Bangsaen GP Super Car GTM TSS Race 1

Bangsaen GP Super Car GTM TSS Race 1

09.07.2017: Thailand Super Series’ (TSS) in Bangsaen Bangsaen GP: Super Car GTM Race 1 (Race 3 of the year).

Thailand Super Series’ (TSS) in  Bangsaen
Bangsaen GP: Super Car GTM Race 1 (Race 3 of the year).

Kantadhee Kusiri had banged the #18 AAS Motorsport Porsche 997 GT3 Cup onto pole position for the first race of the weekend after a dazzling performance during last Thursday’s official qualifying session. It was his maiden pole position in Super Car and as he lined up for the first of the three Super Car GTM races he was eyeing up making a little bit of history. He was standing on the threshold of a very special weekend with no less than three opportunities coming to nail his first win – but to achieve that goal he would have to deal with a large and hungry GTM pack.

Porsches were really in the ascendancy during qualifying in Bangsaen and alongside the polesitter was the similar ‘991’ of Pitsanu Sirimongkolkasem. He’s had a trying time since joining GTM a couple of seasons ago, being ‘nearly there’ and suffering a few bumps along the way. But he looked fast and edgy at the season opener in Buriram and he had carried that uptick in pace over to these streets.

Kantadhee’s older brother, Kantasak, is a driver you can never count out. The 2015 Super Car GTM champion is now a fast and well-honed driver and always goes well here; the Singha Motorsport Team Thailand Ferrari pilot led out the second row and was snapping at the heels of the two Porsches in front. Then came two more Porsche 991s, one driven by veteran Aekarat Discharoen and the other by youngster Tanart Sathienthirakul, who was also racing in Porsche Carrera Cup Asia over the weekend in a very similar car.

At the green lights Kantadhee withstood pressure from Pitsanu up the hill through Turn 1 and kept it all together to lead the GTM runners into the mountain section for the first time with Kantasak tucking in behind. Behind them Craig Corliss in the Holden Commodore V8 had a great start to power his way into fourth past Aekarat and Tanart.

Over the first lap the main battles were Pitsanu pressuring Kantadhee for the race lead while Aekarat was pushing Craig for fourth. Further back Nattavude Charoensukhawatana in the factory run #39 Toyota, having started from the back of the grid, was quickly making places up while Paul Kanjanapas (#60 Porsche) had converted GTM Amateur (Am) class pole into the lead.

Into lap 2 and Pitsanu got a decent run through Turn 1. He ducked down the inside of Kantadhee in a tussle for the race lead and the #90 Porsche swept ahead but P1 glory was to be very short lived as Pitsanu was carrying too much speed into Turn 2, he ran wide and his rival nipped in to reclaim the race lead. Their squabbles though let Kantadhee close right up and Pitsanu now had to keep his eye on the mirrors as he was locked bang in the middle of a ‘Kusiri sandwich’.

Through the tricky mountain section for the second time the top order was made up of Kantadhee, Pitsanu, Kantasak, Craig who had by now dropped about five car lengths away the top trio, Aekarat, the fast charging Nattavude who had sliced his way up from the back of the pack, and Tanart.

As the leaders raced through the roundabout section and towards Laem Taen Cape they were starting to get bottled up by one of the slower GTM Plus cars and that tightened everyone right up. However, Kantadhee dived down the inside of this car at Turn 18 with Pitsanu squeezing through behind him and although Kantasak also tried a run past the Audi on the main straight he couldn’t make it stick and he remained stuck behind the yellow and black car as the leaders powered back up the mountain for the third time which gave Kantadhee and Pitsanu a chance to break away at the front. Just behind them Aekarat found a way past Craig as fourth and fifth places were reversed.

Through the second half of lap 2 and Kantasak just couldn’t get on terms with the GTM Plus Audi and as he toiled Aekarat quickly closed down the gap and was on the tail of the #34 Ferrari by the time they swept through the fast esses on the approach to Laem Taen Cape, Turn 15.

As the race approached one quarter distance the pecking order remained the same with Kantadhee and Pitsanu out front while Kantasak remained unable to find a way past the GTM Plus car in front and in fact he had drifted a few cars lengths back; he didn’t appear to have the pace to get close enough to attempt a pass. Aekarat was still on the tail of the #34 Ferrari but was now hanging on rather than trying to make a pass stick as the race seemed to be moving away from him.

In the Am class Paul Kanjanapas was really romping away at the front. The defending champion was driving one of the best races of his career as he controlled the class pace, his experience and a calm head paying dividends. Such was his pace too he was keeping up with the #38 factory Toyota of Nattapong Horthongkum, running in eighth place overall, just a couple of car lengths ahead, and the pair were both being hindered by one of the slower GTM Plus cars ahead although there were unable to get in close enough contact to trouble it.

Into the fifth lap and Kantadhee had finally put a couple of lengths between himself and the gold #90 Porsche behind, but he then bridged the gap to two more GTM Plus cars; he had another Audi in front which in turn was bottled up behind the Camaro.

The GTM leader swarmed all over the back of the Audi ahead as the race ticked to one third distance but Kantadhee couldn’t find space while Pitsanu wasn’t able to take advantage and he continued to remain a couple of lengths behind Kantadhee. However, at this point Kantasak finally got clear of the GTM Plus car he had been stuck behind and with track position having at last swung in his favour he was quickly reeling in the top three – a task he completed by the time the leaders were halfway through the seventh lap.

On the seventh lap Craig, who was running in sixth place 42 seconds off the race leader, was involved in an incident and slowed up with front bodywork damage. That moved Tanart up to sixth, Nattapong to seventh and Paul, the Am class leader, up to eighth.

As the race hit the halfway mark Kantadhee was still trying every trick he knew to find a way past the GTM Plus class Audi in front, Pitsanu was still on his tail but unable to get in the zone where a pass was viable and Kantasak was still snapping at his heels. Aekarat had now almost bridged the gap as the top trio’s pace was slowed by the GTM Plus car.

Bang on the half distance mark one of the GTM Plus Lamborghinis had a high speed spin at Turn 17 and blocked the track just as the leading quartet thundered down the beachfront section. The Lamborghini got going again but there was a real bottleneck as a scrum of GTM Plus and GTM cars burst out onto the main straight. In the melee Kantadhee was finally able to jump the two GTM Plus cars in front, the #26 Audi and #28 Camaro, to finally move into clear air and crucially put a car between himself and his two key rivals, Pitsanu and Kantasak, as they were both able to jump the Camaro but unable to get past the Audi.

With eight laps to go a GTM Plus Lamborghini pulled up in the mountain section with an oil fire and that brought out the first Safety Car of the race. As the GTM runners formed up it was Kantadhee ahead with the GTM Plus Audi still holding onto track position between himself and Pitsanu. Then it was Kantasak, Aekarat, Nattavude, who had passed Tanart’s Porsche to haul himself up to final podium step after starting from the back, Nattapong and Paul, the Am class leader, and Craig, whose splitter was hanging down and scraping the track surface.

It took a few laps to remove the Lamborghini and clean up the track and at the restart Kantadhee was cleanly away, the youngster lapping a backmarker GTM Ferrari as he ran uphill to Turn 2 while Pitsanu was still unable to get past the GTM Plus Ferrari in front and was now really losing sight of the race leader. Places remained the same apart from Paul nipping past Craig and into eighth place overall.

As the cars powered their way round the restart lap, with three to go, Aekarat ran very wide out of the roundabout (Turn 12) slapping the wall on the inside and although he lost places to the GTM Plus car and the lapped GTM car that had been buffering him to Nattavude behind he was a little lucky to collect the #11 Porsche and tuck in to the racing line just ahead of the #39 Toyota and the car. A little surprisingly Aekarat was able to continue at a reasonable racing speed although he appeared to have problems.

Down the beachfront section Nattavude squeezed past Aekarat’ damaged car and up to fourth place and as these cars went into the penultimate lap of the race there was a three car battle for fourth as Nattavude, Aekarat and Tanart locked horns.

But with two laps to go there was a big melee at Turn 2 as Craig spun round on the exit and Chairat Sangtong in a GTM Am Ferrari as well as two GTM Plus cars were all unsighted and caught up. That incident brought out the safety Car and the race with less than two laps remaining trundled round to finish under red flags.

The race finished at a trundle but the winner, Kantadhee, was higher significant as the younger Kusiri had finally followed his brother into the Super Car winners’ circle – and at just his third attempt having made his GTM debut at the ‘double header’ season opener in Buriram back in April.

This day had seeming always been ordained, but finally it had played out and it was somewhat appropriate that it took place at Bangsaen. In fact, it was to be a 1-3 finish for the two brothers as Kantasak came home in third place while Pitsanu, recording his best Super Car result to date, split them after a very strong drive.

The first Toyota, the #39 of Nattavude, who had started the race from the back of the grid, and the damaged #11 Porsche of Aekarat nailed down the final two steps of the podium. Tanart and Nattapong wrapped up the Pro-Am runners and then it was Paul who bagged GTM Am victory. The black and pink #60 Porsche hadn’t been threatened for the lead all afternoon but Paul more importantly than the win really needed the maximum points score that comes with P1 as he looked to bounce back from a dismal time in Buriram and get his title defence back on track.

Then came the Craig’s Holden, front splitter still dragging on the track, and finally the classified finishers were wrapped up by two more GTM Am Ferraris, the #94 of Chinnapol Jongprasert and the #91 Chairat, both a lap down but both having driven neat and tidy races to steer well clear of trouble on these tough streets to safely reach the chequered flag and the podium on their Super Car debuts in Bangsaen.

- Edd Ellison - also photo


09.07.2017 / MaP

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