Bangsaen GP: Super Car GTM TSS Race 3

Bangsaen GP: Super Car GTM TSS Race 3

09.07.2017: Thailand Super Series’ (TSS) in Bangsaen Bangsaen GP: Super Car GTM Race 3 (Race 5 of the year).

Thailand Super Series’ (TSS) in  Bangsaen
Bangsaen GP: Super Car GTM Race 3 (Race 5 of the year).

One family was really making a lot of history over the weekend as for the first time ever we had an all-Kusiri front row and it was Kantadhee taking his third pole in three races, a clean sweep, as Pitsanu had been penalised and bumped off Row 1 for an incident during the previous race so Kantasak was elevated to the front for the first time in the weekend.

The brothers stood on a win apiece, Kantadhee had claimed honours in Race 1, his maiden Super Car win at his first attempt, while Kantasak had tenaciously bounced back to nip through to beat his brother and win Race 2. The question was – which one would go on to make it two wins from the final race? Although one of course always has to take into account that the grand old lady of Bangsaen has the final word, it did appear that the hand of history was looming large over the Kusiri boys.

Aekarat, who was really rejuvenated this weekend, led out the second row, the A Motorsport veteran putting much of his uptick in pace down to improvements to the Porsche’s suspension since Buriram, while, for the first time during the weekend the gold #90 Porsche had been relegated off the front row with Pitsanu starting from fourth place thanks to his three position grid place penalty. He had in fact been all set to start from his first ever Super Car pole position before he was moved back and with passing almost impossible here that was agonising for Pitsanu as he chases his first ever Super Car win.

Row 3 comprised of Tanart and Craig, the pair seemed to have locked horns all weekend long, while right behind them came the first of the factory Toyotas, the #38 of Nattapong and the GTM Am class polesitter, the #23 Ferrari of Thanavud. Behind him were two more GTM Am Ferraris, the #91 of Chairat, which had its left had rear corner repaired overnight, and the #93 Chinnapol, who was on two runners up positions from the first two races.

The final row saw Paul take his place as the sole surviving Painkiller Racing entry as the team had withdrawn Naputt’s #6 Porsche after the previous day’s race. Paul had been docked three grid places by the stewards for his incident with Nattapong early in Race 2, Finally, and for the third day in a row, the last spot on the grid was the preserve of the second factory Toyota, the #39 of Nattavude, who was right at the back once again as he had been unable to set any representative laptimes during qualifying.

After an incident during an earlier race had required safety guardrails to be replaced, an action that took almost an hour, the already tight programme was now running very late and with Porsche Carrera Cup Asia scheduled to wrap up the day immediately after Super Car GTM Plus/GTM, and with fading light set to become a potential issue for the Carrera Cup runners, the Super Car finale was reduced from 19 to 14 laps.

At the green lights the story was simple. Kantadhee got bogged down, Kantasak was fast off the mark and the #34 Ferrari powered away into the lead while behind him Pitsanu was also able to take full advantage of the polesitter’s tardy getaway to nip through into second place as Aekarat, who started immediately behind the polesitting Porsche, was bottled up behind Kantadhee. As they raced up the mountain and down again for the first time and trooped single file though Turn 6 the top order was Kantasak, Pitsanu, Kantadhee, Aekarat, Craig, Tanart and Nattapong.

They remained that way over the rest opening lap with the main focus of attention being on Aekarat who was now hustling Kantadhee in P3. Once again the top runners had GTM Plus cars right in front that were compromising their pace – cars which were virtually impossible for the GTM runners to pass here. Behind Aekarat the gaps were growing though as Tanart dropped back as did Craig behind him.

On lap two Pitsanu left too much space on the inside through Turn 14 and Kantadhee needed no second invitation, he powered down the inside and had cleared the gold #90 Porsche before they all stood hard on the brakes for the Laem Taen Cape left hander. A passing spot that’s usually reserved for the brave, Kantadhee this time had space and got the job done smoothly and cleanly, he was away. Immediately the #18 Porsche locked onto the leader and it was Kusiri vs Kusiri again, with one win apiece, the victor of this race would get all the bragging rights.

As they completed three racing laps Kantasak’s ‘Prancing Horse’ had a quartet hungry Porsche drivers assuming a train behind him. The man on the move though was Nattavude, he had started from the back of the grid once again and had jumped all the Am class runners as well as his teammate Nattapong; he was now up to P7 with Craig’s big black and green #88 Holden the next car in his sights.

With 10 laps still to go the top order started to break up for probably the first time during what had been an explosive and relentless weekend as Pitsanu started to drift away from the two Kusiris at the front who were still going at it hammer and tongues. The gap quickly grew to more than two seconds while a little further back Nattavude was finally past Craig and into P6, the gap to Tanart in P5 was just three seconds and the Toyota driver was on a real charge as he could sense his second chance of a podium finish from the weekend.

Tanart was something of a sitting duck as he bottled up behind a GTM Plus Audi and unable to get extract his full pace. A little bit further back Thanavud was cementing his grip on the Am class with Chinnapol, Chairat and Paul completing the ‘gentlemen’ runners.

By half distance Nattavude had latched onto the tail of Tanart who was still being hindered by the GTM Plus class car in front and a lap later, with six remaining on the clock, the Toyota driver and a podium finishing position beckoned. The same lap though saw Chinnapol run wide at Laem Taen Cape and bed himself into the TECPRO barriers, he would be out of the race and after two runners up spots on his Super Car rookie appearance in Bangsaen he ended the weekend on a very quiet note.

With five laps remain and as the shortened race approached two thirds distance the lead battle showed no signs of abating, Kantadhee was pulling every trick he knew to get past his brother’s Ferrari in front to no avail. He was pushing the car hard as he had all weekend.

Kantasak though was driving like a pro in a car that didn’t seem to be working as well on this track, but the older sibling has grown in stature now, experience is building and he was driving very smoothly, sticking to the racing line, leaving no gaps and making no errors or missing any gears. It was going to take something very special from the younger brother if he was to break the deadlock.

The battle for the final podium step suddenly changed direction as Nattavude, now looking to reel in the top four ahead took a very late look down the inside of a GTM Plus car occupying track position ahead and as the top class car cut in for the turn it was tipped into a spin and Nattavude bumped into it. As the Audi and Toyota extracted themselves Tanart ran right round the outside of them to retake his fifth place.

Then one of the other GTM Plus cars oversteered head first in the tyre bales at Turn 8 and that brought out the Safety Car, but as they formed up Pitsanu’s strong weekend came to an abrupt end as his left hand rear tyre deflated on the main straight and with the tyre starting to shred quickly and little chance of making it round to the pits he trundled down the escape road at Turn 2 and out of the race.

The pack was rapidly being decimated as Nattavude then came into retire, the result of damage picked up when he hit the spun GTM Plus Audi at Turn 18 a lap earlier. His tough weekend had ended in a first DNF.

Behind the safety Car it was Kantasak, Kantadhee, Aekarat, Tanart and Craig, the New Zealander now moving into the last podium position, Nattapong, Thanavud, Chairat and Paul.

The Safety Car went back in with two laps to go, there would be a short – a 7.4 km to be exact – dash to the chequered flag. Paul swiftly grabbed P2 in the GTM Am class off Chairat but at the front there was an almighty squabble as the front runners were bottled up by a struggling GTM Plus class car and everyone was looking everywhere. Kantasak, Kantadhee, Aekarat and Tanart were locked together and Tanart tried to come round the outside of Aekarat as they swept through Turn 18 for the final time – but to no avail.

As they crossed the line it was Kantasak, taking his second win in 24 hours, from his younger brother and that made the score 2-1 to the elder for the weekend. A truly amazing three days of explosive racing when both brothers had finally come together to slug it out for the wins in Super Car. The moment had been anticipated for many years and when it arrived it didn’t fail to deliver – expect many more.

Aekarat gunned the #11 A Motorsport Porsche over the line for third place. It had been a weekend of rejuvenation for this veteran driver, two fourth places on Friday and Saturday followed up by a third place on Sunday. Three trips to the podium and after struggling recently this driver was right back in the game.

Tanart came home fourth, a little surprisingly that his first podium finish of the weekend having finished sixth in the first race and retiring right at the end of the second race while the fifth and the final podium step was inherited by Nattapong once Craig had been slapped with a 30 second penalty post-race.

 Nattapong in the #38 factory Toyota had a very quiet weekend, seventh in the first race and punted in the back in the second he had always been someway shy of the podium pace but kept it neat and tidy and was around to capitalise in the final race and grab one trophy from the three days of racing action.

Then came the GTM Am class runners, Thanavud taking the class win for the second consecutive day. The championship leader coming into the weekend he DNF’d in the first race but bounced back well on both Saturday and Sunday to collect two maximum scores and cement his advantage at the top of the standings.

Paul and Chairat were next up with Craig the final classified finisher. However, the veteran New Zealander was pretty happy with how the weekend had panned out. He’s been racing here since 2010 and in fact set his best ever time on the street circuit this time around; he pointed out that seven years after starting racing here he’s still improving and Craig, having unlocked new car/driver pace over the weekend that’s been somewhat lacking over the last season is rejuvenated, refreshed and looking forward to getting to Buriram for the next round.

- Edd Ellison - also photo


09.07.2017 / MaP

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