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A RETURN TO BIRA FOR THAILAND’S NEW SUPERSTAR

By Edd Ellison

Thailand’s fast emerging racing sensation, Pasin Lathouras, recently scored a huge win in the “24 Hours of Spa”, one of the world’s most prestigious endurance motor races. That was one of the biggest triumphs by a Thai driver for a long time and put the country firmly on the international motorsport map.

 

Just a few weeks after that dramatic win, Pasin was right back where it all started: Pattaya’s Bira International Circuit, to meet the media and pay respects to the inspiration for all Thai drivers, Prince Bira.

 

The 67th edition of the world-famous 24 Hours of Spa turned out to be one of the toughest ever and the competitors were lashed by rain from the moment they lined up on the grid. Treacherous weather was a theme of this year’s race and in the end there were no less than ten Safety Car periods.

Pasin Lathouras, sharing a Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 with Italians Alessandro Pier Guidi and Gianmaria Bruni as well as Belgian journalist-racer Stéphane Lémeret, battled non-stop all the way to the checkered flag. Combined with some really good pitwork from his AF Corse team and a car that ran reliably under extreme pressure they were able to pull off a stunning victory in the highly competitive Pro-Am class.

 

“Winning the Spa 24 Hours was an amazing experience, my teammates and I pushed and pushed all race, the rain kept coming down and early on we often had no idea where we were in the classification as the Safety Car kept coming in and out,” Pasin recalled in the hot, dry, and much quieter, confines of Bira Circuit where he also displayed the majestic winners’ trophy.

 

In racing everyone plays a key part in putting a win together. “The team did an amazing job to turn the car around so quickly at every pitstop and really every second we gained helped an awful lot,” he added. “Spa is an awesome track, it lives up to the legend, I certainly love the high-speed tracks but racing at night in fog is something else, something to experience and learn from.”

 

Spa-Francorchamps has a real resonance in motorsport. Seven kilomteres long and with 20 corners, it’s one of the world’s most demanding racetracks with section names, such as Eau Rouge and Raidillon, that have entered racing folk law. It’s a track that sorts out the men from the boys, just to lap it bang on the pace is only for the bravest drivers, and that’s before you even think of winning – or just surviving to reach the finish.

 

For Pasin it represented his biggest career win to date as well as one of the most important by a Thai driver in living memory. He’s still just 21-years-old !

 

To further his racing career and compete in Europe, Pasin switched his university studies from Bangkok to London at the beginning of last year, so he’s been away from Bira Circuit for quite sometime. But this is where his career started and quickly began to blossom, on the kart track, as a very raw child. “It’s great to be back, Bira is where it all began for me, coming here to learn to race in karts with my Dad,” he said. “I won the 6-hour kart endurance race here very early on, in 2007, so that’s eight years ago now, and that really cemented my love for racing and the desire to succeed and become one of the best.”

 

As well as his winning spree in karts, Pasin also drove here on the main circuit in 2013 when he raced a Ferrari 458 GT3 in Thailand Super Series, taking a victory and breaking the official track record. “I spent about four years racing karts and learning so I was continually here, I had many happy times at the Bira kart track and many successes,” he noted. “I also spent a year in Super Car and raced here on the main track, but that’s my only time on the circuit, I hope to be back though in the future. But it was a good year as I got a win here and set a new lap record.”

With a victory at Spa now under his belt Pasin has proved, not least to himself, that he can race with the best in the world in the biggest endurance races. Although he’s still a youngster with an awful lot more to learn and still needs to gain a lot more experience – he's clearly capable of reaching the top and fulfilling his dreams.

 

“[Winning the Spa 24 Hours was] certainly the high point of my career so far and it really confirms to me that I can keep pushing on towards the top, aim for Le Mans in two or three years, and most importantly that I can successfully fly the flag for Thailand,” Pasin says.

 

Clearly he loves cars and loves to race. He has the quiet confidence and calm demeanour of a successful sports ‘pro’. The motivation to be amongst the best is there, as is the quiet but ruthless dedication needed to succeed. Swapping his life in Bangkok to go to Europe and try his hand against the world’s best drivers, to be the little fish in the biggest motorsport pond, demonstrates that he’s ready to give everything. He also admits that flying the flag for his country drives him on, something that’s been a constant since his days in karting when he was chosen to represent Thailand in the world finals on several occasions. “The support I have been getting from people in Thailand has always been amazing and it keeps helping to push me on.”

 

The setting is perfect too. Prince Bira towers above Thai motorsport as a shining example of what can be achieved if you really give it everything and in the long leafy shadows of the circuit that bears his name, Pasin is following in mighty footsteps. It’s a very tough call, but so far he’s on track.