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Jul 17, 2014 - 06:27 AM
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Latest News From Thailand Super Series
Posted by: newsla on Jul 17, 2014 - 06:25 AM
Sports Cars
Latest News From Thailand Super Series


When Thailand Super Series (TSS) pitched up at Bira Circuit for its second round of the year – and the first on home soil – there were many categories that stood out, in fact it could be said that every category beat all expectations. But certainly two really sprung into dramatic life at the Pattaya racetrack, Super Car Class 3-GTC and Super 2000.

 

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For Super Car Class 3-GTC it was a significant date with destiny. Saturday 5 July 2014. That day a brand new racing category was born with its first-ever competitive race. It’s a new class that seamlessly slots into the bigger TSS picture, providing an optimal entry step for drivers and teams into the very successful Super Car ‘franchise’.

The grid for the first race was on the compact side, but despite this the track action was plentiful – and it's already very clear that the new Super Car Class 3-GTC category is going to be a big future hit, bring a new dimension to the programme and take its place on the Thai motorsport landscape.

While Super Car is certainly close fought, the action doesn’t involve too much trading of paint, it’s much more strategic than that, involving sophisticated racecars that don’t respond well to direct contact. That’s quite the opposite story in Super 2000 where plenty of contact is part of the game as the drivers battle it out in true ‘touring car’ style.

So although there was lots of action at the season opener in Sepang, at the front the reigning champion Khun Tin Sritrai ran away and hid in both races and that took a little bit of a shine off the proceedings as far as the fans were concerned. However in Bira, Super 2000 was back to its best as both races saw non-stop battling as the category lived up to its reputation for exuberant driving and raw excitement.

There was a new name in town too. Well he’s an old name, but he hasn’t been around for a year but his driving style is pretty much synonymous with Super 2000. Khun Jack Lemvard was back – and he hasn’t lost any pace, as, armed with Vattana Motorsport’s dashing new BMW E90 he won both the races in some style, even if he was a little bit fortunate in the second.

In true Super 2000 tradition both races were action-packed from start to finish, even Khun Jack had an off track moment, and there were plenty of heroes led out by Khun Pitsanu Sirimongkolkasem, who set an electrifying pace in his front wheel drive Civic FD.

There was also a top international pro on the starting grid, Khun Carlo Van Dam, he certainly impressed in Race 2, as well as a couple of Japanese hotshots, while the championship points leader, Khun Tin, had an off weekend although he still retains his perch at the top.

Saturday: Super Car Class 3-GTC

One of the most significant moments of a busy weekend at Bira Circuit occurred just after lunchtime on Saturday afternoon. As the temperatures continued to rise at a baking hot Bira Circuit, following the conclusion of the midday activities that included podium prizegiving ceremonies for the support races, ‘hot laps’ by road production supercars and the official opening ceremony overseen by TSS President Sontaya Kunplome – it was time for a brand new racing category to be delivered: Super Car Class 3-GTC.

The idea is to provide a perfect spread for the headlining ‘Super Car’ concept with the addition of a brand new class that slots in underneath the two existing classes to provide a new entry rung on the ladder of the top tier of Thai motorsport. Just like the ‘Eco’ car class we rolled out here last year, Class 3-GTC aims to provide a cost-effective platform with ease of access for drivers that want to make the leap to Super Car.

It plugs the big gap that currently exists between the feeder categories, such as Super 2000, Super 1500 and Super Production, with the biggies, Super Car Class 1-GT3 and Super Car Class 2-GTC. We now plan to nurture this new category and let it take root, much as was the case last year with the equally ‘soft’ launch of Super Eco.

This time last year in fact just three ‘Eco’ cars lined up on the grid for the first ever Super Eco race, yet earlier on the Saturday morning prior to the new Class3-GTC opener, the ‘Eco’ grid had been packed as this category really now booms. So Super Car Class 3-GTC certainly went at least one better as four cars lined up for its first ever race. Interest however is growing - and in fact we even expect to see a full factory supported car on the Class 3-GTC grid later this year.

Of those four cars, just two posted qualifying times. Khun Daychapon Toyingcharoen in the jet-black Krating Daeng Racing Team by NSports Nissan Skyline R32 bagged pole with the brilliant-white Skyline R32 of Khun Narin Yensuk lining up right alongside. Row 2 comprised of Khun Grant Supaphong in the other jet-black Krating Daeng entry, this time a Mitsubishi Evo X, while Japanese driver Khun Akihiro Asai brought up the rear as the Vattana Unity Motorsport mechanics were still preparing his bright-yellow Ferrari 430 Challenge right up to the start of the first race. Khun Grant had been on track but suffered a throttle problem on his first flying lap in qualifying and thus didn’t register a time.

At the green lights Khun Grant got the power down at that was really it, race over. He was able to control the pace at the front and although Khun Aki was able to push up to P2 over the closing stages and steadily chip away at the gap, but the Ferrari was so raw that the Mitsubishi driver was never really going to be threatened.

Thus after 22 laps and 25 minutes and 40.408 seconds of racing on a hot and dry track Khun Grant made a small bit of Thai racing history - winning the first ever race for Super Car Class 3-GTC. A brand new category had been born and it certainly looks like it’s going to grow quite quickly from here on.

Khun Grant admitted that he hadn’t really been pushed at the front, taking a routine win and, bearing in mind his Evo X’s reputation for unreliability over the last couple of seasons, the plan was to preserve the racecar ready for Race 2. "This first race, I try to keep the information for the next race," he said after his trip to the podium. "Everything is good because I haven’t pushed too hard, about 70%, because the car behind me is about two seconds slower so I try to drive consistently, 1:09 to 1:10, so I can finish the race, so for the last race everything is going to be fine."

Now finished in black and complete with Krating Daeng logos, this Evo X is very familiar to Thai racing fans as last year it was campaigned by the NSports-Yokohama-Project Mu Thailand team in Super Car Class 2-GTM. Then Khun Grant powered the rapid machine to a victory at Bira in the rain battered round last autumn. So it already has a winning pedigree - and now it’s actually set another new record by winning in two different Super Car ‘classes’ in the hands of the same driver.

However, to comply with Class 3-GTC rules the car has seen its power output downgraded over the close season and, as Khun Grant explained, plenty of work has been done to the car to get it ready for life in its new class. "Compared with last year I change the suspension system to be the MCS system," he says. "It’s more easy to control the car in the S corners and the high speed corners and we repair the brake system and everything so it’s more easy to drive than last year a lot." It certainly worked well and reliably while Khun Grant also bagged the fastest lap of the race in 1:07.744 (127.539 km/h).

P2 on the road went to Khun Akihiro and as usual there is a real story to tell, he’s a driver that never does things the easy way. The Japanese hotshot has something of a reputation for strapping himself into the cockpit of newly acquired racecars, at the very last minute, but this time even by his standards it was very last minute - his first ever track lap in the Ferrari 430 Challenge was when he took the green light at the end of the pitlane and trundled round to form up on Row 2 of the grid.

This ‘Prancing Horse’ was last seen on a race circuit more than a year ago. Since then it’s been sitting in a warehouse gathering dust while nursing battered left hand rear bodywork. That year out showed, the first job for the Vattana Unity mechanics was to use their pressurised air lines to blow the dust out of the engine bay while every bare metal surface, such as the brake discs and pads, was covered in a fine coating of surface rust.

So it was a real race against time to get the car fired up and onto the grid. Khun Akihiro did so, but there would be no time for any setup or tweaks, the car would run the way it was prepared for its trip to Sepang fourteen months ago. In fact the Ferrari momentarily disappeared under a cloud of white smoke as Khun Akihiro revved the car on the grid.

However this is one of the most underrated drivers in the paddock and Khun Akihiro certainly knows better than anyone how to nurse a struggling racecar to the finishline - and he had to put that knowledge to good use as the car started misfiring after the opening laps. As the misfire got worse and a gearshifting issue added itself to the mix, the Japanese driver put in a great run in the stuttering car to finish in P2 and in fact close the gap to Khun Grant down to just seven seconds by the time the checkered flag was waved. In the end it was to no avail as he was excluded for missing his weight target, but plenty of promise had been shown.

"I wasn’t able to run in practice, I wasn’t even able to run through qualifying so the first lap in the race was my first lap ever in this car," Khun Aki said afterwards. "For the first few laps the car was running okay but after a few laps it started misfiring and I felt like I had a few cylinders lacking and after that a shifting problem came up, the car wasn’t shifting properly. I think you could hear that it was misfiring so bad but still the car was running and I caught [Khun Daychapon] and then I was running second and I finished the race and the car endured for the 22 laps. I happy that the car was here and I was able to finish the race."

When Khun Akihiro was excluded, the runner-up spot went to Khun Daychapon. He had a pretty quiet race to finish 17 seconds behind the race winner. In fact the drift star was also adding a small footnote in the annals of Thai racing history as this time last year he had been one of the three drivers to start the first ever Super Eco race - and he went on to win the title. Fast-forward a year and he was one of the four drivers to start the first ever Super Car Class 3-GTC race. Last year consistency and reliability helped him with the inaugural Super Eco title, this season he will be hoping to repeat that feat and make a good run in the championship.

Third place went to Khun Narin and he was another driver who had battled very hard just to get here - finishing the 22 laps was a big victory for the driver from Chiang Mai.

Khun Narin only started building the Nissan Skyline R32 from a road production car about six weeks before the races and much round the clock effort was put into this ground-up project. It meant that the suspension was a real compromise as the proper system wasn’t acquired in time while the car overheated all through the race, forcing him to drive very carefully. However P3 and 3 laps down was a good reward for all that effort.

Saturday: Super 2000

After a quieter start to the Super 2000 season in Sepang where the reigning champion Khun Tin Sritrai had it all his own way, the trip to Bira would see the youngster facing much stiffer competition. And it immediately went downhill for the BMW driver as be suffered mechanical troubles in qualifying and so in Race 1 he would start far back in P17. In fact with just one laptime to his name in the qualifying session he would be at the back for Race 2.

However there would actually be two BMWs on the Super 2000 grid for the first time as Vattana Motorsport’s recently acquired E90 would be getting its maiden competitive outing. And there was to be a bit of a surprise behind the wheel as Khun Jack Lemvard was back on track after a year on the sidelines.

The drive was as much a surprise to Khun Jack as it was to the paddock and a hurried flight back from Europe and no testing time in what was a brand new car and unsorted car, surely would see him on the backfoot? Or would it? This is arguably the most gifted driver of his generation and he promptly planted the #44 BMW on pole position. No one could get near his time.

Khun Jack then converted that pole into a lights-to-flag win in the first race. What a comeback. After soaking up early pressure from Super 2000 newcomer Khun Hideharu Kuroki, the #44 Vattana Motorsport BMW was in command and Khun Jack was able to lead the field to the flag for what turned out to be something of a routine win. He also posted the fastest lap of the race in 1:06.293; in fact he was the only driver to dip below the 1:07 mark.

The fans were pleased to see Khun Jack back and the driver was also happy to be in the cockpit after a year out. "It’s great to be back," he said afterwards. "I had pole position so I just had to make sure I got a good start as I didn’t have any weight. I got away quite well and Turn 2 up the hill was quite good so I just pushed for five laps, got a good lead and then just saved the tyres as if you push the tyres for too long I think they will go off. Kuroki in second place was quite quick at the beginning but I pulled away two tenths, three tenths a lap and I started pulling away more and more and then saved the tyres after lap 10."

At the green lights, the front-row starting Khun Hideharu pushed as hard as he could and he drove superbly in his Kuroki ATP Tein Racing-entered Honda DC5. He was the first of the front wheel drive cars to reach the checkered flag.

Khun Hideharu was in fact racing at Bira for the first time - it certainly didn’t show. His participation came about as he raced in a different series at Bangsaen last December and was very impressed by the two Super 2000 races and the enthusiasm of the drivers. "I participated in TCSA [Touring Car Championship in Asia by IMSP] last year," explained the Japanese driver. "There were many people and a good passion. I’m so interested, so I decided to participate."

And did he enjoy Bira Circuit? "It’s so challenging but so scary, but it’s a good circuit," he says, before adding that he was pleased with his race pace. "I’m so happy [with the result] but I couldn’t catch the BMW [of Khun Jack], he is so fast."

Third place overall went to the Singha XO Team Eakie Toyota Altezza of Khun Kantadhee Kusiri; he was 9 seconds back from the top two at the flag. After a mechanically troubled weekend in Sepang, the highly rated youngster put in a very controlled drive and in a car with limitations this was the most he could squeeze out of it. For company, just two seconds back at the end of the 22-lap race, was the best placed of the three factory Toyotas, the 86 coupé of Khun Manat Kulapalanont.

In a vivid sign of the changing times in Super 2000, the first Honda Civic home was in P5, the #90 FD of Khun Pitsanu Sirimongkolkasem. He lost ground at the start but battled hard to make up places and - crucially - nabbing P5 meant he would be on pole for the second race. "I got a bad start, I made a mistake, that’s just part of the racing," he admitted afterwards. "But the whole race was really fun, I really enjoyed it. I went back to seventh or eighth place, then I overtook and came back to the fifth place, so overall I’m satisfied [and] I’m looking forward to tomorrow as with the reverse grid I will be on pole."

With the championship leader, Khun Tin, adding just a single point at the end of the race, not only had Khun Pitsanu strengthened his lead in the Class B standings but he was only a few points away from the overall championship lead - an impressive performance bearing in mind the limitations of his Civic. He was also running with the car unchanged from Sepang - although an upgrade is on the cards. "We cannot modify anything [yet] because the parts have not arrived," he explained. "But definitely for the next race [in Buriram] I will have a better car, maybe faster."

There was another Japanese guest driver in the final classification, in P9. This time Khun Yoshiaki Inoue in the #46 Kuroki ATP Tein Racing entered Honda DC5. And he was one position in from of Khun Tin. The championship leader had a disastrous race as his BMW continued to suffer technical problems, although he managed to battle his way up to tenth place and at least grab a solitary race point.

In Class C, victory went to Khun Bhisanu Busitarnuntakul in the #32 Civic FD; this was his first race in Super 2000 - so it couldn’t have ended any better. Second place went to Class C points’ leader Khun Arthit Ruengsomboon in the new factory #9 Toyota Altis.

In fact Khun Artit’s teammate, Khun Chen Jian Hong, had a tough opening race, the Taiwanese Class B driver dropped out of the running on the third lap in the other Team Toyota Thailand-entered new Altis, the #58 car, which runs to full Super 2000 overall specification.

Amongst the other retirements, Khun Supachai Weeraborwornpong’s engine gave up in dramatic clouds of white smoke as he pushed through Turn 1 on just his second lap, the day-glo #71 Honda DC5 pulling off on the inside of the first left hander.

Meanwhile, guesting in a Civic FD, much had been expected from professional driver Khun Carlo Van Dam, but he lasted only 3 laps. However his late entry penalty ballast would come off for Race 2 and the Dutch star would be much better placed to shine.

Sunday: Super Car Class 3-GTC

The second race for the brand new category followed pretty much the gameplan of the previous day’s first race, Khun Daychapon was on pole again with Khun Narin alongside. From the inside of the second row Khun Grant powered straight into a lead he would hold onto unchallenged for the next 22 laps. However, while Khun Daychapon tucked into second place and would keep the gap to the Mitsubishi to around ten seconds for the whole race, there were some extra ‘guest’ mid order entries to spice the action up for Class 3-GTM’s first ever weekend.

They comprised of the ageing Toyota Altis of Toyota Team Thailand’s Team Manager, Khun Suttipong, the regular Porsche 997 GT3 Cup of TSS President Khun Sontaya Kunplome and his ‘spare’ Porsche 996 GT3 Cup, which was driven by TSS Race Director Khun Preeda Tantemsapya. The three highly experienced drivers shook out over the first lap of the race in that order and they indulged in plenty of battling as the race progressed. In the end Khun Sontaya fought his way past Khun Suttipong to beat him to the flag for P3 by just over two seconds while Khun Preeda retired from the race after 17 laps.

At the front, after 22 laps Khun Grant took the checkered flag to make it two wins out of two after another fairly uneventful race. "On the start I can overtake to be the leader and try to maintain speed and win the race," he said afterwards. Those results set him up perfectly to make a run on the title and he agrees. "The first weekend I win two races so will try to win the championship," Khun Grant noted.

Khun Daychapon made it two runners up spots for the weekend as he came home 11.519 seconds behind Khun Grant. Third and fourth places went to Khun Sontaya and Khun Suttipong, but as (very) late entries they wouldn’t be eligible for points. The veteran pair were both lapped by the finish.

Fifth place and the final podium step went to Khun Narin in the KS Racing Skyline. It was pretty much the same story as the day before as he nursed an overheating car with virtually no brakes around the track and completed 19 laps to be classified fifth. Two podiums and two helpings of points for third (as the second and third overall placed drivers weren’t eligible to score points) was a very rewarding end to a hectic month and a half of ground-up preparations.

"My car got three problems," he explained afterwards. "[The] suspension is too soft, the new one will come next month. [On] Saturday and Sunday I run with [an] overheating engine, 105 degrees all the way. In Sunday’s race, the master cylinder brake is leaking; I drive with no brakes from [the] warm up lap to [the] finish of the race. It very bad for me but I need to finish the race.

However Khun Narin was pleased with the outcome of the weekend and he now has plenty of time in hand to fully prepare the Skyline as there is a long break ahead before TSS resumes at Buriram in November. "For me, I'm happy that I can finish the race but not happy for my race, because I think you saw, I drive very, very slowly. Now I have four months [to] rebuild my car 100% for next race, I'll do my best."

Aside from Khun Preeda, the other DNF went to Khun Akihiro; he was certainly having a tough weekend. For this race he started from the pitlane as his mechanics raced to fix a coolant leak that had occurred as he prepared to join the grid. He fought his way up the order, passing the two Porsches, the Toyota and both the Nissans before closing in on the race leader. However the brake issues got more and more severe as the race progressed and on lap 17 he was dumped out of the race. When the brakes let go, just as he stamped on the pedal to slow down for S1, the results were pretty spectacular and Khun Aki’s big nosedive through the gravel bed provided one of the most visually dramatic moments of the weekend.

"Yesterday we had the misfiring problem but that wasn’t there today, it was fixed and the car was running a little more properly," the Japanese driver explained afterward. "But just before the race, about two minutes before the start, we had the water leaking so I had to do the pit start because of that water leak."

However he made good progress in the race although he had to carefully manage the car. "I was worried about the car overheating," said Khun Akihiro. "So I was caring about the overheating, I was revving a little too low but in the end I was catching up [Khun Grant] so when I see him I was trying to go a little more faster but actually I had a little bit of a spongy brake, but it was okay. But all of a sudden the brakes just went completely to the floor in S1 so I had to go straight on."

That brake fade became a permanent failure within a few turns despite Khun Akihiro doing his best to continue. "Even after that I tried to finish the race, but after that [incident] at S1 I came around to the [main] straight at about fifty percent speed but again I went into T1 with totally no brakes so I had to stop the car, it was too dangerous," he concluded.

It was a tough return to TSS for Khun Akihiro who was starting his Thai racing season at Bira having missed the trip to Sepang. Two difficult races yielding two DNFs despite his best efforts in a racecar that has been laid up for more than a year and was unprepared and unsorted. However those best efforts from him and his mechanics saw him running as high as P2 in both races and closing in on the race leader - a pretty good turn of pace.

Khun Akihiro reckons that the Ferrari 430 Challenge certainly has potential to be extracted. "I still want to race this car, if the thing runs properly the characteristic of the car is pretty good," he noted. "It handles pretty good, but there are many problems here and there, but if that’s all fixed I think this can be a very good car in Class 3 but we still have time."

Khun Grant thus becomes the first ever driver to top the Super Car Class 3-GTC points standings; he has 80 points. Khun Daychapon is next up with 70 points while Khun Narin is third with 64 points. After a difficult weekend, Khun Aki still gets on the championship classification; he’s fourth with 20 points.

Sunday: Super 2000

Sealing his second win from the two races, Khun Jack really made it a perfect comeback weekend with a clean sweep. But, unlike Race 1, it was anything but a formality for the rapid Vattana Motorsport driver and he had to work hard for the win - as well as enjoying a bit of good luck on the way.

However there were many stars in this race, and arguably the biggest of them was Khun Pitsanu. He started from pole position thanks to the reversed top-five grid and down through the first turn he was side-by-side with Khun Manat who had started alongside him. The pair continued in side-by-side formation through the lefthander but the Honda driver had the inside line and the Toyota was forced to lock in on the FD’s rear bumper on the run up to the hairpin.

Behind them Khun Hideharu snapped up a place to take P3 with Khun Kantasak dropping back to P4. Khun Jack who had started fifth played it conservative and held his starting position although he would make up a place the next lap to move into fourth.

At the back of the grid Khun Tin made a blistering getaway and he was quickly slicing through the mid order - in fact within three laps he would have the #99 BMW up to sixth place. By the end of the third lap Khun Pitsanu had pulled out a few lengths at the front as he turned in a stunning performance in the #90 Civic FD while Khun Jack was now all over Khun Hideharu in third.

A couple of laps later and Khun Jack, who had been playing it carefully and waiting for the front wheel drive cars’ tyres to go off, had an off track excursion - the first time he had put a foot wrong all weekend - and it was to prove costly, he lost significant track position. He made the lost places back up over the next few laps but with the top runners now spreading out, charging for P1 looked beyond him.

On the same lap Khun Tin’s blistering fight up the leaderboard came to a halt. The PTT-sponsored BMW started to emit smoke and he would look to manage his position. The team later reported that he had an ECU problem.

With Khun Jack now pushing hard he was helped - saved even - by the arrival of Safety Car and that then bunched the spread out field right up. The biggest loser was Khun Pitsanu who had built up a decent lead after taking full advantage of the early pace of his tyres. Behind the Safety Car the top order was thus Khun Pitsanu from Khun Hideharu, Khun Kantadhee, Khun Jack, Khun Tin, Khun Carlo, who had also been flying up the order, Khun Jakthong Navasoopanich and Khun Munkong Sathienthirakul.

At the restart Khun Jack bagged a spot from Khun Kantadhee to move into third with the top two just in front. The Safety Car had really played into his hands. It also helped Khun Carlo who had been picking off cars all race as he battled up the order and the Dutchman now moved past the fading Khun Tin with ease and set about passing Khun Kantadhee - a battle that then became one for P2 as Khun Hideharu went off track and retired with five laps to go. Khun Carlo made his move out of S2 and although the Toyota left him with very little room. The Civic in fact had both wheels on the grass but Khun Carlo made the pass stick and was quickest into the first apex corner.

With just three laps of the race left Khun Jack was all over Khun Pitsanu who had driven the race of his life but was now really struggling for grip with his shot tyres. In to the ‘Honda’ turn with just two laps to go Khun Pitsanu slowed and ran wide and Khun Jack dived up the inside into P1. The black-and-gold #90 Civic FD meanwhile swung straight across and into the pitlane - after a superb drive there was bitter disappointment for Khun Pitsanu, his team and all the fans that had been enthralled watching a driver who had really risen above his machinery.

The top three had in fact pulled away from the rest of the pack after the Safety Car had gone back in and so further back Khun Jakthong made a move on the struggling Khun Tin on lap 18. The pair clashed and the Toyota driver was out on the spot with extensive left hand front bodywork damage while the BMW continued to struggle on to the flag. It would be another disastrous race for Khun Tin and he added only a single race point to his tally. After his clean sweep in Sepang he claimed just a single point in each race at Bira and while that hasn’t really opened the door wide to his rivals yet, any further problems would do so.

It was a sensational end to the race and Khun Jack, Khun Carlo and Khun Kantadhee crossed the line to finish 1-2-3 split by just 1.4 seconds. With two wins out of two, Khun Jack was very happy with his weekend’s work. "I started fifth as on Saturday I was first and it’s a reverse grid, so I know I have rear wheel drive and the Hondas have front wheel drive so after five or six laps [their tyres] are going to go off," he said afterwards. "So I’m just waiting and waiting and waiting and taking my time as there are 22 laps, so no point of pushing the car too much, I just want to make sure we get to the finish.

"I think I cruised too much," he continued with a laugh. "And so I made a small mistake in S2 and just went off, but luckily the Safety Car came out and I got back into the race again. After that I was just pushing and pushing and the extra 50 kilos has cost me a second straight away and we didn’t have the right setup. But I’m really thankful to Vattana Motorsport and Chonsawat Asavahame as it’s been a perfect weekend comeback."

Equally pleased with P2 was Khun Carlo, especially after he dropped out of Race 1 within a few laps. "We knew it was [going to be] a tough weekend, we couldn’t setup the car," said the Dutchman, who was another of the drivers in TSS who was fresh from taking part in the Nürburgring 24 Hours.

"We had 145 kilo in the trunk so the car was undriveable and I had no speed [on Saturday]," he continued. "But today we could take out my ‘welcome’ penalty, and then you see the car is much better and I overtook a lot of cars, and then P2 which was the maximum as Jack was too quick, his car was very good, well done to him."

Five and a half seconds down the road, Khun Kittipol Pramoj Na Ayudhya was an excellent fourth overall - and first in Class B. That made up for a fruitless opening race where he had suffered problems under the bonnet of the #25 Civic FD. Early in the race he had suffered from engine overheating issues and then clutch problems added to his woes. However the arrival of the Safety Car helped cool the engine and Khun Kittipol charged hard in the latter stages of the race and was also helped by cars dropping out in front he picked his way up the order to record his best career finish so far. This is a driver that is improving with every race - so keep a close eye out for him in the future.

Khun Manat came home fifth, 1.6 seconds behind Khun Kittipol. The factory Toyota driver and Super 2000 champion two years ago had a quiet race by his standards after a fast start. His mechanics had also made a few overnight changes to the #37 car. "I just adapt my engine intake," he said afterwards. "It makes my car faster but [the] setting [of the] car is still not good. Anyway, overall the car is good [and I] can get [the] prize [for] fifth position. Next [race] I will try to [adjust the] settings more."

Six place overall and second in Class B, went to Khun Munkong, while a very strong third in Class B went to Khun Paritat Bulbon in the unusual turbodiesel #7 VW Golf. After a tough weekend in Sepang, this was a good reward for both the driver and the Speedbuster Ducati Chiang Mai team’s recent efforts. A new suspension and endurance spec front and rear arms and bushes helped me lower [the] laptimes and make [the] car more competitive," Khun Paritat explained afterwards, pointing to the work that his teammate, Khun Jakthong, has done over the last month to upgrade the car.

Khun Paritat goes down a unique path by racing a turbodiesel Golf in Super 2000 and it’s been a few races since he was standing on the steps of the podium. He explained that the German car’s strengths fit well this track and that also helped his uptick in form. "Bira is well suited [to the] Golf as it [has a] lack of top end power but has plenty of torque to suit the tight corners in the circuit," he said.

After not being classified in the previous day’s race, Khun Jetsada Yangpichit won Class C and was an impressive eighth overall while another runner-up spot for Khun Arthit in the factory #9 Toyota Altis helped him extend his championship points advantage. After a DNF in Race 1, Khun Chen Jian Hong in the other New Altis had a better time of it to finish ninth overall and fourth in Class B. One place behind the Taiwanese driver’s #58 Altis in both class and overall positions was Khun Supachai who dug out his older Civic hatchback for Race 2 after his regular FD’s engine expired in dramatic fashion in the first race.

Other notable retirees included the Civic FDs of TSS newcomer Khun Rudolf Yu, the Hong Kong driver dropping out on lap 4, and Khun Thamrong Mahadumrongkul who parked up just before S1 on the same lap with a blown engine, as well as both of the visiting Kuroki ATP Tein Racing Honda’s of Khun Yoshiaki Inoue and Khun Hideharu Kuroki, they dropped out on lap 8 and lap 17 respectively.

So after a quiet start to the Super 2000 season in Sepang when Khun Tin ran away and hid, this category burst back into dramatic life at Bira, and with the championship leader leaving almost empty handed from Pattaya his main rivals now need to dig deep and try to haul themselves into title contention. Khun Tin has 146 points in the overall title race while the chasing pack comprises of Khun Pitsanu (136), Khun Manat (133) and Khun Kantadhee (128). The next round at Buriram should really suit the BMW, but any further big points losses could prove costly for Khun Tin. Meanwhile, in Class B Khun Pitsanu has a decent 21 point cushion over Khun Thamrong while in Class C Khun Artit is seemingly cruising towards the title.

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