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Thailand Super Series building towards the new season

Thailand Super Series building towards the new season

29.03.2016: While we relentlessly build towards the new Thailand Super Series (TSS) racing year




While we relentlessly build towards the new Thailand Super Series (TSS) racing year, the ‘season’ in terms of the final phase of the journey to FIA Grade 3 homologation for the Bangsaen Street Circuit is already well underway. Following an assessment by an FIA Track Inspector last November, Racing Spirit has put into place a programme that will play out across multiple converging fronts across the next nine months.


Last week the Racing Spirit Track Design Team inspected upgraded designs for the track access gates, they’re one of the key elements of the strategy to conclude the FIA Grade 3 homologation process.
 

Ahead of the start of the new TCR season, international and national promoters met at the Valencia Circuit, Spain, last week to discuss and take forward planning as well as conduct BoP testing. TCR Thailand, which will hold its first ever races in May, was represented at the event.


Meanwhile, SEAT’s Léon Cup Racer marked itself out in no uncertain terms as the racecar to beat last year during the inaugural season of the new TCR concept and that means it’s also become the ‘weapon of choice’ for Thai drivers and teams as they begin to gear up for the arrival of TCR Thailand, which is due to kick off in less than two month’s time.


Six examples will be coming to Thailand making it the most numerical car on the grid. These racecars are now in transit and are due to arrive here next month.
 

Finally, the 37th edition of the Bangkok International Motor Show is currently in full swing and will run until next Sunday. Sharp-eyed visitors can spot one of our leading racecars on display in the Impact Exhibition Center where the headline event is taking place as usual.


The racecar in question is the striking white with red and black stripes #34 Ferrari 458 Challenge that hotshot youngster Khun Kantasak Kusiri last year drove to the most important and prestigious championship title in Thai motorsport, Super Car Class 2-GTM.
 


Bangsaen moving towards FIA homologation

 

The second and final phase of the journey to FIA Grade 3 homologation for the Bangsaen Street Circuit is now well underway. Following the initial assessment by an FIA inspector last November, Racing Spirit is putting into place a ‘Road Map’ to reach the conclusion of the programme that will work across multiple converging fronts across the next nine months.


That schedule going forward will include submitting an optimised dossier to the FIA Circuits Commission and incorporating any further recommendations to the blueprint into the final plan.


At the same time there will be improvements to the track and safety infrastructure. In terms of the track there will increases in width and resurfacing work while in the area of safety, passive structures such as gates, crash barriers and debris fencing will fully align with FIA standards after completion of the work that was actioned last year.
 

The Racing Spirit Track Development Team put the core foundations in place last year and will drive the programme through 2016 towards its conclusion. TSS Vice President Preeda Tantemsapya and TSS Technical Manager Pairuch Ngernmeesri head the Track Development Team with additional input coming from Track Designer Simon Gardini who also makes regular visits to support the programme.


Last week Khun Preeda and Khun Pairuch led a delegation to inspect the upgraded designs for the track access gates, they’re one of the key elements that will be put in place to conclude the FIA Grade 3 homologation process.
 

During the inspection Khun Preeda offered a broad outline of the timetable for this year, emphasising that the team is now into the second phase of the strategy to attain FIA Grade 3 homologation. “We undertook the biggest chunk of the main requirements to improve the overall safety of the track last year in line with the FIA’s requirements,” he says.


“The FIA inspection came out broadly where we expected and demonstrated that the core elements are in place. That inspection further gave us very specific detail requirements as to what would be required for the final stage of the work, so we can be very clear going forward and have confidence that what we undertake will meet FIA requirements.”


He also explained that the safety upgrade work slots into a bigger two-year programme to improve the infrastructure and operation of the event in all areas and prepare it for the second decade.


“At the same time we are undertaking major infrastructure and organisational upgrades to improve the overall picture of the event, such as the new permanent paddock for the support classes, relocating Race Control, optimising access and minimising interruptions for residents as well as local businesses and so on,” Khun Preeda said.


“This is also a two year programme, spread out, just like the track work, to keep everything as smooth and feasible as possible," he continued. "So these changes go hand in hand and we should have all the work completed and be ready for the tenth anniversary edition later this year.”
 

Khun Preeda admits the upgrades and the schedule to carry them out are ambitious, but they are where they want to be in terms of the timeframe and everyone’s highly motivated. “The team is certainly going to have a very busy year and we will need to push and remain focused, but we have full support, we are committed and everyone is working well together,” he says.


Khun Simon meanwhile detailed the programme for the coming year. “There are two main things we have to work on, there is the actual track infrastructure, so you will see improvements in the debris fencing and gate access, and general infrastructure improvements, while we’re going to raise some of the overhead infrastructure in line with the FIA guidelines,” he said.
 

“Then there is the overall track alignment itself,” he continues. “We will be widening the track to improve the safety in a couple of areas and then there is a whole lot of what I would call housekeeping in our own safety improvements that in some cases we will go beyond the FIA safety guidelines to achieve things we know ourselves will improve the Bangsaen track. So infrastructure and track design itself are the two main fronts.”


The programme will be ongoing throughout the year, right up to the ‘10th Anniversary’ event in November and Khun Simon outlined the schedule. “In terms of major milestones on that journey we have taken a step forward today by inspecting some of the new prototype infrastructure,” he says.


 “Of course the big one will be submitting the revised FIA Homologation Dossier, the document that the FIA Circuits Commission will give design approval for. Once we’re through that then we’re onto building and the target there is to build towards that approved design.
 

“Creating the dossier and submitting it, and allowing the FIA to review it and incorporating their review items so it’s fully approved for delivery is our first big task but obviously there’s a whole lot of things happening in parallel to that,” Khun Simon adds.


To underpin the dossier, key work will also be happening on the ground in Bangsaen. “At the moment we’re going to undertake a full resurvey of the track whilst the infrastructure isn’t there and we will create the necessary drawings and design changes,” he says.


 “We will be submitting the design dossier to the FIA in the next eight to ten weeks and then it needs to go to their Circuit Commission for review and I would expect it will take several weeks for them to review.”
 

“And then once we have that approval it's all down to the inspection in November during the race, but of course with our development team we need to keep in good contact with the FIA to make sure we’re travelling down the right path,” he adds.


In parallel most of the physical upgrade work can also get underway unhindered and its being undertaken to cause minimum inconvenience, especially in the final run up to the event. “The fortunate thing is we know the infrastructure changes so that’s already happening in the background,” Khun Simon reveals.



“The build period for Bangsaen we don’t have any plans to change, there will be the minimised disruption that you would normally see.”
 

Khun Simon is pleased with the inspection of the development infrastructure and believes they’re close to the final specification.


“The gates are something that were a work in progress last year and we have incorporated the FIA’s comments plus input from Racing Spirit’s engineering team that are working on fabricating the gates, so we have incorporated some of their engineering solutions to make sure that the gates are more user friendly to operate while maintaining the level of track safety,” he says.


“From what I saw today we’re a long way down the track with that and they’re looking pretty good,” Khun Simon adds. “We have some little things that we discussed today to make them even better but I’m very confident now that we will have a good gate solution and that will close the loop on all the elements of protection we have around the track.”
 

The day also saw a lot of detail upgrades being discussed, such as mounting all the CCTV cameras independently of any other infrastructure to optimise their viewing ranges and raising the height of overhead infrastructure. It promises to be a hectic year for TSS team.
 



SEAT to have strength in numbers in TCR Thailand

 


SEAT’s Léon Cup Racer marked itself out in no uncertain terms as the racecar to beat last year during the inaugural season of the new TCR concept and it’s instantly become the ‘weapon of choice’ for Thai drivers and teams as they begin to gear up for the arrival of TCR Thailand, which is due to kick off in two month’s time.


The Léon Cup Racer certainly can back up its ‘top pick' status with on track results. In TCR International Series last year the Léon took Khun Stefano Comini to the Drivers’ title; in fact the top three drivers in the final points classification all used the Spanish racecar, while Comini’s team, Target Competition, won the Teams’ title.


 Meanwhile, Craft Bamboo Lukoil, which took the Teams’ runners up spot, also used the Léon. Not only that but in TCR Asia Series the Léon powered Asia Racing Team to the Teams’ title, albeit narrowly missing out on making a clean sweep of titles as Michael Choi won the Drivers’ crown behind the wheel of a Honda Civic TCR.
 

The Léon Cup Racer was the logical front runner for the inaugural TCR season as it’s a very well developed racecar that’s been honed by SEAT in its one make ‘Cup’ series for a number of years now and was the first car to slot into the regulations.


For 2016 this package is likely to be the benchmark, the car that everyone else has to measure up to. It’s also a logical first choice for teams as the components inventories are plentiful as is in-depth knowledge of the car. For Thai teams it’s also a logical path to pursue so it’s small wonder that the Léon Cup Racer is set the most popular choice. We expect at least six cars on the grid for the season opener will be the ubiquitous Léon Cup Racer.
 

When you get to the top though you don’t stand still, and while TCR will adjust their BoP for this year to keep performances level and the other brands are pushing to snatch away titles, SEAT has made significant upgrades to the car to ensure it’s optimally placed to chase championships this year, which for the first time, will include TCR Thailand.


Visually, the MY2016 Léon Cup Racer looks more aggressive thanks to its new aero package. According to SEAT Sport, which dubs the car as a ‘systematic evolution’, the aero upgrades have ‘improved drag and downforce thanks to the new aerodynamic package, giving it more speed on the straights an in bends.’
 

SEAT Sport further says: ‘The cooling package and the redesigned exhaust system deliver better performance, while the new shock absorbers can be adjusted in both directions, enabling the racer to be more precisely adapted to the respective track and driving style. Finally, a new safety tank is on offer with a capacity 100 litres and rapid refuelling system.’ The Léon Cup Racer also features a lighter brake package and six-speed DSG transmission.


Mid last week a Racing Spirit senior manager, in Valencia, Spain, to represent TCR Thailand at the TCR International Promoters Meeting, made the half hour journey to visit the SEAT Sport factory and inspect the six MY2016 Léon Cup Racers that were at that point ready to be shipped to Thailand. These racecars are now in transit and are due to arrive here next month.
 

The TCR representative was impressed by the scale and operation of the factory, which is state-of-the-art and uses highly sophisticated assembly methods. Aside from TCR ‘breed’, SEAT Sport also builds cars for other series, including the OEM’s own one-make ‘Cup’, and also creates racecars that are customised on their owners’ specific instructions and requirements meaning a very high degree of attention, project development skills and individual personalisation are required.


The factory also builds the VW Golf TCR contender, which is already sold out for the MY2016 production run.


Racing Spirit will also be the parts distributor in Asia for the SEAT Leon Cup Racer TCR version and we have acquired a substantial inventory of parts that is being shipped along with the six cars that will ensure all SEAT cars that race in Thailand will be fully supported at the track this year right from the first race.
 




Thailand set to benefit from growing strength of TCR concept

 



TCR Thailand's inaugural season is rapidly moving into view and while it will be the debut year for the new generation of 'touring car' racers here it is however the second year in international terms as last year TCR International Series and TCR Asia Series were launched with great success, provoking instant interest from drivers, teams and sponsors which translated into full grids.


This year the concept steams forward with even more cars being homologated and a lot more drivers and teams signing up. TCR Thailand will be in the 'first wave' of national series to roll out as the concept is now being launched across the world.


The international promoter has limited the number of national series to be launched in the first year to thirteen (more than twenty actually applied) and we are very pleased that TCR Thailand was one of those that was chosen. There will also be a European championship added to bolster the cross-regional series to three.
 

The ‘international feel’ of TCR is set to grow further as more races join illustrious global racing programmes, a decisive theme that kicked off last year when TCR International Series hooked up with the Formula 1 programme during several key Grand Prix weekends, a high profile trend that will continue this year.


Ahead of the start of the new season international and national promoters met at the Valencia Circuit, Spain, last week to discuss and take forward planning, with TCR Thailand being represented at the event.
 

The programme saw all the main racecar contenders in busy track action for two days, including the SEAT Leon Cup Racer, VW Golf, Honda Civic and Subaru Impreza STi as well as the new Opel Astra TCR and Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Meanwhile, the Peugeot 308 Cup made an appearance as Sébastien Loeb Racing plans to tweak the car to fit TCR regulations.


There was also news of a revitalised Ford Focus programme that will in fact see the car assembled in Hong Kong, a clear sign of the impetus that TCR is rapidly gaining in Asia. And yet more OEMs are showing interest too, Audi will return to the grid next year with a new build programme and KIA is also looking at an entry.


The first day was all about private action that allowed potential customers to try out the cars while the second day saw the BoP testing for 2016 taking place and that meant all the machines were put through their paces by veteran touring car star Nicola Larini who conducted the back-to-back testing on behalf the promoter.
 



As the TCR concept gains wider acceptance and the competitive level grows the authorised car builders have improved their offerings to the benefit of drivers. With all the cars, bar one, able to lap within 1-second of each other clearly the equalisation is working very well and that should lead to an exciting season as well as a lot of confidence for teams that are looking to make an investment.


Instructed by TCR Technical Director Andreas Bellu and TCR Technical Delegate Umberto Fasolo, Larini drove each racecar in multiple scenarios. “We asked him to complete five-lap stints with the cars on the minimum weight and then with the maximum 70kg ballast on board.


Then he performed tests that consisted [of] accelerating the car and leaving it going in neutral to evaluate aerodynamics and fluency. Finally we ran acceleration tests with 100% and 90% of the power,” Bellu told the series’ official website afterwards.
 

Meanwhile the message to emerge from the promoters meeting was that after the success of the inaugural season of the two international series's that a robust platform is in place to build upwards with national series, including TCR Thailand, slotting into the mix and more than one hundred and twenty races for TCR cars are set to take place across the world this year.


“TCR has never been stronger,” said CEO Marcello Lotti. With a core emphasis being placed on maximising global coverage, millions of viewers will be able to see each event.
 

TCR Thailand expects at least ten cars on the grid for the season opener in May and that puts us somewhere in the middle of the grid numbers for domestic series to start with, with some championships having more than a dozen cars confirmed while others are in single figures. Germany is likely to have the biggest grids with around 25 cars.


The main issue to currently hold back the growth of the grids is the number of cars available as most MY2016 models are already sold out. That certainly is an issue to face Thai drivers but it’s one that will be resolved going forward as the number of cars built continues to rise.
 



Title winner on display at the Bangkok Motor Show



 
The 37th edition of the Bangkok International Motor Show is currently in full swing and sharp-eyed visitors will be able to spot one of our leading racecars on display in the spacious Challenger Halls of the Impact Exhibition Center in Muang Thong Thani where the headline event is taking place as usual.


The car in question is the #34 Singha Motorsports Team Thailand Ferrari 458 Challenge which is actually more than ‘a’ leading car but rather ‘the’ leading car as it raced to the most important – and competitive – motorsport title in Thailand last year, Super Car Class 2-GTM. Behind the wheel was emerging hero Khun Kantasak Kusiri who in the process became the youngest ever driver to win the Super Car title.
 

Clearly Khun Kantasak is on a steady path to international stardom and promoted to the Singha Motorsport Team Thailand lineup for last year, his second season in Super Car (his rookie year had been spent in a somewhat compromised Porsche 977 GT3 Cup), he really reveled in joining a team that had won the Drivers’ title the previous year.


The rest is simply history. Khun Kantasak kicked last year off with his first Super Car win, that coming immediately in the very first race of the season, which took place in Buriram, he took a second outright win on the series’ return to the North East a couple of months later, while he also picked up a third maximum score during the season closing triple header in Bangsaen last November when he was closely focused on nailing down the remaining points he needed to clinch the title.


That all helped him to emerge victorious after a titanic year long title scrap with hugely experienced New Zealander Khun Craig Corliss who simply – in his usual style – gave everything he had and then some more.

 
The white with black and red stripes liveried #34 Ferrari can be seen at the Motor Show until the event closes next weekend.

 

- Edd Ellison, photos TSS

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29.03.2016 / MaP

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