EXPLOSIVE SUPER CAR SHOWDOWN AT BIRA CIRCUIT
By Edd Ellison
Pattaya was in the spotlights as Thailand Super Series (TSS) rolled into Bira Circuit, the historic ‘home of motorsport’, for its penultimate round of the year and immediately lived up to all the hype that surrounded the visit, the drivers and teams delivering exactly what everyone has come to expect from the ‘New Era’ of Thai racing.
After the first two rounds of the season had taken Thailand’s premier racing series to the brand new state-of-the-art racetrack in Buriram it was a very different test for the competitors for the third of the four rounds that make up the calendar this year.
Short, tight, twisty and rapidly ageing, Bira International Circuit always tests man and machine to the very limits, it takes no prisoners or respects big reputations and that was the same story, emotions boiling over as TSS played out its explosive bumper programme in this historic 2.4-km long ‘cauldron of passion’.
At the top of the motorsport pyramid at Bira Super Car Class 2-GTM and the category delivered two thrilling action packed races that had the fans on their feet and which, significantly, also had a huge impact on the top of the championship classification.
In Saturday’s first race of the weekend reigning champion Voravud Bhirombhakdi bounced back from a thus far very difficult title defence to take his first win of the year while the win on Sunday went to Jack Lemvard who took his second victory of the year and made up for disappointment in the first race when he retired while seemingly on his course to a comfortable victory.
In the Drivers’ championship battle Craig Corliss turned the tables on Kantasak Kusiri, the points classification leader going into this round. The highly experienced New Zealander ripped 13 points out of the Thai youngster’s advantage on Saturday to turn an 8-point deficit at the start of the race into a 5-point advantage overnight.
Meanwhile in the second race the Ferrari driver made up for his torrid opening race to chip 3 points back from Craig and that leaves the pair split by just 2 points heading into the final event in Bangsaen later this month. It's set to be another nail biting race to the title and it will be even more drama laden as the season closer will feature a triple header for the first time ever.
Away from the Super Cars and in the top ‘touring car’ category, Super 2000, there was a new name in the winners’ circle, Kantadhee Kusiri. That weekend was the culmination of nine days in which he turned from a youngster with a lot of future promise into one of Thailand’s top racing drivers, both domestically and internationally.
That path to much wider recognition actually started the weekend before TSS arrived at Bira Circuit when he had raced for the first time in a single-seater at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps Circuit and instantly made the international paddock sit up and take notice. The job was completed the next weekend as Team Eakie finally got their new Toyota 86 right on song and Kantadhee went and demolished a highly touted Super 2000 field.
In fact he smashed his way to two wins from two races, his first ever victories in the top touring car category. The ‘star of the future’ tag has been dumped in spectacular style; unquestionably, he’s now one of the big stars of TSS and his career is in the ascendancy.
And in overall championship terms it was equally as nail biting. Vattana’s superstar Jack Lemvard came into the event seemingly on a cruise to the title but he collected just 10-points from the two races and Pasarit Phromsombat, who knows exactly how to wring every last point out of a race, put himself into the thick of the action at the business end of the leaderboard in both races and tore 17-points out of Jack’s advantage. The gap in the championship is down to just 10-points and all is now to play for on the streets of Bangsaen.
In Super Class 3-GTC Grant Supaphong took two quite emphatic wins to swing what was a wide-open title fight firmly in his direction as he finally blended reliability with his trademark pace and the destiny of the championship is now in his hands. It’s his title to loose now.
Behind him in both races there was frenetic activity for the runners up spot as Grant’s teammate Daychapon Toyingcharoen slugged it out with the fast developing Mazda RX-8 of Thanapol Thongchua. Very evenly matched they took a second and a third place apiece from the two races and with title hopeful Naputt Assakul struggling there is now an enthralling three-way fight in store for the runners up spot with just one round and two races remaining.
Right across the programme there was plenty of action as all the support classes delivered explosive races to keep the spectators entertained from dawn to dusk. There was also the traditional middle of the day drifting demonstration by the Krating Daeng Racing Team led by Thai urban legend ‘Kiki’ Sak Nana as well as a surprise guest appearance by Vin Diesel. Well it was almost Vin, rather it was an incredibly lifelike waxworks dummy fresh from Madame Tussauds in Bangkok that made everyone double take, while ‘real life’ celebs in the paddock included leading Thai actresses Mai Sukhontrava and Airin Yoogthatat.