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Jul 09, 2014 - 07:33 AM
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Latest News From Thailand Super Series
Posted by: newsla on Jul 09, 2014 - 07:30 AM
Sports Cars
Latest News From Thailand Super Series


It was billed at the ultimate showdown between Khun Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak and Khun Tomáš Enge, the two drivers that dominated in Sepang. However no one read that script to Khun Chonsawat Asavahame. He turned up at Bira Circuit with a brand new Lamborghini, the biggest team in the paddock and with the biggest ambitions. Khun Chonsawat then won both Super Car Class 1-GT3 races, leading each one from start to finish. Job done.

 

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On what was very likely to be the last ever visit by TSS to Bira Circuit, Khun Chonsawat had firmly etched his highly experienced name into the record books here with two well controlled drives where he simply didn’t put a foot wrong. Of the other likely winners, Khun Vutthikorn was forced to withdraw before qualifying started while the Chevrolet Camaro, the racecar that everyone had been talking about before last weekend unfolded, departed on Sunday night with a couple of second places to its name.

In Super Car Class 2-GTM it was business as usual for Khun Nattavude Charoensukhawatana. The reigning champion had a tough Sepang but was back to his very best with two quite comfortable wins in the factory Toyota 86. In fact team mate Khun Nattapong Horthongkum made it a 1-2 in Race 1 for Toyota as their Teams’ title defence also got back right on track. Lugging extra weight, championship leader Khun Voravud Bhirombhakdi did well to grab two third places in his Ferrari and to retain his advantage on the points classification.

It certainly was a busy and hectic weekend programme for both the top tiers of Super Car, while Bira Circuit baked in blisteringly hot and dry weather from start to finish. Super Car delivered a string of close fought races with many twists and turns to the unfolding plots. At the halfway point in Thailand Super Series (TSS) 2014 it couldn’t be any tighter in the Class 1-GT3 and Class 2-GTM championship standings.

Saturday (Race 3): Super Car Class 1-GT3

There was a lot of anticipation in the air as the big GT3 beasts grumbled and snarled their way out of the pitlane before trundling round the short track to form up on the grid for the first Super Car Class 1-GT3 race of the weekend.

And it doesn’t get bigger than the Camaro - literally. The ‘big’ car was planted firmly on P1 after Khun Tomáš became the only driver to dip below the 1-minute mark during last Friday’s half hour qualifying session that decided the grid for both races. The Camaro had shown its form in Sepang - but the jury was still out, could it really work within the tight, twisty, narrow and technical characteristics of Bira Circuit? Could it deliver a result to match the recent uptick in form that it had shown in ADAC GT Masters in Europe?

Alongside the Camaro would be the fastest of the Lamborghini Gallardo runners, the #78 of Khun Bobby Buncharoen. With the car now upgraded to 'FL2' specification and given a glossy black wrap, Khun Bobby was looking to build on the form he had shown in Sepang where he delivered his best result to date in Class 1-GT3, third place in the first race.

Lining up behind the Camaro to lead out Row 2 was Khun Chonsawat. The Vattana Motorsport team owner had pulled out all the stops this weekend, rolling into Bira with the biggest team and a swarm of Reiter Engineering technicians to provide support. He also had a brand new Gallardo GT3 FL2 under him. The body-in-white car was only flown in from Germany mid-week.

Next to him was the sole Porsche in the race, the 997 GT3-R of Khun ‘Kiki’ Sak Nana. This driver was reveling in his new car and posting laptimes that were better than he had managed last year when he raced a Lamborghini. With a strong technical and support team behind him this driver was making steady progress all week.

Finally, Row 3 was made up of Khun Sanchai Engtrakul in his Gallardo, he was making his first start at Bira Circuit since coming out of retirement, and the venerable Toyota Altis of Khun Suttipong Smittachartch.

A slightly compact grid, thanks to the unexpected absence of a couple of front-runners, but one that was however bursting with competitiveness and so a close race was anticipated. Certainly though it was a blow to lose the Porsche of Khun Vutthikorn after free practice and it has to be hoped he will be swiftly back in the action.

At the rolling start the Camaro made a clean getaway on the run to Turn 1, however Khun Bobby from the outside of the front row was slightly slow away and that gave Khun Chonsawat the opportunity to dive through into P2 and then convert that into P1 as he took the first left hander more cleanly while Khun Tomáš used all of the kerbs as they both raced up the hill.

By the time the pack chased its way back down to 100R, Khun Chonsawat was in P1 and it was a position he wouldn’t give away for the next twenty seven and a half laps, the new Gallardo was already well on course for its first race victory.

Khun Tomáš locked in behind his team leader and the Camaro showed plenty pace around Bira, the big racecar looking very comfortable on this track. However with Reiter Vattana RPM Motorsport cars holding a 1-2 position there wasn’t ever going to be any heroic moves for the race lead - Khun Tomáš is here to support the team and gaining maximum points in the Teams’ championship is the job in hand.

Behind the front two Khun Kiki made a tardy getaway in his first rolling start with his new Porsche allowing Khun Sanchai to pass him into the first turn. In fact with the momentum behind him, Khun Sanchai got up alongside the similar car of Khun Bobby on the run up to the hill and although they were side-by-side the #78 car had the line and held onto P3 into the hairpin.

Khun Kiki was quickly back past Khun Sanchai to regain P4 although the pair would go on to battle hard for many laps and as the cars swept round to start their second lap, Khun Chonsawat has a couple of car lengths over Khun Tomáš, with Khun Bobby, Khun Kiki and Khun Sanchai in a train behind.

Khun Kiki and Khun Sanchai’s dice was eventually resolved in the latter’s favour after the Porsche driver dropped back. Khun Sanchai in fact pipped Khun Bobby for third to record his best race finish since his comeback - and, crucially for Reiter Vattana RPM Motorsport, to deliver an impressive 1-2-3 finish.

So after 28 laps and 30 minutes of racing Khun Chonsawat took the chequered flag to claim his first win of the year, just seven tenths ahead of Khun Tomáš who in turn was seven tenths ahead of Khun Sanchai. A late race Safety Car period didn’t shake much up and the top four came across the line nose-to-tail as Khun Bobby was less than a second back from Khun Sanchai in fourth place. Khun Kiki came home to claim the last podium step while the only DNF went to the Toyota, Khun Suttipong dropping out on the tenth lap.

With Reiter Engineering products taking the top four positions and Reiter Vattana RPM Motorsport making it a clean sweep of the top three, Khun Tomáš, who was here to represent the German racecar manufacturer, was very happy with the result. He was also pleased with the performance of Khun Chonsawat in the new Gallardo. "Khun [Chonsawat] is not a professional driver, he’s done a tremendous job, and barely did any mistakes," said the Czech star afterwards.

With his clear focus being on supporting this team, Khun Tomáš was pleased with P2, putting more kilometres on the Camaro at Bira, and being in the middle of a 1-2-3 finish that brought maximum Teams’ points as well as knocking points off rivals.

"It’s a short circuit as well, it’s not easy to overtake, it was hot and I have to say without putting massive risk I wouldn’t overtake him easily," said the Czech star. "We’re going for the Teams’ championship, that’s our main priority rather than Drivers’ championship, so rather than putting both cars out, there wasn’t a chance of me to get into a position to make an easy move. He didn’t make any mistakes and give me any chances."

Khun Tomáš and the team had been testing here all last week so all that hard work had really paid off. "I’m very, very happy, it was a clean sweep on the podium with all three cars, we couldn’t ask for any better, it’s a fantastic result, we got a little help by the Porsche team [not competing]," he continued. "We are concentrating on our job, we got the maximum out of the situation with all three cars and taking all three spots on the podium and with [Khun Sanchai] putting down fantastic laps and having a fantastic battle with Bobby."

Behind the three Vattana cars, Khun Bobby came home fourth, another strong result for the True Visions sponsored driver. "I start from number two, but start not so good and Chonsawat passes me and passes Tomáš and so I follow Tomáš," said Khun Bobby. "I want to pass him and I do one time but after that he can pass me too fast and I use tyres that are too soft. When the Safety Car goes in the next car [was] very close and can pass me so I finish fourth."

Khun Kiki locked down the last podium step and he was happy with his comeback having struggled to adapt to overnight car changes that hadn’t left him feeling comfortable. "It was a little bit of a mistake, the setup was changed at the last minute and I’m not used to the setup and I cannot control the car," he said after the race. So now everything goes back to where it was. I’m still learning about the car, I don’t think I go fast enough yet, the car has a lot more potential to go more so I need a lot more practice, find a better setup and try to go a lot faster."

Saturday (Race 3): Super Car Class 2-GTM

From the green lights Khun Voravud held the inside line from pole as the pack surged down towards Turn 1 with Khun Kantasak Kusiri from the outside losing ground before slotting in behind the #89 Ferrari and giving track position to Khun Aekarat Discharoen who got a real flyer from the outside of Row 2, hauling his Porsche round the outside to get the best momentum out of the first left hander and out drag Khun Voravud up the hill, the Ferrari driver unable to gain enough momentum thanks to his extra ballast.

The #39 Toyota of Nattavude also got a good start and he claimed P3 as the field swept into the hairpin. The big loser though was Khun Kantasak who got locked up behind Khun Voravud in the middle of the pack and tumbled down the order.

At the end of Lap 1 Khun Aekarat had four car lengths in hand over Khun Nattavude whose his teammate, Khun Nattapong Horthongkum, was now glued to the back of the Ferrari. A decent start from Khun Traitanit Chimtawan in the faster of the NSports-Yokohama-Project Mu Thailand Nissan GT-R R35s put him right behind the #38 Toyota. Khun Kantasak had slid down to P6 while after an indifferent start Khun Craig Corliss was starting to get the hammer down in the Holden Commodore VE.

A lap later Khun Nattavude was swarming all over the back of the race leading #11 Porsche, Khun Traitanit was pressurising third placed Khun Nattapong, while Khun Kantasak in P5 was under pressure from Khun Craig with the Porsche of Khun Sarun Sereethoranakul sitting just behind.

Another time round and Khun Craig muscled the big Holden past Khun Kantasak while Khun Traitanit was now dropping back off Khun Nattapong and into the clutches of the New Zealander who was on a charge. At the front Khun Nattavude was swarming all over the race leader while in P3 Khun Voravud had temporarily pulled out a few lengths over Khun Nattapong.

As the race ticked towards the quarter distance mark the carbon propshaft on the #78 GT-R of Khun Traitanit tore itself apart at the S1 chicane and the Safety Car was deployed as the Japanese machine was removed. At that point the top order was Khun Nattavude from Khun Voravud, Khun Nattapong, Khun Craig, Khun Kantasak and Khun Sarun. Behind them came Khun Paul Kanjanapas (Porsche), Khun Naoya Yamano (Nissan GT-R), Khun Visarut Chotiwitsavaitkul (Lamborghini), Khun Pete Thongchua (Mazda) and Khun Sontaya Kunplome (Porsche).

At the restart #38 Toyota made a successful move on the Ferrari. So, after an unrewarding trip to Sepang, the wheels were firmly back on the Toyota Team Thailand challenge and somewhat ominously the two factory-run cars were already occupying second and third places. Khun Craig was also charging and he finally quickly squeezed past Khun Voravud.

A couple of laps after the restart it went a little bit downhill for Khun Aekarat as not one but both Toyotas passed him to put the Japanese brand into a 1-2 lead. Khun Craig got past the #11 Porsche a lap later to relegate Khun Aekarat to P4. The Holden driver was looking a lot quicker now and he dispatched Khun Nattapong to take second place before starting to hunt down the race leader. However he would suffer a spin and drop back behind Khun Aekarat and Khun Voravud.

The Ferrari was now matching the race pace and that eased the pressure a bit on Khun Voravud who moved up onto the tail of Khun Aekarat while still having to fend off the attentions of Khun Kantasak. These three cars would be closely matched for much of the rest of the race in a tight battle for P4. That became a scrap for P3 as Khun Nattapong slowed, electrical problems relegating the factory Toyota driver to merely circulating over the closing laps in an attempt to pick up points. It would mission accomplished - albeit Khun Nattapong bagging just a solitary point for P10 as he staggered to the line and was lapped by the leaders.

Khun Craig was still charging, but he had another moment and that dropped him a couple more places back, to P6, just behind Khun Sarun. The New Zealander would squeeze back past the Porsche over the closing laps but he would have to settle for fifth place and the final podium step after a race where he had shown a lot of pace which was further demonstrated as he nailed the fastest lap in 1:03.756 (135.517 km/h).

That was it for the opening Class 2-GTM race of the weekend and Khun Nattavude took the checkered flag after 28 laps and almost 32 minutes of action packed racing. He had 2.211 seconds in hand over the #11 Porsche but, as he noted afterwards, this win had involved hard work. "I started with P3, not too bad for the start and everybody keeps inside the line," said the reigning Super Car Class 2-GTM champion. "Khun [Aekarat] takes the outside line which is why he became the leader.

"After that we try to catch up but my car [had] a bit trouble with the dampers and also [during] the last six or seven laps [I had a problem] with the fuel pump, but luckily the Safety Car comes but also I can manage myself," continued Khun Nattavude, who admitted that the usually sky high cockpit temperatures of the Toyota 86 were even more demanding on what was turning out to be one of the hottest race weekends here in recent years. "After the Safety Car I feel very tired and have back pain because inside my car [is] too hot, over 85 degrees, very tough for me," he added, "Finally we are happy with the finish."

Khun Aekarat managed his tyres well while maintaining a quick pace that kept him perfectly positioned when his two main rivals for the runners-up spot - Khun Nattapong and Khun Craig - disappeared out of the reckoning. "I just keep position," he said afterwards. "The start is okay, I just keep going, everything is safe and [I] save my tyres."

Third place went to the championship leader and double winner in Sepang - Khun Voravud. With all the extra weight he had to carry at Bira thanks to those two victories, P3 was an excellent result and it bagged him a strong helping of points. Afterwards he reflected on his race pace. "Basically talking with the engineers, Carlo [Van Dam] and myself, we didn’t expect to be up there from the beginning already because of the weight," said the Ferrari driver. "So [over the] first few laps I can defend but at the end the Toyota and Craig were much faster and my tyres wear out very quickly during the high speed corners and during the S it’s heavy."

Khun Voravud’s Race Engineer, Khun Gianluca Soli, was happy that the #89 Ferrari 458 Challenge had shown that it could run a decent race pace despite the ballast. "Number three was for us a good position, we keep scoring points for the championship," said the Italian. "This is the best points we [could] get and the focus we have to do is keep scoring points for the championship.

"We see the laptime in the middle of the race was almost the same for everybody," he continued. "We lose a little in the first few laps, at the start [and at] the restart after the Safety Car, he was conservative as our target is to score points. We are happy, we feel strong, we know today is a tough, tough race for us, but we try our best to keep leading the championship."

Fourth went to Khun Kantasak. After a tardy start he had a quiet race, sitting tight behind the Khun Voravud for most of the 28 laps but unable to get quite close enough to make a pass stick. The youngster followed the Ferrari across the line and that meant the top four were covered by less than four seconds while there was just 1.7 seconds between second, third and fourth places.

After winning the Teams’ trophies in Sepang, the Singha A Motorsport AAS UBB Kiwi Racing Yokohama team bagged the top score in the third race of the year as Khun Kantasak in P4 backed up Khun Aekarat’s P2.

Khun Craig claimed fifth place, but following his excursions he was more than 11 seconds adrift of Khun Kantasak. "We had a reasonable start to the race, got held up and so I just settled down and started picking them off one by one," said the Holden driver afterwards. "I got through them reasonably easy, got my sights on third and then second and had a spin when I was in third spot and dropped back to fifth. Then got up to second, then had another spin with six laps to go and the tyres were shot so tried to hang on to fifth, but was still catching them, but too late, but a good race."

Khun Sarun was next up, just a couple of seconds off the Holden. His second race in Super Car, he looked a lot smoother than he had in Sepang. "I start in eighth position and in the first lap I can pass one car and then after two laps another car passed me back so I go back to the same position and we try to follow," said Khun Sarun, whose name is so far much better known to Thai drift fans. "I follow for about 10 laps and then one of the GT-Rs has a problem and the car goes out so I can maintain the time and speed until the end of the race. The training [at Bira last month] is helping me a lot on how to maintain the tyres, because this is quite a long distance race and the car has done very well."

Meanwhile a further half a minute down the road came Khun Visarut. He had suffered transmission problems on the Vattana Motorsport-run Gallardo LP560-4 during the race. That had stymied his early challenge, as he explained afterwards. "When I started the gears were working perfectly but after about five laps the gears weren’t working and it was saying an error [message] in the dash, the gear doesn’t shift so the gear was stuck in third gear.

That called for a drastic mid race system reboot. "I tried to turn off and turn on the engine again and then after that it works," Khun Visarut continued. "After that is the Safety Car so I went back to the race, chasing the car in front. After ten [more] laps it doesn’t work again so I dropped back stuck in third gear all the way to the checkered flag."

Although Khun Traitanit dropped out on Lap 4, his teammate, Japanese hotshot Khun Naoya Yamano, plodded round to collect some race points, albeit in a distant eight; he was also the first of the lapped runners. Ninth went to Khun Paul Kanjanapas, it was the first appearance in Super Car this year for Painkiller Racing and thus the team’s first points. The stuttering Toyota 86 of Khun Nattapong collected the final championship point on offer while Khun Sontaya Kunplome (Porsche) wrapped up the classified finishers after he came home in P11.

Aside from Khun Traitanit, the only other retirement was the Mazda RX-8 of Khun Pete. He had been setting a much improved pace compared to the brand new racecar’s debut in Sepang a couple of months ago, however a fuelling problem saw him have a moment off track on lap 16 and he proceeded no further.

Sunday (Race 4): Super Car Class 1-GT3

The second race of the weekend - and the fourth of the season - would denote the halfway mark of TSS 2014, so racking up points was getting more and more important. With the reigning champion out for the weekend, pulling in as big a score as possible was vital for everyone - any DNFs could really change the shape of the title race. So the big hitters in Class 1-GT3 would go to battle, but also needed to be fighting fit for 28 laps in the very hot conditions that enveloped Bira Circuit last week.

The Camaro was once again on pole position. This would be its final chance to prove that it wasn’t just the king of the ultra-long straights and high-speed corners of Sepang, but could also hold it’s own against the benchmark GT3 cars from Lamborghini and Porsche in a completely different scenario, Bira Circuit.

Once again Khun Chonsawat made a flying start, but this time he flew away from the front row rather than starting back on the second row. And this time it was all over even quicker, within a few hundred meters of the rolling start, as he got the jump on his teammate Khun Tomáš. Once again this experienced driver had squeezed into P1 early.

The Czech former F1 star and Le Mans 24 Hour winner locked in behind the #28 Gallardo and the boys from Reiter Vattana RPM Motorsport were once again in full control of the Class 1-GT3 race pace. Behind the top two Khun Bobby claimed P3 with Khun Sanchai all over him and Khun Kiki running just adrift.

Once again five evenly matched racecars thundered round and round Bira Circuit and once again Khun Chonsawat was able to set the pace at the front. Behind him over the opening laps Khun Bobby pressured Khun Tomáš while himself coming under attack from Khun Sanchai right from the green lights.

Khun Bobby locked onto the tail of the Camaro several times but was never able to make a pass stick while he also battled with Khun Sanchai, the pair eventually trading paint. However, Khun Sanchai dropped out of the race on lap 16.

After 28 laps Khun Chonsawat took the checkered flag to make it two wins from two races with teammate Khun Tomáš following him home, the gap was just 0.669-seconds as Reiter Vattana RPM Motorsport enjoyed another lockout of the top spots. For Khun Chonsawat, one of the most experienced drivers in top level Thai racing, it was a very successful end to the weekend. Vattana Motorsport turned up big, with big ambitions - and they delivered.

There was a tinge of disappointment though as the Camaro never proved that it was capable here, while on what is very likely be the last ever visit by TSS to Bira, there was to be no etching the superstar name ‘T. Enge’ into the history books of the circuit that quite simply defines Thai motorsport.

This time Khun Kiki had a much better race. With the car more to his liking in setup terms he battled up from P5 on the grid to depose Khun Bobby who was struggling with gear selection problems and finish in a strong third place, right on the back of the lead battle. In fact the gap between the Krating Daeng Porsche and the winner was just 1.488-seconds while he was only eight-tenths behind Khun Tomáš.

Khun Kiki is definitely back, with a new car and a new team he is looking more and more sharp. That’s good news for motorsport, for the fans, for everyone really. "We’ve actually used about twelve setups since Tuesday and today we used the setup I like the most," Khun Kiki said afterwards with a laugh. He’s a driver that loves to race, to race anything, anywhere and wears his heart on his sleeve; in the Krating Daeng garage his passion is infectious.

He’s also pleased with the core of the new team that he has behind him, which was brought together by Porsche ‘linkman’ Khun Jeff, who is advising Khun Kiki’s team, and arranged the acquisition of the new car as well as adding in top race engineer Khun Sven Schnabel. "All the team I have to say thank you to, without them I wouldn’t be on the podium today," Khun Kiki added.

Despite his transmission problems, Khun Bobby hung on to finish fourth, but he was almost half a minute adrift at the checkered flag. "It was the same as yesterday with [Chonsawat] and Tomáš and me, I want to pass him and I fight and attack many times but very difficult to pass him,’ he said of his race. "I have a problem in the sixth lap with gear four, I cannot use gear four, I use three and five and after that on the final lap I have no gear two," he added.

Sunday (Race 4): Super Car Class 2-GTM

With a win behind him the day before, Khun Nattavude lined up to start Race 2 in the best possible position - on pole. Alongside him was the Porsche of Khun Kantasak, while Khun Voravud and Khun Aekarat, two drivers that had spent a lot of time running nose to tail the previous day were now next to each other again; they shared Row 2. Khun Craig led out Row 3 with Khun Traitanit behind him.

The second Toyota of Khun Nattapong would line up behind the Holden and he could be expected to move forward quickly once the action got underway as the Japanese factory cars had clearly shown a suitability for this 2.4-km track. There was one car missing though - the #17 Mazda of Khun Pete. Team Manager Khun Ma reported that they had a fuel pump problem and the ECU wouldn’t fire the injectors. That left them on the sidelines.

At the green light Khun Kantasak rocketed away with Khun Nattavude, also fast starting but unable to retain his P1, locking in behind. As they came round the first lap this duo were already pulling away from Khun Voravud who had tenaciously clung onto P3, but the gap was already around five car lengths and the ‘Rosso Corsa’ Ferrari had a train of cars lined up behind it led out by the GT-R of Khun Traitanit. Next up was Khun Craig, then Khun Nattapong, Khun Sarun, Khun Visarut, Khun Yamano, Khun Aekarat and Khun Paul as the start had been smooth and seen no particularly changes for anyone apart from the #11 Porsche which was slow away thanks to its extra overnight weight.

By the end of the second lap Khun Kantasak had broken Khun Nattavude and such was his pace he had opened out a 2-second lead. However while he would streak away into the distance and open out a 24-second cushion by the checkered flag, Khun Kantasak would be excluded from the results post-race and thus would play no meaningful role in deciding the outcome.

Behind the #39 Toyota, Khun Traitanit muscled past the #89 Ferrari on lap 2 to move into P3. Behind Khun Voravud, Khun Nattapong got the jump on Khun Craig into P5 a lap later and then it was his turn to try to find a way past the Italian racecar.

The race started to settle down. Khun Kantasak was effective leader on the road with a big gap to Khun Nattavude, while, behind the Toyota, Khun Traitanit had settled into a no mans land and Khun Voravud in P4 was maintaining a decent pace despite his weight that shook off all the following cars apart from Khun Nattapong and Khun Craig. In fact Khun Voravud was able to pull out a couple of lengths over the #38 Toyota that instead dropped back into the path of the Holden.

Behind this trio a gap of around three seconds had opened up to Khun Sarun who had Khun Aekarat for company. Khun Visarut had been harrying Khun Sarun but dropped away as the gearshift software problems he had suffered in the previous day’s race came back to haunt him. It meant Khun Sarun had a busy afternoon looking in the mirrors, as, once the red Gallardo had faded away, the blue, white and orange #11 machine took its place and in fact the two Porsches would be locked together for the rest of the race.

As the race progressed, tyres came more and more into play and Khun Nattapong found some more pace to line up for another crack at the Ferrari. He got past and now it was Khun Craig’s turn to try to stick a move on Khun Voravud. That battle became a fight for P4 on the road as Khun Traitanit started to drop several seconds a lap, allowing Khun Nattapong, Khun Voravud and Khun Craig to pass him.

Khun Traitanit would struggle round for a few more laps in the ever slowing car, but had to call it a day on lap 20. "When I start it’s a good start for me and I got to third place but I think about five or six laps the brake fades away so it’s very hard to brake," the #78 GT-R driver said afterwards. "And after about 10 laps the fuel pump is broken so no power at all."

Apart from Khun Craig losing his power steering with 6 laps to go, which cost him several positions, that was it for the day and after 28 laps and 29.56 minutes of racing Khun Kantasak took the flag first.

However Khun Kantasak would play no part in the final results and instead it was a clearly delighted Khun Nattavude who claimed the win - to make it two out of two for the weekend. After a tough weekend in Sepang, the reigning Super Car Class 2-GTM champion was back with a bang - and most significantly he’s right back in the title fight.

Brushing off the additional overnight weight, it was an absolute masterclass drive from the ‘champ’, no one came anywhere close to him. At this race last year he had a P1 and P2 to his name just as he was powering his way to the title, this time around he went one better and nabbed two wins. Can he do it again?

"I put in the extra weight, it’s 40 [kilos], so it’s a bit heavy," Khun Nattavude explained afterwards. "I got a good start but when [Khun Kantasak] takes the lead I just keep going and stay calm, driving with stability, my car is stable."

Known to his fans simply as ‘MadCow’, Khun Nattavude is pleased that he’s back in the title race now - but cautions that the factory-run Toyota 86 won’t suit the characteristics of Buriram. "I think the championship is wide open now," he said. "The first race in Sepang I got fuel pump problems but in the second race I finish fourth, so now the gap [is] not so big. We have to look forward towards Buriram, it’s a new circuit, very high speed, but for my car not so easy."

Once Khun Traitanit had dropped out, Khun Nattapong was able to manage the gap back to the Ferrari to come home 7.761-seconds behind his teammate and hand Toyota its 1-2 finish of the year. After a tough Sepang, Toyota Team Thailand is back with a real bang and the Teams’ championship points haul last weekend will be invaluable as they claimed a P1, P1, P2 and P10 from the four races.

Just two and a half seconds behind the #38 Toyota, Khun Voravud impressively held onto P3 despite even more extra overnight ballast that brought him up to the maximum level - the first driver to do so. The team had worked very hard all week to manage the 458 Challenge with its new characteristics and two third places were more than they could have really expected.

Khun Voravud is going to have to work very hard and grind out results if he’s going to remain on top of the points’ standings - but at the halfway mark he’s still in a commanding position. And if he thought it was tough going at Bira, it’s likely to be a whole lot tougher at Buriram as this high-speed track is unlikely to suit Ferrari's 458 Challenge.

However this driver has a top team behind him, they careful thought this race out and arrived very well prepared and Khun Voravud was cautiously happy with the result after the race. "I put more weight today, it’s the maximum now," he noted. "Basically I should be happy as I’m still leading the championship, I’m not sure how things are going to be in Buriram but I’m going to have to work really hard now."

An excellent fourth place went to Khun Sarun. He was only three seconds off the Ferrari and it was the first podium of his Super Car career. The drift star turned circuit racer has made great progress since Sepang, and was recently tutored here by Japanese star drive Khun Keita Sawa. That has clearly paid off and despite being under pressure from behind all race he coolly kept his nerve to bag P4.

"In the first half I was taking pressure from Khun [Visarut] and then he had some problems and disappeared and then in the second half I was pressured by Khun [Aekarat]," he noted afterwards. "I know how to adjust the car now and I learnt a lot in the practice that I can use for this race. I’m very happy [and] I will look for more podiums."

Also pleased with the result was Khun Sarun’s Team Manager Khun Somboon Kittitanagorn - as it was the first podium for the new Racing Spirit team. "This weekend we are very happy, before the weekend we have some coaching from Japan, [Khun Keita is] a very good teacher [and] Khun Sarun is now driving like a professional driver. I also know about the Porsche very well and then we setup very well and we do everything well, and the driver does well and comes up to a good position."

After finishing one spot outside the podium positions the day before, Khun Somboon said they had made a few more tweaks to the car overnight. "Today we try to do another setup for the driver style, I think today quite good, the tyre is good as the track is quite cold so easy for the Michelin tyre so we fight for the podium," he said. "We’re very happy with this, this is the first podium for our team and the driver, now we know the way to go." Khun Sarun has already threatened to impose himself on the established top order - now expect to see him making further progress in this direction.

Khun Aekarat added more Drivers’ and Teams’ points as he nailed down the final step of the podium. Try as he might he couldn’t get past the similar spec ‘Cup’ car of Khun Sarun, not helped by his overnight extra weight, but P5 added to his P2 the day before made it another impressive and consistent weekend.

"The race is okay, I get a good start and I try to keep everything in my position, I just try to keep the tyres as it’s a very long race," he said. "I’m happy with my car condition [but] today I just try as my car is too heavy as I got 30 kilos more from yesterday." He was just three-tenths off Khun Sarun after the 28 laps.

Just missing out on the podium was Khun Naoya; he had another quiet race in the #99 NSports-Yokohama-Project Mu Thailand Nissan GT-R - but importantly he nursed the car to a second points finish of the weekend, his P6 this race adding to the P8 the Japanese star driver had collected the day before.

The top-ten was wrapped up by Khun Visarut, who dropped away mid race after a reoccurrence of the gear shifting problems he had suffered the day before, Khun Craig Corliss, who fell away over the last half dozen laps as he struggled to wrestle the big, heavy Holden round without any power steering, but he still recorded the fastest lap of the race in 1:03.885 to add to his fastest lap in Race 1, and finally Khun Paul, who had a quiet race but continued to knock chunks out of his personal best laptime at Bira over both days and recorded his second points finish of the weekend.



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