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Jul 15, 2014 - 02:05 PM
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Double Points Finish For Pasin On Spa Debut
Posted by: newsla on Jul 15, 2014 - 01:59 PM
Sports Cars
Double Points Finish For Pasin On Spa Debut


It turned out to be a very eventful weekend in the British GT Championship at Spa-Francorchamps for Pasin Lathouras with thick fog, drizzle and heat all making an appearance over the two days, while in the end the Thai driver came away with two points scoring finishes. Once again the Pasin showed a lot of speed and pace but once again circumstances dictated that all the potential didn’t fully deliver into the results it justified.

 

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In both 1-hour races Pasin had to battle very hard to make up for lost ground, the 20-year-old superbly slicing through the bumper field in the #29 AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3 which due to the regulations gives away competiveness edge to the other machines.

But in what is a learning year for the youngster in British GT, Pasin came away from Spa having really made his mark, proving yet again he can mix it up with the best and run on the pace at this most demanding and challenging of racetracks.

Practice & Qualifying

For the British GT Championship’s annual overseas trip, this year the destination was Belgium, the entry list swelled up to 36 cars – with 24 of those being FIA GT3 cars, while in the AF Corse garage, there were no less than five 458 GT3 machines. Pasin would have some illustrious company too as the Italian team always has a top notch driving roster and amongst them this weekend were former Le Mans 24 Hours GT class winners, Toni Vilander and Emanuel Collard.

However, demonstrating that he was there to do a job and was unfazed by any of the other top professional names in his garage, Pasin, along with regular teammate Richard Lyons, led out the AF Corse quintet in the first free practice after the pair posted the third fastest time. Emphasising their early speed the #29 car was then fifth quickest in the second and final free session ahead of qualifying.

As usual the two races would be preceded by two qualifying sessions, 15 minutes duration each, with Pasin taking Q1 duties to decide the grid for Race 1 and Richard earmarked for Q2 which would settle the starting order for Race 2.

The two biggest problems facing Pasin as he was strapped into the cockpit of the #29 Ferrari for the first qualifying session was the additional weight the car has to carry this season – and tyres. Around Spa during the two practice sessions the 458 simply wasn’t extracting the best out of its tyres as the temperatures climbed; it was unexpected and was causing plenty of head scratching for his engineers.

However Pasin was focused and he set the fifth fastest time, an excellent start to his first ever race weekend at one of the world’s most famous – and daunting – racetracks. Richard had less luck though in the second session and his P15 meant that the pair would have a lot of work to do come the second race.

Pasin Lathouras: “We lost out quite a bit during qualifying as the temperatures went up and all the Ferraris didn't seem to perform well when that happened. With our additional weight, we weren't able to position ourselves as we had hoped. But the team has done a good job to setup the car so I think we will be able to chase at the pace in the races.”

Race 1

Located in the heart of Belgium’s Ardennes Forest, the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps has a historic reputation as one of the world’s most dramatic racetracks. Home to the country’s F1 Grand Prix as well as the Spa 24 Hours, it’s also one of the longest tracks, at 7.004 km, and features 20 turns. Fearsomely fast, only the very best really thrive here and aside from the its challenging layout, Spa has a reputation for rain, which can move it unexpectedly – and fast. That makes the circuit even more difficult.

And that rain arrived just in time for the first race. Rain fell prior to the grid formation and so the organisers declared a wet race. The majority of the runners plumped for wet compounds – a decision that had to be made before the car left the garage as changing tyres on the grid wasn’t permitted under the regulations.

However even on the out lap it was clear that a dry line was quickly emerging and after two formation laps everyone dived into the pits to change to slicks. That early shakeup left Pasin way down in P26 but he turned in some stunning opening laps to sweep past many other cars and by the end of lap 4 he had cracked the top-10. A lap later he was P9 and right in the midst of a huge train of scrapping cars with just 4 seconds covering fourth to tenth places.

Pasin continued to knuckle down and he started to pick off the top runners. On lap 6 he took two cars to move into P7, lap 7 then saw him up to P6 and incredibly on lap 8 he was up to P5, just 1.2-seconds off P4. A lap later he had shut that gap down to 3/10ths of a second and by lap 10 he was into P4, pulling out a clear 2.5-second cushion to the following #888 BMW by the end of the lap.

Then the pit window opened, but just as Pasin negotiated the Bus Stop Chicane a car in front pulled across right in front of the #29 Ferrari to enter the pits and that forced Pasin to go wide to avoid contact and he was promptly clouted by another car from behind. That caused rear bodywork damage and forced the Thai youngster to complete a full lap of the track in conservative mode before he dived into the pits to hand over to Richard, while the mechanics checked for damage at the rear end of the Ferrari.

Richard still emerged in P7, just behind the #16 AF Corse Ferrari and #23 Audi, but his priority now would be to manage the damaged car to the finish while keeping an eye on the #40 Ginetta behind, which was 2 seconds back on lap 14. However by lap 15 the gap had grown to 4 seconds and Richard was able to run a fast enough pace to hold onto P7. In fact after 1-hour of racing and 23 laps, Richard was able to open that gap out to 7 seconds and successfully bring the car home in seventh overall.

Pasin Lathouras: “There was a big confusion at the start as it was a wet race so most people decided to use wet tyres. But after we decided, we all knew we had made a wrong decision as on the out lap, the other half of the track was pretty much dry, it was quite easy to get a dry line. So after changing to slicks I was almost at the back and I tried my best to catch up to the front. There were many close calls, passing up to two cars in some corners, I was one of the fastest drivers on the track and got as high as fourth but as the pit window opened I was catching up to a car ahead and as he out braked himself at the Bus Stop, the corner just before pit entrance. He cut back across the track to enter the pits causing me to be pushed to one side of the track and as I braked I got shunted from behind causing body work damage. After that I must drive the whole lap slowly and loose valuable time before my pitstop. But Richard fought really hard for the rest of the race to keep the position I handed over to him.”

Race 2

The final race saw Richard starting the #29 Ferrari on the grid and he made a very good getaway from P15, picking off three places on the opening lap to cross the start/finish line for the first time in P12. However he took a tap from behind during the start and that would cause some damage to the exhaust, which would leave the car performing slightly off its optimum.

By lap 5 Richard had closed the gap right down in front and he moved into P11 with the sister #13 AF Corse Ferrari right behind and only 7/10ths of a second adrift. On lap 6 Richard was still in P11 but with the #29 car now in the middle of a three strong Ferrari 458 GT3 ‘sandwich’, with the #18 FF Corse entry immediately in front and the #13 right behind, the trio covered by just 1.5 seconds.

Lap 8 and Richard moved up into P10 and into the points positions for the first time as the Ferrari train got the jump on the #5 Aston Martin. Richard’s time was the fourth best of the race at that point, but with so many cars in front it was hard to exploit that pace. However, the Northern Irishman was just 3 seconds off P5. In fact ambient temperatures had remained lower during this race and that was helping the Ferrari runners – although for the #29 car the extra weigh it has to carry was losing them chunks of time on every lap as usual.

Richard handed over to Pasin mid race and then the Safety Car was deployed which caused some confusion. When it all shook out, on lap 14 Pasin was in P12 and with more work to do over the final few laps if he was going to get the #29 Ferrari back into the points positions. By lap 16 the Thai had closed the gap to the #38 Aston Martin in P11 down to half a second and the next lap he picked it off.

In fact lap 17 saw two superb passes by Pasin in just one lap and the result was that the #29 car was back in the points in P10 and only 6/10ths behind the #28 Aston Martin in front of him in P9. Now the youngster was really flying, the next time around, lap 18, Pasin passed two more cars and into P8.

That was four cars passed in just two laps, while the five cars immediately in front were covered by just over 3 seconds. Time ran out though and he had to settle for eighth place, but it was another brilliant fighting drive by Pasin as he had once again hauled the #29 Ferrari into the points’ positions during the closing laps of a British GT race this season. It meant that Pasin and Richard had scored points in both races.

Pasin Lathouras: “I was in for the second stint and after the driver change, there was a long Safety Car session after which, through all the confusion, we were twelfth having dropped from ninth with just about 3 laps left. I managed to overtake fours cars in the remaining time, bringing us up to eighth place and again clocking one of the fastest laps in the second half of the race, but disappointingly there wasn't enough time. But the car felt good despite the weight and the team did a great job to get it setup really well. I believe the team had a very good performance this weekend and that we all learned a lot about the different conditions that affect the set up of the car; we had thick fog, drizzle and at some points even quite hot temperatures. It’s been great to race at Spa and I hope I get the opportunity to come back in the future. Now I’m looking forward for the next round.”


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