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BIRA CIRCUIT CELEBRATES ITS THIRTIETH ANNIVERSARY

words and pictures by Edd Ellison

Pattaya’s Bira International Circuit has just celebrated its thirtieth anniversary with a very special day that brought two- and four-wheel motorsport heritage together for real trip down memory lane. The event was originally planned for last October but was rescheduled at the last minute due to the national period of mourning.
 

Bira Circuit has an unshakeable place at the heart of the national sport and is quite simply known to everyone as the historic ‘home of Thai motorsport’. Situated just 15 km inland from the city its location means that Pattaya has always been at the hub of Thai circuit racing and the sport has grown a strong and enthusiastic local fanbase.

When it was founded thirty years ago the circuit – which takes its name in honour of Thailand’s most famous racing driver, Prince Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanubandh – was the country’s first permanent circuit and brought the sport, which had thus far mainly played out on temporary airfield circuits, into a new age as well as ushering in rounds of highly prestigious international championships.

Although relatively small and cramped by modern day standards Bira still holds its place as the spiritual home of the sport and countless legends have been born and nurtured on its tricky 2.4 kilometre length, which features 12 turns. Over the years we have seen some truly memorable races play out and stories have taken shape while the ghosts of past glories stalk every nook and cranny of the circuit.

The special event, dubbed “The Good Old Days”, really reflected that lush heritage and allowed visitors to brush with the past as several machines that have been forgotten by time remerged to be admired.

Toyota, which has always played an unshakeable role at the heart of Thai motorsport put on a display that reflected its own decades on the tracks here and several historic winning machines rubbed shoulders with its latest Super Car GTM ‘86’ sportscar (which was appropriately demonstrated by the brand’s number one star driver, Nattavude Charoensukhawatana, a legend in his own right) and of course the Altis sedan that has most recently chased glory on the other side of the world in the Nürburgring 24 Hour.

Thailand Super Series, the key player in the sport today, joined the official celebrations by presenting a trio of racing machines that provide a great snapshot of this championship: a dazzling GT3 class Porsche 997 GT3-R which was ‘en route’ to race action in the Bangsaen Grand Prix, a new SEAT Léon TCR, which was competing in the inaugural season of TCR Thailand, and one of the Honda Jazz racecars that make up the fleet of capable ‘learner level’ machines used by the TSS Racing Academy (TRA).

B-Quik Racing presented two of its stable of racecars, an Audi R8 LMS Cup and a Porsche 996 GT3 Cup, the latter which took selected guests for ‘hot lap’ runs on the track. Also undertaking ‘hot lap’ action was the big, green and very noisy ‘Australian V8’ Holden Commodore of New Zealander Craig Corliss.

A day for reflection of a glorious past during an event that was enjoyed by everyone, especially the many cars clubs that came to join up with the celebrations and after their parade laps of the track they parked up all around the circuit as night fell, creating a very unusual and evocative sight. It was that sort of day; but the big question now, with thirty years successfully down, is what exactly the future holds for this much loved circuit.