Bangsaen GP: Super Car GTM TSS Race 2

Bangsaen GP: Super Car GTM TSS Race 2

09.07.2017: Thailand Super Series’ (TSS) in Bangsaen Bangsaen GP: Super Car GTM Race 2 (Race 4 of the year).

Thailand Super Series’ (TSS) in  Bangsaen
Bangsaen GP: Super Car GTM Race 2 (Race 4 of the year).

The front of the grid saw Friday’s opening race winner, Kantadhee, perfectly positioned to continue his winning run as the white and pink #18 Porsche 991 GT3 Cup was occupying pole again with Pitsanu next to him making it an all ‘shiny wrapped’ Porsche front row, the front row unchanged for a second consecutive day. Kantasak and Aekarat locked out Row 2 with Tanart and Craig next up. Nattapong in the first of the factory Toyotas, Paul, the Am class polesitter and Friday’s winner, Thanavud and Chinnapol, wrapped up the top ten starters.

Starting from the back of the grid once again would be the other official Toyota, the #39 of Nattavude. Due to engine overheating issues and then a broken driveshaft the former multiple champion failed to set any representative qualifying laps and would once again hope to scythe his way quickly through the pack when the lights went green.

At the green lights Kantadhee safely converted his pole into the race lead but Kantasak got a decent break and pulled off a vital move within the first few hundred metres to dive up the inside and grab second place off Pitsanu as the #90 Porsche got bottled up behind a GTM Plus car taking a wider line right in front that was then slow through Turn 2.

It’s almost been pre-ordained by the gods of Thai motorsport that one day the two young and super-talented Kusiri brothers would be fighting each other, hand to hand, for P1 in Super Car – finally that day had dawned and the spectators in the grandstands were being treated to the first ever Kusiri vs Kusiri lead battle. It’s unlikely to be the last time either. One certainly expects that this inter-family tussle will become a regular feature in Super Car over the coming decade.

Aekarat kept his P4 as the cars headed into the mountain section while Tanart picked off Craig to move up to fifth with the Holden on his tail. Then it was Nattapong and Paul, the latter keeping a tight grid on the Am class lead.

Nattavude enjoyed a great first lap for a second consecutive day as he clawed his way up from the back, he was up to ninth overall by the time the cars assumed a single file order through the sweeping narrow curves that make up the section from Turn 8 to the roundabout. Into the second lap he passed the #60 Porsche to move up to eighth place and lock onto the back of his teammate. That would unfortunately be as far as he would get as a faulty valve started to deflated the right hand front tyre and Nattavude would pit to have it changed, emerging a lap down.

In the GTM Am class Paul already had a small cushion at the front, the defending champion looking to build on his win the day before and rack up another maximum points score. Thanavud, the current class championship points leader, however was sitting handily placed in P2 with Chinnapol third, Naputt fourth and Chairat, fifth. Chinnapol and Chairat, both in Ferraris, racing here in Super Car for the first time.

Over the opening laps Kantadhee, Kantasak and Pitsanu chased each other at the front with the race leader appearing to have the quickest pace but he was bottled up behind a GTM Plus Audi and couldn’t take any advantage of the race coming to him.

Further back the Am class leader, Paul, who was being compromised by Nattapong in front and under growing pressure behind him from Thanavud, outbraked himself as the trio raced through Turn 1 for the fourth time. The Porsche whacked the back of the Toyota and both drivers’ races were over.

More crucially, Paul’s resulting zero points score, thanks to that DNF, would also put a huge dent in his chances of clawing his way back into the title fight, especially as the GTM Am championship points leader coming into Bangsaen, Thanavud, needed no second invitations to assume the class lead. However, Paul’s team would be able to fix the front end damage overnight and get him back into the third race so he had another chance to respond.

The fourth lap would in fact be an unlucky one for Painkiller Racing as not only did they lose Paul but his teammate Naputt Assakul in the #6 Porsche went ‘Missing in Action’. He suffered transmission problems and without a spare unit (as he was already using the spare gearbox) he limp out of the race and in fact was out for the rest of the weekend leaving the team with a long night ahead to put all their focus on Paul’s car to get it ready for the final day.

Nattapong, meanwhile, with a badly damaged rear end that was sagging down and a loose diffuser that was dragging on the ground, was able to continue at a much slower pace for another three laps before he was forced to call it a day. The Toyota team would also have a late nighter ahead as the back end of the #38 was stripped down and a new rear panel was fitted.

Paul and Nattapong’s incident bought out the Safety Car for the first time to recover the #60 Porsche which stopped on inside of the blind exit to Turn 4. As the cars formed up it was Kantadhee from Kantasak, Pitsanu, Aekarat, Tanart, the lapped Nattavude now running in amongst the midfield, Craig, Thanavud, who had assumed the GTM Am class lead, Chairat, Nattapong, who was struggling around in his damaged Toyota, and Chinnapol.

The race resumed and battle recommenced, however both Kusiris passed a GTM Plus car to put a handy buffer between themselves and Pitsanu in third but in that melee Kantadhee nearly touched the Audi, had to correct his Porsche and Kantasak, the older and more experienced of the two young brothers, need no second invitation and he powered round the outside through Turn 2. Another historic moment as one Kusiri passed the other for track position advantage in a full blown battle for a race lead.

Further back Thanavud was coming under sustained pressure from Chairat who was in just his second race event after returning from a hiatus of a few seasons and looking faster and faster with every lap. However, his race would abruptly end as he overcooked the exit of the roundabout and whacked the barriers with his left hand corner, breaking the suspension and that meant he exited the race on the spot.

The Safety Car was deployed for a second time as the black and red #91 Ferrari was recovered from where it had ground to a halt between Turn 12 and Turn 13. When the Safety Car went in there were 7 laps – just over one third distance – remaining – and Kantasak kept a tight grip on the lead with Kantadhee tucking in behind.

However once again they were bottled up behind a GTM Plus car which would compromise their pace and keep them looking in the mirrors. Pitsanu in third had another GTM Plus car between himself and the top two to there was some advantage for the Kusiris. Then it was Aekarat, Tanart and Craig, the Australian pushing hard to find a way past the Porsche on the restart lap although he would soon fall away, with Thanavud and Chinnapol, one and two in GTM Am, and the lapped Nattavude wrapping up the order.

Into the final half dozen laps and Kantadhee was pushing Kantasak hard, he really wanted to add to his debut Super Car win just 24 hours previously, it was young brother vs young brother, superb stuff to watch.

The GTM leaders soon joined a bottleneck behind the GTM Plus Camaro which had collected a train of cars behind it including other GTM Plus runners and that meant everything was getting even more closed up in the battle for the podium spots. With three laps to go the Camaro would peel off into the pits to serve a penalty and suddenly the front two finally had clear air ahead and a no holds barred sprint to the finish over the final 10 km of racing distance was on the cards.

As the Camaro peeled off and the Kusiris were released, Pitsanu in third, but with a GTM Plus Audi between himself and the front two tried a wide move round the outside as the gaggle of cars sped round the S2 Bangsaen Hotel hairpin, the bottleneck as the road funnelled narrow on the exit of Turn 19 saw contact and the Audi spinning and it punted into the barriers on the inside of the long and narrow sweeping right-hander hard and it suffered major right front end damage.

Pitsanu quickly swinging across to the inside line from behind the slowing Audi touched the lapped Nattavude who was just behind and carefully picking his way through the unfolding accident by hugging the barriers but both continued while Tanart emerged a brief winner from the situation as he was able to take advantage to pass Aekarat who was caught up behind Pitsanu and the rapidly slowing Audi, the A Motorsport Porsche tapping the gold Porsche, but Tanart was also caught by the fishtailing rear of the Toyota as Nattavude recovered from his door to door clash with Pitsanu and clearly the #15 Porsche’s suspension had sustained damage as Tanart wobbled on the main straight with tyre smoke puffing out.

As the cars broke out into the wide open space provided by the main straight it was a case now of who could get to the finish. Tanart clearly couldn’t, his race was over and with his suspension damaged he climbed gingerly through the mountain section before pulling off into the escape road at Turn 5.

Aekarat and Pitsanu, who had a slowly deflating tyre, hobbled on but it was Craig, who had had only just caught up the train of cars before the incident who was the big beneficiary as he picked off Aekarat and both the Holden and the #11 Porsche passed the slowing Pitsanu on the final lap. However, all three were beneficiaries of an extra place with Tanart out of the fray.

Into the final lap and Kantadhee, who continued to push to the limits, tried a last gasp attempt to beat his brother to the win, hustling him though the mountain section and as the pair raced down the beachfront for the final time. In truth though Kantasak is a little older, a little more experienced – and at this stage of their racing careers probably a little bit wiser – he wasn’t going to put a foot wrong, he didn’t make any mistakes all race and as the chequered flag was unfurled he gave Singha Motorsport Team Thailand its second win of the year in Super Car GTM, and in the process building on his first win in Race 2 in Buriram during the season opener. For the Bangsaen weekend it was now 1-1 between the Kusiris and it set everything up perfectly for Race 3 which would be a winner takes all affair.

Craig was the biggest winner of the big incident at the end of the penultimate lap and he kept his head, steered clear of the carnage and then picked off the damaged cars over the final lap to finish in third place. The big green ‘V8 Supercar’ Holden Commodore was really back in business. Aekarat came home in fourth place while Pitsanu was somewhat lucky that his deflating tyre held up to give him fifth place and the final step on the podium, although he would clearly have hoped for much more from the race.

Thanavud was next home, but more crucially he was the GTM Am class winner; the Ferrari driver was the joint championship points leader coming into the weekend but was bouncing back with a maximum score after he failed to score any points on Friday having retired from the opening race. Chinnapol kept out of trouble and claimed the runners up spot for the second day in a row as he continued to enjoy a strong Super Car debut weekend in Bangsaen.

The final classified finisher was Nattavude, one lap down. The Toyota driver had started from the back of the grid, was forced to pit early to change a tyre and emerged a lap down, but kept battling away to claim sixth place in Pro-Am and collect 6 useful points for his troubles as he clung onto his very rapidly diminishing title hopes.


09.07.2017 / MaP

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