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HEAT AND ACTION AT THE BANGSAEN GRAND PRIX

WORDS AND PICTURES BY EDD ELLISON

It took a bit longer to arrive this time, in fact it was rescheduled from its original date last November, but the 10th Anniversary edition of the Bangsaen Grand Prix lived up to all the promise and the Pattaya race fans that made the short trek up the highway to Chonburi to see the action unfolding were treated to a superb motorsport spectacle.Super Car GTM headlined Thailand Super Series’ beachside racing extravaganza and the big beasts didn’t disappoint one bit as all three races (there was a ‘triple header’ squeezed in) provided non-stop bumper-to-bumper racing, plenty of passing and lots of dramas, thrills and spills right from when the lights turned green to when the chequered flags waved.

At the front it was all about one man – Darryl O’Young. The highly experienced Hong Kong driver came into this year’s event with five poles and five wins from the last five races here (two in 2014 and three in 2015) to his name with the aim to racking that tally up to eight poles and eight wins and extend his record run. No easy task as for the third year in a row he was driving a Porsche 997 GT3 Cup, a now veteran racecar that no longer squeezes its way onto the Super Car GTM overall podiums; in fact, no PRO-AM class drivers choose the ‘997’ anymore in their quests for glory.

During qualifying Darryl cleaned up to start the weekend with the record of eight pole positions already locked down. And then from a hot and dry Friday afternoon through to an equally hot and dry Sunday afternoon, Darryl quite simply hogged the top step of the podium in all three races to make it eight wins in a row, a record that has never been seen before in the decade long history of the event. He did have a little luck in the first race however after an incident unsighted race leading Saran Sereethoranakul in the Lamborghini Huracán LP-620 Super Trofeo who had burst into the lead at the start after the polesitter was caught out at the green lights but the Hong Kong driver was able to capitalise on that mid race drama to retake a lead he wouldn’t relinquish. During final two races though he controlled the pace from the front to make it three out of three.

Not only all that, but with the removal of the temporary chicane for this year along with further track widening and remodelling work, the Bangsaen Street Circuit got even quicker and Darryl posted a new record in qualifying – a staggering lap in 1:36.867 – to become the fastest man to ever go around Bangsaen.

Sarun’s second place in the first race – and the maximum championship points it brought with it – put the 2016 Super Car GTM Drivers’ title to bed and the Lamborghini driver emerged on Friday evening as a richly deserved champion having not put a foot wrong all season. Another Thai racing titan has been confirmed and certainly expect his career to continue on an upward trajectory – he will start as the favourite for the 2017 championship.

Meanwhile Paul Kanjanapas claimed the inaugural Super Car GTM Amateur (AM) class title after three polished races where he careful managed his points advantage coming into the weekend, applied the pressure and tussled with his teammate Naputt Assakul through the trio of races, the latter being rewarded by bagging the runners up spot. Thamrong Mahadumrongkul won all three AM races and not just that feat, he mixed it in with the PRO-AM runners, a superb performance from the Ferrari driver who had a great weekend.

The occasion of the 10th Anniversary was the perfect time to put the big racing beasts back onto the schedule and Lamborghini vs Camaro vs McLaren was a great tonic for the fans. In a weekend of headline acts, the GT3 cars stood out as their engines reverberated around the streets. Then to the final Super Car ‘act’, GTC, which enjoyed a fairytale in Saturday’s first race as the Porsche’s Cayman, making its racing debut in Thailand with a driver, Charvanin Bunditkitsada, who was also appearing in Super Car for the first time, promptly went and won. Sunday’s second race saw ‘normal service’ resumed as the KTM X-Bow GT4, which has dominated the category all season long, wrapped things up with one more victory thanks to the efforts of Jack Lemvard.

But that wasn’t all sandwiched in between the GT3 and GTC action playing out on the street circuit there was some real unmissable thunder as the ‘TA2’ Ford Mustang ripped up the track on its debut in Thailand. The big American racecar was being demonstrated by TransAm driver Shane Lewis and apart from its striking shape its equally striking bright metallic blue finish meant no one could miss it pounding the circuit.

That concluded the top of the bill action at the ‘Bangsaen Grand Prix 2016’ – the event delayed from last November. For the ‘2017 edition’ the organisers’ are uprooting it from its traditional end of the year date and moving the extravaganza to July. That means there are now less than three months remaining until the ‘Grand Prix’ spectacle returns to Bangsaen and once again Pattaya race fans will be able to make the 50km trip north to watch another instalment of the biggest and most exciting motorsport event in Thailand.