TSS Bangsaen Grand Prix: Super Car GT3

TSS Bangsaen Grand Prix: Super Car GT3

13.03.2017: Thailand Super Series (TSS) Bangsaen Grand Prix 2017 After headlining TSS for the first three years (2013-15

Thailand Super Series (TSS)
Bangsaen Grand Prix 2017

After headlining TSS for the first three years (2013-15) the big GT3 beasts gave way for the 2016 season to Super Car GTM which was promoted to become the top category.

But the season wasn’t quite over when it was announced that they would be returning with ‘Super Car GT3’ set to headline the programme on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary edition of the Bangsaen Grand Prix.

The three cars lined up at the front of the combined GT3/GTC/TA2 grid on Saturday afternoon for the first of two races of the weekend didn’t disappoint at all – GT3 was back!

On pole was the #27 Chevrolet Camaro GT3 of the 2015 Super Car GT3 champion Tomáš Enge with another former Super Car title winner, Akihiro Asai, alongside – the Japanese driver having won Super Car N/A in 2011 and Super Car GTC in 2014.

He was driving Vattana’s #4 Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 FL2, and although Akihiro has previously raced this model of car around the world, it would be the first time he had driven a GT3 car in TSS.

Wrapping up the compact GT3 grid was the #28 McLaren 650S GT3 of Chonsawat Asavahame, the 2014 Super Car GT3 winner – meaning all three GT3 cars were driven by former Super Car champions.

It was also the first time that a McLaren had ever raced in TSS within Thailand (as the brand was actually represented on the Super Car grid during our visit to Sepang Circuit in Malaysia back in 2014) but it was also the first time the latest McLaren GT3 car – the 650S – had been seen in TSS and the first time a McLaren had ever taken to the track in Bangsaen.

As usual for TSS, many ‘firsts’. The striking racecar, wrapped in McLaren’s traditional ‘Papaya Orange’, stood out all week and drew many admiring glances.

When the lights turned green for the first race there weren’t to be any fireworks as the trio of GT3 cars thundered uphill through Turn 1 and then braked for Turn 2. As they went up the hill for the first time it was Tomáš from Akihiro and Chonsawat.

At the end of the first lap Akihiro and Tomáš traded places and now it was the black and white Lamborghini in charge at the front. A couple of laps later and the McLaren had made its way through, first edging past the Camaro and then picking off the Lamborghini to assume the head of the GT3 group.

At two thirds distance the GT3 pack started to split up as the trio of cars made heavy weather when they came to lap the tussling GTC class Mazdas of Pete Thongchua and James Runacres.

Chonsawat got a clean run to use the McLaren’s power to lap the pair on the main straight but Akihiro and Tomáš both had to pick them off through the mountain section which cost them a lot of time and into Turn 6 the yellow Mazda spun 180-degrees and the Camaro had to run wide to avoid, dropping it off the back of the Lamborghini.

Next time around the GT3 order would dramatically shakeup as Chonsawat, ran wide through Turn 6 as he took too a tight line on the entry to avoid the backwards facing yellow Mazda and he ground to a halt, requiring the marshals to push him backwards before he could return to the race, Akihiro and Tomáš both came to a halt behind the McLaren but they were able resume the race first.

That would be it for the race as Akihiro took the win, his first with a GT3 car in Thailand at his first attempt while Tomáš hunted him down over the closing laps to finish just 1.5 seconds adrift, the Czech also setting the fastest lap of the race. A further fifteen seconds down the road came the McLaren in third place.

“The car was really good, really perfect and my thanks to the Vattana team,” said the Japanese driver afterwards. “The race was pretty fun, there was a battle going on with Tomáš and Chonsawat and then there was a bit of drama with a car a lap down and then I took the lead and really just won it from there.”

Sunday’s second and final race of the weekend for Super Car GT3 proved a much less eventful affair. At the greenlights the McLaren made no mistakes to dive through into first place with Tomáš and Akihiro tucking in behind.

It would remain that was until the race reached the 7 lap mark when the Camaro was forced to make a pitstop after picking up a left hand rear puncture and that meant Chonsawat and Akihiro were left up front on their own.

It would stay that way until the chequered flag with McLaren etching its name into the record books in Thailand with its first ever victory, all on its Bangsaen Grand Prix debut weekend. Chonsawat also posted the fastest lap of the race in 1:41.392.

Although Tomáš didn’t get to stand on the top step of the podium this time the ‘superstar’ was delighted to be racing on these streets once again and playing his key role in supporting Vattana Motorsport’s expansive efforts.

 “It was good to back in Bangsaen and see the track a bit different to what it was before,” the former Formula 1 driver and Le Mans 24 Hour winner said afterwards.

 “It was fantastic to see all the people coming to watch the races, all the Thai motorsport fans coming and I’m proud to race for this team. We have had great success in Bangsaen once again and everyone is thrilled and looking forward to the 2017 season.”

- Edd Ellison  -  also photo


13.03.2017 / MaP

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