Thailand Super Series - Buriram Super Car GTM Race 3

Thailand Super Series - Buriram Super Car GTM Race 3

25.05.2016: Super Car GTM Race 3 (Sunday 22 May) The final race of the opening weekend proved to

Super Car GTM Race 3 (Sunday 22 May)

The final race of the opening weekend proved to be the race of the Safety Car, which was out in front as much as the #55 Lamborghini. And that really was the story of the race. But in between its appearance there was some really blistering racing.

At the green lights Khun Sarun powered away once more and wasn't troubled into Turn 1 but behind him Khun Nattavude, starting from fourth in between the two Audis of Khun Daniel and Khun Henk, got a great start, went down the middle of the B-Quik cars and tucked into second place ahead of Khun Craig who had one of his trademark fast starts and moved up to third as the slow starting Audis dropped down to fourth and fifth places.

Behind the two Audis it was Khun Aekarat from Khun Nattapong and Khun Kantasak with Khun Naputt next up also taking the early lead in the AM class.

Into Turn 5 and Khun Nattavude’s Toyota started spewing smoke, it billowed as he went uphill through the high speed esses before he slowed up out of Turn 7 and the pack poured past him.

That had allowed Khun Sarun to get a big jump away at the front and now the two Audis were locked onto the tail of the Holden in the battle for second place.

Into the second lap and Khun Nattapong passed Khun Aekarat into fifth place while out of Turn 7 Khun Daniel got a slingshot on Khun Craig and into second place.

His teammate wasn’t hanging around either and Khun Henk muscled his way past Holden with an audacious move banging his way down the inside of Turn 10, not a traditional passing point, after Khun Craig had shown him a chink of daylight.

That put the Holden off the racing line and Khun Nattapong also got through as the field powered uphill on the exit of Turn 11. From second place Khun Craig was down to fifth in less than a third of a lap.

Barely had the leaders crossed the line to complete two laps than the Safety Car was deployed to clear up the oil dropped by Khun Nattavude’s Toyota.

That slippery surface was clearly demonstrated by Khun Henk spinning the Audi as he came through the esses under the yellow flag conditions.

As the pack formed up behind the Safety Car it was Khun Sarun from Khun Daniel, Khun Nattapong, Khun Craig, Khun Aekarat and then the two Singha Motorsport Team Thailand Ferraris who were followed by the AM class leader, Khun Naputt. Khun Henk was then given a by to resume his position.

It took three laps to clean the track and with 10 laps remaining the green lights came on. As he had done all weekend so far Khun Sarun controlled the pack into Turn 1 while behind him Khun Nattapong took a look down the inside of Khun Daniel, it was very close between the two, but the Audi kept the line and the position.

The pack was spread out in the run down to Turn 3 and through the hairpin Khun Craig and Khun Henk both ran wide and off the track, as did Khun Aekarat, Khun Henk dropping right back as he went well onto the runoff while Khun Craig and Khun Aekarat lost two places as the Ferraris of Khun Voravud and Khun Kantasak dived through.

Khun Naputt was busy capitalising on the jumble up front and he got ahead of the Holden but the ‘V8 Supercar’ put the hammer down and reclaimed the line as the pair headed up the hill and into the left-hander.

Out of Turn 4 Khun Craig discovered a patch of oil on the track, had a massive wobble as he tried to correct the car to no avail and as he spun round he clipped the Porsche of Khun Naputt who had moved to the inside to give the Holden room into the turn and couldn’t avoid the spinning green car.

Khun Craig went across the grass and into the barriers on the inside while Khun Naputt spun onto the runoff on the outside and immediately Khun Aekarat and Khun Paul went very wide round the outside of the #6 Porsche with Khun Aekarat spinning as he put the power back down.

Khun Naputt and Khun Aekarat were able to get away although the former would pit to have a bent wheel rim changed;

Khun Naputt had also suffered damage to the suspension geometry from the contact and that meant the Porsche didn’t want to run in a straight line so he would have to survive to the finish of the race at a reduced speed.

Khun Craig’s stricken Holden meant the Safety Car was deployed for a second time and as the survivors formed up it was Khun Sarun from Khun Daniel, Khun Nattapong, Khun Voravud, Khun Kantasak, Khun Henk, Khun Saravut and Khun Paul.

The Holden was winched way and Khun Craig later reported that the damage was superficial and limited to the radiator, oil cooler, front bar and splitter.

After hitting a lot of problems earlier in the weekend his practice running had been strictly limited but the New Zealander was very happy with the pace of the recently overhauled car and he’s ready to bounce back at the next round.

At the restart Khun Sarun was once again cleanly away but Khun Daniel was slower and Khun Nattapong came down the middle forcing the Audi in very tight on the inside and as this pair went side by side and held each other up Khun Voravud, with the power down out of Turn 1, needed no invitation to come round the outside and into second place.
It was short-lived though as two turns later Khun Daniel grabbed the inside line into Turn 5 and was back into second.

Khun Nattapong then lined the Ferrari up in his sights and went up the inside through the final turn, the Toyota clattering over the kerbs as he made the pass stick.

Khun Henk, on the tail of the pair, tried to follow the Toyota through but couldn’t make it work and Khun Voravud held onto fourth place for the moment.

However over the first sector of the next lap Khun Henk got past both the Ferrari and the Toyota and into third place and immediately set about chasing down his teammate.

Khun Voravud who was going backwards fast now quickly had to fend off the attentions of his teammate Khun Kantasak.

With three laps to go Khun Henk had closed down the two and a half second gap to his teammate while behind him Khun Nattapong fell away and in turn the two Ferraris also dropped back from the Toyota, the gaps were opening up now even if Khun Voravud and Khun Kantasak were running nose to tail.

With a couple of laps to go Khun Aekarat locked onto Khun Kantasak who had now dropped a few lengths away from his teammate and this was the last gasp battle for the final podium step.

 However further forward it was all going off as Khun Henk squeezed past Khun Daniel and set about reeling in the white Lamborghini.

For the first time all weekend Khun Sarun was under real pressure and Khun Henk closed right in, the margin as the flag was waved was just 0.728 of a second.

 It was a sensational finish – at least in terms of track position – as Khun Henk was then slapped with a 60-second penalty for a flag infringement and that dropped him down to ninth place.

So in the end Khun Sarun had an 8.475 second cushion over Khun Daniel who came home runner up, his third top-three finishing position of the weekend.

 For his second GTM season the Australian has switched to an Audi and it’s reaped instant dividends as he was on the front running pace all through the three races, leading the chase to the seemingly invincible Lamborghini at the front.

For Khun Sarun it was a case of job well done, he didn’t put a foot wrong all week. He first arrived in Super Car two years ago and promptly began to learn his new trade.

He drafted in a very experienced team manager Khun Somboon Kittitanagorn to head up the operation and has been coached by Japanese pro star Khun Keita Sawa, taking that learning process out of Thailand and onto tracks such as Fuji Speedway were he's tested multiple cars while he also competed in a one off race in the Ferrari Challenge Asia Pacific earlier this season.

Both Khun Sarun and his team are highly ambitious, thoroughly prepared and really want to win. The final piece in the jigsaw was to acquire a Huracán, currently the benchmark ‘Cup’ level car – and so all the ingredients were in place to make the step from podium regular to race winner.

And he also swatted away the old adage that nice guys don’t come first. He has an advantage leaving Buriram; the question now is can he defend that lead for the rest of the season?

Khun Nattapong upheld Toyota’s honour after his teammate retired early on with a battling drive to fourth place, certainly he worked hard for that, while, having been forced to ship in a replacement car after his major crash the previous day, Khun Voravud had a very decent reward for all the team’s efforts with a trip to the podium in fourth place and his teammate Khun Kantasak followed him home, three seconds back, to make it both Ferraris on the rostrum.

Then came Khun Aekarat while behind him there was a half-minute gap before Khun Saravut came through to win the AM class for the second day in a row.

That was also his second straight win – and in fact only his second ever race in Super Car as he missed the start of Friday’s race – and with his brother winning overall that was a second consecutive day that the family locked out the top step of both Super Car podiums.

Khun Paul was runner up in AM, his third runners up slot of the weekend and in all three races he had chased the winner across the line.

Race 3 was no different and the gap was just half a second. He moves into the lead of the AM championship standings thanks to that impressive form.

Third in AM went to Khun Paul’s teammate Khun Naputt who visited the pits after his tangle with Khun Craig and eventually came home two laps down with a ill handling car, but, most importantly for his efforts he was still classified as a finisher and collected points.

In the overall (PRO-AM) Drivers' championship (provisional) after one round and three races Khun Sarun streaks into the classification lead with 60 points, the highest score possible from the weekend.

Khun Daniel is second with 42 points and then comes Khun Kantasak with 27 points. Then it's Khun Nattapong (22), Khun Aekarat (20), Khun Henk (16), Khun Voravud and Khun Craig (14), Khun Nattavude (12) and Khun Pitsanu (3).

Meanwhile in the AM class (provisional standings) with three runners up spots Khun Paul leads the way in the table with 45 points followed by Khun Saravut (40), thanks to his double win, Khun Naputt (24) and Khun Pinet (20) for his Race 1 victory.

In the Teams' championship (provisional) Racing Spirit PSC Motorsport has 67 points, thanks to that sensational triple overall win by Khun Sarun plus the efforts of Khun Saravut in mopping up additional points while B-Quik Racing, with four podiums from the weekend, is next up with 54 points ahead of Singha Motorsport Team Thailand (41) which did well in damage limitation mode from a very tough weekend.

Then comes Toyota Team Thailand (34) which bagged three podium finishes, A Motorsport (22), Yokohama Kiwi Racing (14), Painkiller Racing (7) and GFPT H-Drive (3) complete the points scorers.

- Edd Ellison - also photos


25.05.2016 / MaP

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