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EXPLOSIVE START TO NEW “TSS” SEASON

story and pictures by Edd Ellison

The new Thai racing year has got underway in real style at Chang International Circuit – that’s because the headlining national championship, Thailand Super Series, has kicked off its ‘Season 4’ at the world class North Eastern racetrack. From the high-powered Super Cars, through diverse categories for ‘touring’ cars, pickup trucks, small production cars and even tiny ‘eco’ cars, the bumper programme enjoyed real strength in depth. There were two new classes joining the format this year, ‘TCR Thailand’, an exciting new global racing car format that has now reached these shores, and ‘Super Compact’ which allows teams to develop smaller cars themselves before the organisers equalize performance to provide close racing.

But all eyes were focused on the Super Cars – and really one in particular caught the attention. Lamborghini’s Huracán Super Trofeo LP620-2 has rattled the racing world over the last year. One of our leading top tier drivers, Sarun Sereethoranakul, was looking for a new mount to replace his Porsche and carry him to a title challenge and so he plumped for the Italian supercar. The big question was could the Huracán replicate its international success in Super Car?

Sarun answered that question emphatically as he planted his new car onto pole for all three races, yes there were three races for Super Car in Buriram for the first time, and he led all three from green lights to checkered flag to take three untroubled victories and move into the lead of the drivers’ championship points standings while his team emerged at the top of the Teams' classification. It was a clean sweep and a job well done.

In fact these were Sarun’s first wins in Super Car. He’s made the breakthrough to the winners’ circle and he’s certainly very well prepared to make a serious challenge for the title. He’s also highly ambitious and wants this title. But there is still a long way to go.

The story didn’t end there as many teams took up the chase of the Lamborghini, notably Toyota Team Thailand and B-Quik Racing, both were back to top form. With major revisions to the Toyota 86, the factory-supported outfit was at the business end of the action and Nattavude Charoensukhawatana nabbed an excellent third place and looked quick all weekend while B-Quik’s two Audis were right in amongst the front-runners every time the lights turned green.

Daniel Bilski is another to have swapped away from a Porsche and B-Quik Racing has brought in a second Audi R8 LMS Cup for him to run this year and the two second and one third place he scored in Buriram have transformed his positioning in the running order and he now sits very handily in second place in the provisional Drivers’ classification. Team leader Henk Kiks in his regular Audi was also a podium and points scorer, but, crucially, he took the fight to the dominant Lamborghini in Race 3 on level terms and that all means Sarun can’t expect to run away and hide this year. All in all it was a great weekend for B-Quik, which has also branched out into the ‘junior’ Super Car GTC.

Then there was the ‘Amateur’ (AM) class, which is a new addition to the programme, and it hit the sweet spot the moment the ‘gentlemen’ (albeit fast and capable gentlemen) took to the track. Pinet Piyaoui was a well-deserved winner of the first race on Friday and then on Saturday that ‘Sereethoranakul’ name rose to the fore once again, as, while Sarun was wrapping up the overall race win in his Lamborghini, his brother Saravut, claimed AM victory in his first ever Super Car race (on the Friday his car had expired on the warm up lap pushing his debut back 24 hours) to give the ‘family’ a lockout of the top step of both Super Car podiums.

And then Khun Saravut repeated the feat again in Race 3 – that gave the Sereethoranakul family a hoard of five out of six winners’ trophies from the weekend (and in fact five wins from five starts). But the AM class was highly competitive and hard fought from start to finish. With three runners up spots claimed and after never being out of the fight for P1 all weekend long, Paul Kanjanapas has raised his game this year and the Porsche driver departed from Buriram as the provisional AM points’ leader – and hungry for a championship trophy.

Meanwhile, the new season for Super Car GTC also kicked off in Buriram and here there were also new faces and new cars as this ‘feeder’ category steps up to the plate to become the second tier ‘Super Car’ racing category in Thailand. As ever for ‘GTC’, the balance swung lap by lap and from the two races there were two different winners in two different cars.

One of those two cars was brand new to GTM. The rakish Reiter Engineering-built KTM X-Bow GT4 has been added to Vattana Motorsport’s racecar portfolio and in the first race it proved just as fast as it looked, Narasak Ittritpong planted it on pole and then powered to victory to hand the menacing carbon-fibre machine a perfect debut win. A successful introduction to Thai racing life for the X-Bow and another note in the history books from the weekend.

In the second race it was an experienced Super Car hand who swept to victory as Pete Thongchua claimed maximum points in the #17 Mazda RX-8 to get his drivers’ title challenge off to a great start.

In fact there was much than just the victory as the Rotary Revolution built Mazdas rose to the occasion and claimed the Teams' trophy in both races. Astounding results for this small concern that only last year embarked on a highly ambitious plan to develop its own breed of racecars. That plan – or maybe dream was a better word – was thoroughly vindicated in the North East and they must now be considered capable of mounting a serious challenge for the teams' title.

There were plenty more success stories to emerge from GTM’s hot and hectic weekend in Buriram. Toyota added one of its star drivers, Manat Kulapalanont, to the category mix and he proceeded to really shake up the order, hustling the pace setting KTM.

The weekend proved to be a superb way to start the new season for Super Car GTM and GTC and it was the best possible advert for what Thailand’s premier racing category has to offer. The competitive bar has gone up once again and everybody has responded to the challenge. Expect more of the same when Super Car GTM and GTC resume at Buriram in July. After that the series will be heading here, to Pattaya, for its third round, to be held as usual at Bira Circuit.