Buriram: Super Car GTM Plus review

Buriram: Super Car GTM Plus review

23.08.2017: A very good run in Bangsaen for Voravud Bhirombhakdi had seen the Singha Motorsport Team Thailand driver overhaul the points Narasak Ittritpong

A very good run in Bangsaen for Voravud Bhirombhakdi had seen the Singha Motorsport Team Thailand driver overhaul the points Narasak Ittritpong, who suffered two DNFs from the three races held on the tricky street circuit, at the top of the Super Car GTM Plus Drivers’ championship standings.

However, the Vattana driver was returning to a happier hunting ground here as he clinched victory in both races held in Buriram during April's season opener. The gap between the two going into last weekend was 14 points while a further seven points back was the defending champion Sarun Sereethoranakul who really needed to pull himself up into the title fight before he gave away any more ground.

During Paid Practice last Thursday and Free Practice on Friday morning Voravud clearly had an advantage as he sat at the top of the timesheets and his efforts were rewarded when the official qualifying session was washed out and the grid was instead determined by the morning's Free Practice sessions. The Ferrari driver's best lap of 1:36.307 in the morning session put him nine tenths ahead of Sarun with Daniel Bilski, in the fastest of the two B-Quik Audis, third and Narasak fourth.

Come Race 1 and Voravud continued his mood of determination, he converted pole into the race lead and then withstood the pressure to relentlessly hold it for 15 laps, firstly creating a cushion of a couple of seconds as the drivers behind turned their guns on each other and then after a mid-race Safety Car period closed everything back up and wiped out his track position advantage, the Ferrari driver tenaciously fending off the Lamborghinis of Narasak and Sarun snapping at his heels over the closing laps.

At the end of the 15 lap race the top three were covered by just 1.7 seconds which really showed just how tight the fight had been but Voravud had never looked like he would relinquish the race lead, the 2014 Super Car GTM champion managing the double menace immediately behind him superbly, making no mistakes and sticking to the racing line. Clearly he really wants another Super Car title.

Narasak, in Vattana Motorsport's Gallardo GT3 FL2, perhaps mindful of his unfortunate DNFs in Bangsaen, never got quite close enough to put a meaningful move together although he was just three tenths adrift at the line. He posted the fastest lap of the race though in 1:36.879.

On his tail came the Huracán Super Trofeo of Sarun in a result that left the order of the top three in the championship unchanged overnight. For Sarun though it was really a case of what if as a strong start saw the reigning Super Car GTM champion heading down the hill to the hairpin for the first time in second place but he was clipped on his rear diffuser by the Camaro through Turn 3 and spun round into the path of the big American sportscar, taking a second, much bigger, thump to the door.

However, he was able to continue, Sarun reporting no ill effects to the car, although not before slipping to P6. Then he had to close up the lost ground and squeeze past Daniel’s Audi, which he did very smoothly into Turn 3 on the next lap. After the Safety Car period he hustled Narasak in front hard but after running wide through Turn 12 on the penultimate lap that was the end of the PSC Motorsport driver’s designs on second place.

Fourth place went to the faster of the B-Quik Audis, the team dropping down to run two cars this weekend after having run three during the first half of the season. Without the outright pace to quite match either the Ferraris and Lamborghinis Daniel was left digging deep to just hang onto the back of the top running trio and 6.5 seconds adrift of the winner was a good performance by the Australian and he was rewarded for an afternoon of hard work with a trip to the podium.

It wasn’t an easy race for Daniel either, not only did he have to spend time fighting off the superior power of Saravut Sereethoranakul’s black-and-bronze Huracán behind him while at the same time he was bottled up behind the struggling Camaro in front.

Swarming all over the by now battered American car mid race he pushed his way up the inside through the last corner and the two made contact, both running wide which let the lurking Saravut through for a second time, although Daniel would almost get the place back when the Lamborghini in turn ran very wide through Turn 12 with three laps to go but would then finally get the job done just before the end of the race.

Half a second behind the B-Quik Audi at the chequered flag, Saravut enjoyed his best drive to date in what is just his second year in Super Car. His rookie season in 2016 was spent in Super Car GTM Am so it's been another very big step up for his second campaign but finally he was starting to unlock pace from the Italian racecar.

Saravut drove a strong race, passing Daniel’s bottled up Audi to move into fourth place and then hustling the ailing Camaro in third, but in turn leaving himself exposed to the B-Quik driver who regained the place although he would take it back again as the two cars ahead made contact and ran wide out of the final turn mid race. It was good, scrapping for track position, stuff from Saravut.

The final finisher in Super Car GTM Plus was Henk J. Kiks in the other B-Quik Audi, the Dutchman, who had been getting to grips with a new setup direction all week was left rueing the loss of track time that came with the cancellation of the qualifying session.

Finally, Chonsawat Asavahame dropped out after 8 laps, but that simply wasn’t the whole story as the Vattana motorsport team owner had an eventful race. Starting from the back of the GTM Plus grid Chonsawat unleashed the car’s huge straight-line power down the first two straights to move up to P3 and was taking a good look down the inside of Sarun for P2 through Turn 3 when they made contact and with the Lamborghini tipped into a spin and broadsiding the Camaro that left Chonsawat with plenty of very visible front end damage, further amplified as the bonnet quickly detached itself.

However, Chonsawat managed to retain third place, although his pace dropped and he struggled to keep Daniel’s Audi and Saravut’s Lamborghini behind him. At the end of the seventh lap Daniel elbowed his way up the side of the Camaro into Turn 12 and they made contact, the resulting damage seeing Chonsawat grind to a halt out of Turn 1 on the next lap which brought out the Safety Car.

And the weather? After rain had washed out Friday’s afternoon qualifying session the probability of further bad weather and storms was forecast at 90% for Saturday afternoon. But weather forecasts are notoriously unreliable and after the race was held under an ever darkening sky the first drops of rain appeared on the slowing down lap but couldn’t dampen the podium celebrations. It was perfect timing.

Then it was on to Sunday’s Race 2, the second and final race of the weekend, and this time Narasak wasn't to be denied a victory and after Voravud had started from pole again and led the early laps of the race with Sarun and the Vattana driver sitting in line astern once a Safety Car period to clear Henk’s #26 Audi had been completed Narasak immediately pounced on Sarun through Turn 3 on the restart lap and one more tour later he was past the Ferrari into Turn 4 and into the lead.

Voravud would never let the Lamborghini in front pull away from him by more than a few car lengths but it wasn’t enough and Narasak took the win by 1.2 seconds and also bagged the fastest lap for the second consecutive day.

The top two in the Drivers’ championship thus cancelled each other out over the course of the weekend and the gap between them in the classification remains the same – 14 points – with just next month's season closer to come. But that’s a triple header and a maximum of 60 points on offer so the race for the title is still wide open.

This time Sarun, despite running in P2 again from the start, wasn't able to keep up with the pace of the top two as the race wore on and his deficit to the winner was just over 7 seconds when the chequered flag waved after 15 laps. Sarun in fact had his mirrors full of Daniel’s black and yellow #27 Audi as the Australian really hauled the German racecar round but it wasn't enough to make a pass and the gap between the pair was four tenths of a second.

 Sarun reported that his tyre pressures were set slightly too low and he had struggled to get his tyres back up to temperature following the Safety Car period. However, 15 laps earlier the race had started a lot brighter for Sarun as he locked down P2 going into Turn 1 for the first time and then harried the race leading Ferrari throughout the opening lap.

For the second day on the trot Saravut claimed the final step of the podium although this time he came home in a somewhat distant fifth place, but again he contributed more vital Teams’ championship points to PSC Motorsport’s weekend haul.

Chonsawat, meanwhile, had another race to forget. With a problem right at the start that dropped him to the back of the pack he pitted at the end of the first lap and got out of the car, but with the team fixing the issue he re-joined. On the seventh lap however he retired the Camaro from the race, emerging from a bruising weekend without any points.

Henk had an unfortunate end to what had been a tough weekend. A rear end water hose burst on the #26 Audi R8 LMS Cup and dropped water straight onto a tyre just as it braked into Turn 3 on lap 3 and it spun round, slid at speed across the grass on the inside of the entrance to the hairpin, back across the track and then broadside into a passing GTM car.

The Audi was severely damaged and out on the spot but fortunately both Henk and Kantasak Kusiri, the GTM driver in the other car involved, were able to walk away from the incident unscathed.

 - Edd Ellison,  also photos


23.08.2017 / MaP

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