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TSS: Last of the Mohicans

TSS: Last of the Mohicans

25.01.2017: Well it would be slightly difficult to mistake him for a native American warrior, certainly he wears an FIA homologated race helmet rather

Well it would be slightly difficult to mistake him for a native American warrior, certainly he wears an FIA homologated race helmet rather than a flamboyant headdress.



But Super 2000 is a category exclusively reserved for warriors and only the most fierce and brave prosper here – and he’s the ‘last’ of a line of worth champions as the cutthroat category will be reborn next year (see full details in next edition of TSS News)
 


Winning the Super 2000 title means you are a pretty special driver. It’s traditionally been the most competitive racing category nationally; always highly popular with the fans as the drivers rub paint, and the roll call of champions backs that up.



In the first three completed seasons of Thailand Super Series, 2013-2015, the Super 2000 title had been secured by Tin Sritrai and Pasarit Phromsombat – that’s illustrious company for anyone to be joining.
 


However, at Bira Circuit back in September Kittipol Pramoj Na Ayudhya added his name to that roll call – and he did it emphatically, only rarely in Super 2000 has a champion been crowned during the penultimate round of the season.



However Kittipol did it with the two races in Bangsaen next month – and where there is a maximum of 40 championship points on offer – still to spare. That perfectly sums up his year; he came into this season straight off the back of his first victory in Super 2000, which came at ‘Bangsaen 2015’, where in fact he won both races, and he simply never looked back.
 

Kittipol turned up this season superbly prepared. His fitness levels were impeccable as he’s added a second string to his bow alongside racing by becoming the paddock’s pukka ‘marathon man’.



Mentally he has Super 2000 worked out to a tee while in terms of his car, once again driving a Honda Civic FD, he chose to pursue absolute reliability over trying to squeeze extra horses out of it – when a championship is fought over just eight races even a single DNF can crush title aspirations. He didn’t put a foot wrong all season and the rest is history.
 


At Bira Circuit he played a careful game focused around the needs of the classification, as he explained afterwards.



 “My strategy for the weekend was to collect as many points for the championship as possible which meant finishing the races, not really aiming for outright wins as that would have been difficult with a heavy car and a bumpy track that would punish you if you are too aggressive,” said Kittipol.



“Qualifying fourth was a little disappointing, it was the best I could do, but I got moved up to third as [Pattarapol] was penalised three places.”
 


That lined Kittipol up for the first race of the weekend on second row of the grid although he’s got more used to being at the front so far this season. “I started the race okay and [Chayut’s] engine blew on the first lap so I moved up to second,” he said.


“[Pattarapol] caught up with me and I tried to keep him behind but it meant pushing the car very hard. Besides, [Munkong] was getting away up front so I had to let [Pattarapol] through as he was much faster and can hopefully catch up with him.




 I had to go onto the gravel to avoid spinning cars but luckily there wasn’t too much damage. After the restart, I just kept to my own pace to make sure I finish the race in third.”
 


That third place finish handily equated to the points for second as Pattarapol wasn’t registered to score any and with his only serious remaining rival, Toyota’s Manat Kulapalanont, retiring from the race it left Kittipol poised on the brink of securing the title. His rival’s chances were at the extreme end of any mathematically possibilities – but the title still wasn’t official his.
 


“On Sunday I started third again,” Kittipol continues. “I got squeezed on to the grass at the start but luckily did not lose any positions. It was very hard to pass the cars in front. [Munkong] caught up and managed to go down the inside in Turn 1.



[Munkong] tapped [Ekprawat] and I was afraid I would get caught up so I lifted and lost two positions. I managed to claw back two positions by over taking [Ekprawat] and [Phatwit]. Then [Munkong] had some kind of a problem and slowed near the end of the race. I passed him and finished second.”
 


That was game, set and match for the title – although it took a bit of time for Kittipol to realise that. “I thought I had a 40 point lead over the Toyota of Manat going into Bangsaen – which pretty much meant I would have secured the championship as he would have to win both races at Bangsaen while I didn't finish in the top ten for me to lose the championship,” he said.



“However, when the official points were announced, I saw that [Pattarapol] did not get any points this year due to joining mid-season, which meant I have officially secured the championship no matter what the outcome is in Bangsaen.”
 

A perfect mix of speed, tactics and intelligent thinking combined with slightly conservative and reliable car has been the ticket to the title and clearly he’s delighted to have ‘got the job done’.



“It's been a good year for me this year having secured two firsts, two seconds and two thirds – and more importantly finishing all the races so far,” he reckons. “That was the strategy that we aimed for – to finish the races while not aiming for outright wins.



We sacrificed power for durability for the engine while we changed the gearbox to a sequential to prevent a miss-change but haven't quite got the gearing right for this lower powered engine.



And of course, driving as conservatively as fast as possible – if that makes sense! It worked. And we have secured the championship! I’m very happy indeed.”
 


It’s been a very steady but quite relentless rise to the top for Kittipol – he’s certainly come an awful long way since he used to potter around Bira Circuit in a classic racing Alfa Romeo Giulia 105.



 Clearly too he’s still got a long way further to go with his racing career, this is just the first big ‘prize of that journey, and if he returns to Super 2000 next year he’s going to be the benchmark that everyone else will have to beat.

 



 Edd Ellison - also photos

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/tss-last-mohicans-super2000---160177.html

25.01.2017 / MaP

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