Unique racecars set for Bira track debut
When Thailand Super Series (TSS) rolls into Pattaya’s Bira Circuit this summer there are set to be many more new and exciting racecars on the grid as the championship continues to go from strength to strength at a breakneck pace.
The organisers have dubbed it the ‘New Era’ of Thai motorsport and it certainly is. This month Pattaya Trader’s motoring section takes a close look at three of the new racecars that have been announced in the last few weeks.
All three are state-of-the-art racecars built to international standards that are now on their way to Thailand.
First up, the ‘Pony’. As the competitive bar keeps going up and up, regular Super Car driver Craig Corliss is set to swap the Holden Commodore VE he has only raced for a year. In its place comes a brand-new machine and it’s one that promises to be a big step forward from the ‘Australian V8 Supercar’. It should keep him firmly at the business end of the Super Car pack.
Last season he in fact traded up from the decade-old Ford Falcon V8 that he ran for a couple of the previous Super Car seasons, to an ex-888 Engineering Holden which kept him at the sharp end of a very competitive field, the Kiwi driver wrapping up the season with a fighting second spot in Bangsaen last December. He also grabbed attention here in Pattaya when he drafted Australian V8 ‘champ’ Jamie Whincup in for some testing at Bira prior to Bangsaen.
Anyway, Craig decided it already time for a new machine. Bred on big cars with big engines and big power, a format that has brought him plenty of wins in Super Car already, he saw no to reason to change a direction that has worked so well.
"I have always loved muscle cars so looked at what was available in Camaro and Mustangs,” he says. “Reiter Engineering has the Camaro GT3 but I don’t see myself racing against professional drivers and the super big budgets that currently race in Class 1.”
So, as he looked around, a new direction suddenly presented itself as worth exploring. "I went about searching for a new 'mean machine' and stumbled on the UBB Mustang," he says. A less obvious option, but one that after initial consideration seemed promising to follow up further. "So I quickly jumped on a plane with my mechanic and test drove a Mustang road car in London."
UBB is a small company that has made a name for itself tuning Mustangs, its conversion range topper has a staggering 1000 hp on tap, but they offer a wide range of options, crucially, including racecars. Craig was impressed by their street legal Mustang upgrade. "It was very fast and kept pulling through all gears," he says. "This was [fitted with] a supercharged Ford engine."
The connection was made instantly. "We spoke about a race car and quickly got the design sheets out and went to work," recalls the New Zealander.
The specifications that emerged as the project started to take shape on the drawing board were already impressive and the Mustang should certainly put Craig's Kiwi Racing Team in the ballpark this season. "We decided to have a normally aspirated injected engine and chose a 7-litre Ford ‘NASCAR’ block,” he notes. “The car will have a full FIA approved cage from Ford Racing, a sequential gearbox with paddle shifts, ABS, Traction Control, full MoTeC and four-wheel drive.”
The new Mustang is now being built in UBB’s North American workshops. And the ‘spec’ list carries on: SLA suspension with triple adjustable shocks, watts linkage at rear with three-points and with roll centre on chassis. Internally adjustable sway bars, an all-carbon fibre body with carbon/kevlar front rears and bumpers, Alcon 6-pot front/rear brakes and launch control.
Despite the big heavyweight reputation of the Mustang and the heavyweight history of Craig's other Super Car mounts, this project has focused on getting overall weight down. "We are expecting the dry weight to be 1180 kg," he says.
That's a whopping 160 kg lighter than the outgoing Commodore VE and that racecar was certainly no slouch around the tight and twisty confines of Bira last year.
And Craig promises that to match this 'lightweight' strategy he will also be shedding a few kilos also over the next three months!
The Mustang should look menacing too. The car will feature a full aero kit including a big racing rear wing and it’s set to run on 18-inch wheels shod with 300 x 680 tyres.
This project boasts world firsts in many areas. While it’s very likely to be the most powerful and sophisticated Mustang racing worldwide, it also features four-wheel drive, a racing novelty for the famous American ‘Pony Car’. “This will be the first four-wheel drive Mustang race car in the world,” confirms Craig. “A documentary is being filmed on the car’s build.”
Next up, the Audi. B-Quik Racing, an internal division of the nationwide repair chain, has grown in just a couple of seasons into one of Thailand’s biggest and most professional race teams and it’s set to grow even further this year as it will be running up to four – or even more – cars.
The ambitious team will have a new ‘halo’ machine in its garage this year for lead driver Henk J. Kiks in the shape of an Audi R8 LMS Cup. He’s set to vacant the ‘Bumblebee’ Porsche 997 GT3 Cup that propelled him into the Super Car title fight in 2012.
Henk is more readily associated with campaigning Porsches so acquiring an Audi represents a major change of direction for the Dutchman, who is the CEO of B-Quik. “I chose [the] R8 because there is no current Porsche model for GT racing, except [for the] 997 GT3-R, but that’s not current [it’s a] discontinued car. The 991 Cup isn’t available yet and my old 2007 car needs some work,” he explains.
“So the Audi seemed logical, it seems well equipped and is [also] usable for endurance events,” reckons Henk. “The car [can also be] updated to current GT3 specs if required, so all in all it seemed a better investment for now.”
The Audi R8 LMS Cup is a powerful, accomplished racecar that is starting to push out across the world and make a name for itself, especially in one-make competitions such as the popular Audi R8 Cup China. And Henk’s car is a thoroughly up-to-date member of that breed. “The car is a 2012 R8 LMS Cup, raced for one season [in 2012] in the Audi Cup China and has been used a bit last year by Audi for demo laps.”
The Audi R8 Cup racecar bristles with technology. The chassis is an aluminium space frame construction with a bolt-in steel roll cage. It is clothed in composite and aluminium bodywork. Audi was one of the early pioneers of using advanced aluminium techniques in chassis construction and today is the acknowledged world leader in this field, translating its skills and technology successfully to its racing programmes.
Under the R8 LMS Cup’s engine cover is a 5.2-litre V10 powerplant featuring direct injection and dry sump lubrication. Essentially this is the same unit to be found in Lamborghini’s Gallardo, as is much of the chassis and mechanicals. However, unlike Henk's outgoing Porsche, the mid-mounted engine is still positioned behind the driver but is further forward, rather than being slung over the rear wheels. Power from the latest R8 LMS Cup is rated by the factory at 560 hp and torque at over 500 Nm so this actual car should be just slightly behind those figures.
The R8 LMS Cup features independent front and rear double-wishbone type suspension, damper struts with Eibach coil springs and Bilstein adjustable dampers as well as adjustable front and rear anti-roll bars. The car rides on 18-inch wheels all round. In factory specification the car weighs in at 1,290 kg.
Finally, the Nissan. The NSports Shop-Yokohama-Project Mu Thailand team has emerged in recent seasons as one of the fastest growing teams here, but the Mitsubishi Evos it runs have proved fast but more often than not fragile.
So while the Evos will now have their power downrated to fit into Super Car’s new Class 3-GTC where they should be very competitive, Team Owner Thongchai Kittisiriprasert looked around for a new machine and found that in the shape of Nissan’s GT-R with a proven winning racecar that is now on its way to Thailand.
The Nissan’s driver isn’t under any question either. Traitanit Chimtawan returned to racing last season with this team after a hiatus and was immediately straight back into the groove, ultra-fast in the Evo, but in the end adding his name to the DNF list in the four races he contested during the second half of the season.
NSports Shop-Yokohama-Project Mu Thailand will also add a second Nissan GT-R to the line-up, although it’s unclear as yet when it will arrive. That machine is very likely to be driven by the team’s regular Japanese star driver, Naoya Yamano, who has already won in the Super Car category with this team. Last year he was due to race for the team, but a series of date clashes with the Japanese Toyota 86 ‘one make’ series prevented him appearing in TSS.
So does Traitanit believe this is a car that can win in Super Car’s cutthroat Class 2/GTM this season? The answer is quick and simple. “Of course, yes,” he says. “We expect to win races.”
That’s three impressive new racecars to thrill Pattaya race fans when TSS turns up at Bira during a season that’s set to be the best ever in the history of Thai motorsport. Expect a lot more exciting cars though and Pattaya Trader will report on these over the coming months.