he crashed every time, that made me confused [and] I think [is] it my fault or not? After that I try to use this car to race, and everything is okay and then it made me love circuit racing.”

He's now looking to go further as a race driver and the opportunity of joining the new Super Car Class 3-GTC category seemed the logical next step. However, it's a very ambitious next step – developing a racecar from scratch that can mix it up with well-proven benchmark racecars in this class. Restrictions, particularly around power and weight, placed on Class 3-GTC though will help him push to be competitive. “Because I'm not [a] good driver, I need to learn step by step, that’s why I choose Class 3,” he says.

Khun Narin then narrowed down the options of what car to use for the new project, depending on how it slotted into his tuning business. “I had two choices for my race car, one is [the] Toyota Supra and another one is [the] Nissan Skyline,” he says. “I choose [a] Japanese car because I’m selling car parts online [and] most [of my] customers are in [the] USA, Australia and [the] UK, and [the] Supra and Skyline [are] still popular in these three countries.” The idea of developing the powerful Nissan sportscar for Super Car Class 3-GTC struck a cord. “The Skyline is more difficult to modify, I think it's [a] challenge for me,” he notes.

It's also turned into a real race against time as the whole project only started less than three weeks ago and Khun Narin and his mechanics have been working round the clock to build the car up into a full race machine. That's meant starting with a full production road car, which had to be stripped bare before the painstaking work of turning it into a racecar got underway. “This car is a road car in Thailand, I buy from my friend here,” he says.

The build programme is taking shape – slowly. “For now, I do not [do] much, [the] rollcage was just finished two days ago,” Khun Narin reported on Tuesday. The car was stripped back to a bare shell; all the soundproofing was chipped away and spot welding was also completed. “All the [parts are] coming [including] custom made coilover [suspension] designed by my friend in Singapore, but [which] must be modified by my mechanics in my shop and I hope the paint will be finished this week.”

With a real rush just ahead to get the Skyline completed in time to be on the grid for the first-ever Super Car Class 3-GTC race, the overall development programme will come in several phases – and that starts with the powerplant. “I have two engines, one [has] full modification [and] I [will] use this engine in Buriram,” he explains. “But for this race, I [will] use the spare engine, it's [a] RB26DETT [with] complete HKS cylinder head, stock block [and] twin HKS 2540 turbos.” Those engines will be mated up to a racing prepared “close ratio gearbox” that is on standby.

With a raw new car and a big career step up to make at the same time, Khun Narin is being realistic about the first race – finishing will be the objective. “Everyone wants to win, me too,” he says. “But I'm not an [experienced] driver, I hope I just can finish the race first. I think if I want to be a good racer, I need to learn how to finish the race first.” With around half a dozen cars expected on the grid next month for the first ever Class 3-GTC races, just reaching the finishline will offer plenty of championship points.

A lot of hours are now going into the project and with three weeks to go, Khun Narin is very confident that the car will be completed in good time – such good time in fact that a shakedown is provisionally set to take place in ten to twelve days time and that will mean his team will be able gain feedback and make improvements to the Skyline before the race weekend moves into view. “I want to test before [the] race,” he reveals. “I hope I'll go to Bira [on] twenty fifth of this month.”

Certainly in three weeks time this is going to be one of the racecars to look out for on the inaugural Super Car Class 3-GTC grid. A brand new class that aims to offer brand new opportunities for Thai racers, the #33 Nissan Skyline R32 will be one of the many unknowns. Having put this project together in record time and through the knowledge and hard work of the KS Racing Team, Khun Narin will edge out onto the grid with a lot of satisfaction, even before even the lights go green. "I love to drive fast cars and I love to modify, that why I have [the] speed shop,” he says. “For me every raceday is my holiday, the best thing for me is I design myself, I do myself, I tune myself and I drive myself."

Tucked away almost at the end of the bumper entry list for ‘Super Eco’ this season is car #38, which is both new and unique. While Honda, Suzuki and Mitsubishi are all familiar names on to Eco racing fans, the name 'Kia Picanto' certainly isn’t.

But the tiny car will be a welcome addition to the grid and it adds a new direction for Super Eco going into its second season as the Picanto is built in Korea – and thus becomes the first car in Super Eco that derives from outside the Thailand ‘Eco Car’ programme. Last year TSS set the ball rolling by introducing ‘Eco’ car racing to Thailand – a concept that has in just a year become mainstream. This year we are again breaking new ground by opening the category up to 1.2-litre ‘Eco Cars’ from outside the Thai Eco Car programme.

The Picanto will also be an ‘official’ entry as the race programme is being developed by the official Thai importer for the Korean brand, Yontrakit. Behind the wheel will be Khun Rattanin Leenutaphong, he's a member of the Yontrakit family and comes with plenty of pedigree to race this car as he’s the reigning Lotus Cup Thailand champion.

The project began last autumn and the 1.2-litre Picanto ‘Eco’ racecar made its first public appearance as a show car on the Kia stand at the Thailand International Motor Expo in Bangkok last December. The project has been mostly developed in house but there has been input from Kia’s motorsport division, which has supplied a homologated rollcage.

Stripped of its eye-catching show wrap, the car first tested at Bira circuit in February and more recently it was back again for a second run, this time dressed in its racing colours. Notably it carries big Kia logos and the team behind the project admits they want to get the name associated with motorsport here and to research the impact of exposing the brand to circuit racing. Although the Kia brand has grown globally in recognition over the last decade its cars come to Thailand CBU and it is still in the early stages of its awareness with consumers here.

With the Super Eco rules being very restrictive to match the spirit of the Eco Car programme – low cost, accessible and lots of fun – there are limits that Yontrakit will reach in developing the car, which they have to do all by themselves, there simply aren’t the multiple ‘off the shelf’ tuning parts that is the case with the Swift or Brio. The second test focused on software but with a low revving engine the team has plenty of work to do and they admit they still have to find a couple of seconds if they are to be competitive at Bira next month.

The official schedule for Race 3 & 4 at Bira Circuit has been released – and it certainly will offer even more non-stop action for the fans as the programme now spreads out over four days. That’s the biggest change this year as thanks to the bumper programme – which includes the arrival of the new Super Car Class 3-GTC – the official track action now gets underway on Thursday morning.

The new staggered programme will see all the categories enjoying their first free practice runs on Thursday morning (3 July), continuing right through lunchtime before qualifying for Super Eco, Super Pickup, Super Production and Super 1500 takes place from 1440 to 1710.

Friday (4 July) will see qualifying wrap up in the morning with Super 2000 and then Super Car Class 3-GTC, Super Car Class 2-GTM and Super Car Class 1-GT3 all hitting the track consecutively from 0940-1210. After the lunch break the first round of races for Super Eco, Super Pickup, Super Production and Super 1500 are set to take place. For the first two categories it will be their first races of the season – and both will have three races squeezed in over the weekend. Finally, Thursday will wrap up with qualifying for the Lotus Cup Thailand.

Saturday morning (5 July) will kick off with the second round of races for Super Eco, Super Production, Super 1500 and finally the first race for the Lotus Cup Thailand. For Super Eco this will in fact be race two of three while for Super Production and Super 1500 this will be their second and final races of the weekend as their programme schedule switches around when compared to last season. After lunch the action winds up with the first races of the weekend for Super 2000 (22 laps) and then the three Super Car classes (all three are 28 laps) take to the track through the afternoon, before the day rounds out with race 2 of 3 for the Super Pickup runners.

Sunday morning (6 July) kicks off with the third and final races of the weekend for Super Eco and Super Pickup before the ‘Super Car Parade’ and second Lotus Cup Thailand race ushers in the lunchtime ‘Hot Laps’ and ‘Pitwalk’ festivities. The afternoon then winds up as the biggest categories battle it out for their second races of the weekend and their fourth of the season, Super 2000 coming on song first before giving way to the three Super Car classes running in the order of Super Car Class 2-GTM, Super Car Class 1-GT3 and then Super Car Class 3-GTC.



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