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Talking Wheels April 2014


The dawn of ‘Eco Racing’

eco carsThe fastest growing category of racing cars this season will in fact be one that didn't even exist this time last year. And the road cars themselves from which the racecars are drawn didn't even exist until a few years ago. But the new generation of Thai 'Eco Cars', which have already struck a big chord with consumers, are now a hit with race drivers.

Thailand Super Series has wanted to keep one step ahead right through its big programme – and that desire can’t be any better summed up than by the introduction of ‘Super Eco', which is positioned right at the opposite end of the racing ‘food chain’ to the glamorous FIA GT3 machines which headline its bumper events.

The new generation of Thai built ‘Super Eco’ cars are not only driving the automotive industry exports forward, significantly, they have been a huge hit with domestic consumers and all these small cars are becoming fashionable accessories as well as highly economical ownership propositions.

There has also been a real keenness on the part of owners to get them onto the racetrack. The concept of the ‘Eco Car’ is very simple, low cost and ultra-efficient, they aim to provide a first ownership experience for consumers as well as being fun to drive. The concept of ‘Super Eco' is also very simple, low cost and ultra-efficient, the racing versions of the ‘Eco Cars’ aim to provide access to racing for potential drivers as well as plenty of fun.

Thailand Super Series was quick to understand that Super Eco would be a hit with motorsport fans and drivers alike and in time for last season found space for a new ‘Super Eco’ category. Albeit that space was at nine o'clock in the morning when only the hardiest of fans would be in the grandstands.

"We really wanted to provide a good opportunity for upcoming racers that wouldn't cost too much and where they would learn,” says Thailand Super Series Race Director Preeda Tantemsapya. “The cars are very competitive with each other, it’s not all about horsepower, it’s about how you drive it and suspension is the main area to get advantages.”

This year other series are joining the bandwagon, Only One and Super One Race have added classes for Eco cars, but it was Thailand Super Series that broke the ground and offered new drivers the chance to race Eco cars as part of the biggest and most professional race series in Thailand.

They took a punt and the jury was quickly out as at the first round, held last August at Pattaya’s Bira Circuit, as there were just three cars on the grid. It looked sparse.

However the jury was quickly back in as by the time the three round/six race inaugural ‘Super Eco’ series wrapped up in Bangsaen last December the grid had swollen to 16 cars and all the Thai ‘Eco’ car brands were represented bar Toyota, which had only launched its category contender, the new Yaris, onto the market just a couple of weeks beforehand and only offers an automatic version.

However with the Suzuki Swift, Honda Brio, Nissan March and Mitsubishi Mirage all in action on the street circuit, ‘Eco Racing’ had already come of age, all in just four months. And it wasn’t just the hatchbacks, the first ‘Eco sedan’, in the shape of Honda’s Brio Amaze, was also on the grid.

Keeping costs down has been the aim of all the organisers that have embraced the Eco racing concept. TSS methodically worked through the specifications of the ‘Eco’ machines to ensure drivers can build and run a pukka racecar for the lowest price possible. An example? “We have allowed flexibility in the use of gearboxes,” says Preeda. “On the Swift the new [manufacturer] gearbox costs say 130,000 baht but we are allowing the use of aftermarket boxes for the 1.5 and 1.6 that cost something around 25,000 baht and are a strong and capable low cost alternative.”

If the cars were diverse – then so were the drivers, ranging from fresh-faced novices to well known names. The latter category included top Thai drifting star Daychapon Toyingcharoen, better know to his many fans as ‘Pond Injec’, of the Krating Daeng Racing Team and Super Car Class 1 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR driver Bhisanu Busitarnuntakul.

Within this influx has also arrived some of Thailand’s most promising lady drivers and to ensure Super Eco provides a genuinely level platform for everyone, Thailand Super Series has added a ‘Lady Cup’. Two girls were on the grid in Bangsaen, Tachanan Yooyen, who has switched to Super Eco after competing in ‘One Make’ racing for a few seasons, and youngster Umaporn Sangtong, who is a relative newcomer to competitive racing but wants to establish herself as a competitive driver.

Both clearly have plenty of circuit racing skills and both are expected to see their careers head upwards, using the Super Eco platform as a launch pad. Certainly Tachanan and Umaporn demonstrated much promise in Bangsaen and both were in the thick of the race action. More lady drivers are preparing to join Super Eco this year and they include Thailand's top lady pickup truck racer, Pusita Supattatanakul, and two wheel turned four wheel racer, Poiz Kumpheng.

The second season of Super Eco looks to be rosy. “We’re very happy with how the first year has gone,” says Preeda. “At the beginning we only had three cars but this year we are expecting full grids and we will continue to waive the entrance fee.”

The popularity of the ‘Eco’ car breed with Thai consumers needs to be reflected in the promotion of Super Eco, Khun Preeda also reckons. And that will come into play when TSS comes to Pattaya's Bira Circuit in mid August. “They are cars that buyers are very familiar with so we want to connect the Super Eco cars with our spectators. So for example at Bira we are going to put the Super Eco pit on the spectator side, so they will see the cars and understand them. This will be an added benefit as the races are early so not many spectators are at the track then. We also hope that introducing the Eco race cars to the public will help drivers raise sponsorship.”

With Eco grids filling out in other series this year, including the newly launched Super One Race, Eco drivers will be able to race their cars in more than one championship buoyed by the low or zero entrance fees that organisers are offering to keep in the spirit of the low cost concept.


Motocross hits Sri Racha, again

Motocross World Championship action came to Sriracha for a second consecutive year and there was a big contingent of bike racing fans from Pattaya that made the short trip northwards to enjoy the spectacular action of a sport that has often been dubbed as something of a cross between motorbike racing and ballet.

toyotaWith the skywards leaps of the riders one minute and the flying mud as they fight through the deep ruts, it’s certainly a sport that has simply to be seen in real life to be really understood.

This was the second consecutive year that the FIM Motocross World Championship had travelled here (the organisers currently have a three year contract) and again it delighted a large crowd that lined the riding banks and grandstands around the course and enjoyed further entertainment in the bustling activity village.

The event, dubbed the 'Motocross Grand Prix of Thailand', as usual attracted the world's best riders and teams who went head-to-head for both the winners’ trophies and championship points as this is the second round of this year’s series.

For the fans the results were almost incidental, most were here to absorb the action while for the visiting contingent – and the riders on the track – absorbing the forty degree plus heat was one of the key priorities. In fact in that level of heat the organisers reported that they sprayed around 50,000 litres of water on the main day as they kept the track to the conditions expected of an MXGP, and that basically translates into lots of mud.

Despite the heat and humidity, at the front of the big pack it was basically a repeat of last year as the Red Bull KTM factory team’s riders dominated proceedings. Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings took two wins apiece in MX1 and MX2 respectively. The KTM pit was easily the most popular with the fans and they put on a real show of strength over a course that most of the visiting riders described as challenging.

Carioli was in untouchable form, the Italian rider had almost 15 seconds in hand over Belgian Clement Desalle in the first race and half a minute over third placed Jeremy Van Horebeek, also from Belgium, while in the second race it was an almost carbon copy, Carioli crossing the finish line with 13 seconds over Desalle and 30 seconds on Van Horebeek.

In MX2 Herlings repeated his form here of last year to take a five second win over fellow Dutchman Glenn Coldenhoff while in the second race he had almost eight seconds in hand over British rider Max Anstie. Both Caroli and Herlings left Sri Racha leading the championship standings in MX1 and MX2 respectively.

Demonstrating just how much Thailand is part of a world championship, the riders travelled to Sri Racha after kicking off the year the weekend before in Qatar and then heading off for round three in Brazil.

Up against a world class field, the Thai riders were always going to struggle somewhat but bringing a round of the world championship here is providing them with the best possible platform on which to improve their skills – by going head-to-head with the sport's best. You couldn’t have a better learning curve. And that clearly showed through as the Thai riders’ real benchmark, their own times versus their times last year, showed solid improvements. The ‘locals’ are well on their way to claiming a place at the top table.


SIDE BOX:

Trader exclusive: A chat with Kraitos Wongsawan, MXGP organiser

Putting on this world-class event came with the backdrop of the long running political situation in Bangkok and the knock-on effect it has had on everything from numbers of overseas visitors to sponsors holding back involvement. Thai MXGP organiser Kraitos Wongsawan admitted this was really a “survival year”, but come race weekend it was one that fulfilled all the promise.

“Due to the difficult situation we wanted to do something to show the world that we could do it with spirit,” he exclusively told Pattaya Trader. And the world was certainly watching, “last year we had 85 million viewers live on TV, this year we had 100 million watching.” He puts much of this down to new TV deals by the series organisers that have expanded the global reach. “There were new networks that brought in more fans from the USA,” he explained.

Kraitos sees the MXGP as being an international flagship event for Thailand. “It’s been very good in terms of tourism, lots of foreigners have come, more than Thai’s, this is a good thing,” he says. Certainly there was a big influx from Pattaya where all bike sports have a loyal following.

“The track is one of the fastest and the MXGP is established, all the people are happy with it,” reckons Kraitos. “It’s going to be even better next year, we will do everything better for the fans.”

Talking Wheels April 2014


The dawn of ‘Eco Racing’

The fastest growing category of racing cars this season will in fact be one that didn't even exist this time last year. And the road cars themselves from which the racecars are drawn didn't even exist until a few years ago. But the new generation of Thai 'Eco Cars', which have already struck a big chord with consumers, are now a hit with race drivers.

Thailand Super Series has wanted to keep one step ahead right through its big programme – and that desire can’t be any better summed up than by the introduction of ‘Super Eco', which is positioned right at the opposite end of the racing ‘food chain’ to the glamorous FIA GT3 machines which headline its bumper events.

The new generation of Thai built ‘Super Eco’ cars are not only driving the automotive industry exports forward, significantly, they have been a huge hit with domestic consumers and all these small cars are becoming fashionable accessories as well as highly economical ownership propositions.

There has also been a real keenness on the part of owners to get them onto the racetrack. The concept of the ‘Eco Car’ is very simple, low cost and ultra-efficient, they aim to provide a first ownership experience for consumers as well as being fun to drive. The concept of ‘Super Eco' is also very simple, low cost and ultra-efficient, the racing versions of the ‘Eco Cars’ aim to provide access to racing for potential drivers as well as plenty of fun.

Thailand Super Series was quick to understand that Super Eco would be a hit with motorsport fans and drivers alike and in time for last season found space for a new ‘Super Eco’ category. Albeit that space was at nine o'clock in the morning when only the hardiest of fans would be in the grandstands.

"We really wanted to provide a good opportunity for upcoming racers that wouldn’t cost too much and where they would learn,” says Thailand Super Series Race Director Preeda Tantemsapya. “The cars are very competitive with each other, it’s not all about horsepower, it’s about how you drive it and suspension is the main area to get advantages.”

This year other series are joining the bandwagon, Only One and Super One Race have added classes for Eco cars, but it was Thailand Super Series that broke the ground and offered new drivers the chance to race Eco cars as part of the biggest and most professional race series in Thailand.

They took a punt and the jury was quickly out as at the first round, held last August at Pattaya’s Bira Circuit, as there were just three cars on the grid. It looked sparse.

However the jury was quickly back in as by the time the three round/six race inaugural ‘Super Eco’ series wrapped up in Bangsaen last December the grid had swollen to 16 cars and all the Thai ‘Eco’ car brands were represented bar Toyota, which had only launched its category contender, the new Yaris, onto the market just a couple of weeks beforehand and only offers an automatic version.

However with the Suzuki Swift, Honda Brio, Nissan March and Mitsubishi Mirage all in action on the street circuit, ‘Eco Racing’ had already come of age, all in just four months. And it wasn’t just the hatchbacks, the first ‘Eco sedan’, in the shape of Honda’s Brio Amaze, was also on the grid.

Keeping costs down has been the aim of all the organisers that have embraced the Eco racing concept. TSS methodically worked through the specifications of the ‘Eco’ machines to ensure drivers can build and run a pukka racecar for the lowest price possible. An example? “We have allowed flexibility in the use of gearboxes,” says Preeda. “On the Swift the new [manufacturer] gearbox costs say 130,000 baht but we are allowing the use of aftermarket boxes for the 1.5 and 1.6 that cost something around 25,000 baht and are a strong and capable low cost alternative.”

If the cars were diverse – then so were the drivers, ranging from fresh-faced novices to well known names. The latter category included top Thai drifting star Daychapon Toyingcharoen, better know to his many fans as ‘Pond Injec’, of the Krating Daeng Racing Team and Super Car Class 1 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR driver Bhisanu Busitarnuntakul.

Within this influx has also arrived some of Thailand’s most promising lady drivers and to ensure Super Eco provides a genuinely level platform for everyone, Thailand Super Series has added a ‘Lady Cup’. Two girls were on the grid in Bangsaen, Tachanan Yooyen, who has switched to Super Eco after competing in ‘One Make’ racing for a few seasons, and youngster Umaporn Sangtong, who is a relative newcomer to competitive racing but wants to establish herself as a competitive driver.

Both clearly have plenty of circuit racing skills and both are expected to see their careers head upwards, using the Super Eco platform as a launch pad. Certainly Tachanan and Umaporn demonstrated much promise in Bangsaen and both were in the thick of the race action. More lady drivers are preparing to join Super Eco this year and they include Thailand's top lady pickup truck racer, Pusita Supattatanakul, and two wheel turned four wheel racer, Poiz Kumpheng.

The second season of Super Eco looks to be rosy. “We’re very happy with how the first year has gone,” says Preeda. “At the beginning we only had three cars but this year we are expecting full grids and we will continue to waive the entrance fee.”

The popularity of the ‘Eco’ car breed with Thai consumers needs to be reflected in the promotion of Super Eco, Khun Preeda also reckons. And that will come into play when TSS comes to Pattaya's Bira Circuit in mid August. “They are cars that buyers are very familiar with so we want to connect the Super Eco cars with our spectators. So for example at Bira we are going to put the Super Eco pit on the spectator side, so they will see the cars and understand them. This will be an added benefit as the races are early so not many spectators are at the track then. We also hope that introducing the Eco race cars to the public will help drivers raise sponsorship.”

With Eco grids filling out in other series this year, including the newly launched Super One Race, Eco drivers will be able to race their cars in more than one championship buoyed by the low or zero entrance fees that organisers are offering to keep in the spirit of the low cost concept.


Motocross hits Sri Racha, again

Motocross World Championship action came to Sriracha for a second consecutive year and there was a big contingent of bike racing fans from Pattaya that made the short trip northwards to enjoy the spectacular action of a sport that has often been dubbed as something of a cross between motorbike racing and ballet.

With the skywards leaps of the riders one minute and the flying mud as they fight through the deep ruts, it’s certainly a sport that has simply to be seen in real life to be really understood.

This was the second consecutive year that the FIM Motocross World Championship had travelled here (the organisers currently have a three year contract) and again it delighted a large crowd that lined the riding banks and grandstands around the course and enjoyed further entertainment in the bustling activity village.

The event, dubbed the 'Motocross Grand Prix of Thailand', as usual attracted the world's best riders and teams who went head-to-head for both the winners’ trophies and championship points as this is the second round of this year’s series.

For the fans the results were almost incidental, most were here to absorb the action while for the visiting contingent – and the riders on the track – absorbing the forty degree plus heat was one of the key priorities. In fact in that level of heat the organisers reported that they sprayed around 50,000 litres of water on the main day as they kept the track to the conditions expected of an MXGP, and that basically translates into lots of mud.

Despite the heat and humidity, at the front of the big pack it was basically a repeat of last year as the Red Bull KTM factory team’s riders dominated proceedings. Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings took two wins apiece in MX1 and MX2 respectively. The KTM pit was easily the most popular with the fans and they put on a real show of strength over a course that most of the visiting riders described as challenging.

Carioli was in untouchable form, the Italian rider had almost 15 seconds in hand over Belgian Clement Desalle in the first race and half a minute over third placed Jeremy Van Horebeek, also from Belgium, while in the second race it was an almost carbon copy, Carioli crossing the finish line with 13 seconds over Desalle and 30 seconds on Van Horebeek.

In MX2 Herlings repeated his form here of last year to take a five second win over fellow Dutchman Glenn Coldenhoff while in the second race he had almost eight seconds in hand over British rider Max Anstie. Both Caroli and Herlings left Sri Racha leading the championship standings in MX1 and MX2 respectively.

Demonstrating just how much Thailand is part of a world championship, the riders travelled to Sri Racha after kicking off the year the weekend before in Qatar and then heading off for round three in Brazil.

Up against a world class field, the Thai riders were always going to struggle somewhat but bringing a round of the world championship here is providing them with the best possible platform on which to improve their skills – by going head-to-head with the sport's best. You couldn’t have a better learning curve. And that clearly showed through as the Thai riders’ real benchmark, their own times versus their times last year, showed solid improvements. The ‘locals’ are well on their way to claiming a place at the top table.


SIDE BOX:

Trader exclusive: A chat with Kraitos Wongsawan, MXGP organiser

Putting on this world-class event came with the backdrop of the long running political situation in Bangkok and the knock-on effect it has had on everything from numbers of overseas visitors to sponsors holding back involvement. Thai MXGP organiser Kraitos Wongsawan admitted this was really a “survival year”, but come race weekend it was one that fulfilled all the promise.

“Due to the difficult situation we wanted to do something to show the world that we could do it with spirit,” he exclusively told Pattaya Trader. And the world was certainly watching, “last year we had 85 million viewers live on TV, this year we had 100 million watching.” He puts much of this down to new TV deals by the series organisers that have expanded the global reach. “There were new networks that brought in more fans from the USA,” he explained.

Kraitos sees the MXGP as being an international flagship event for Thailand. “It’s been very good in terms of tourism, lots of foreigners have come, more than Thai’s, this is a good thing,” he says. Certainly there was a big influx from Pattaya where all bike sports have a loyal following.

“The track is one of the fastest and the MXGP is established, all the people are happy with it,” reckons Kraitos. “It’s going to be even better next year, we will do everything better for the fans.”