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Rain Gods

Sports car driving through the rain at Bira Circuit, PattayaThailand Super Series made its second and final visit of the season to Pattaya’s Bira Circuit and if there is one word that described the whole weekend it was ‘rain’.

It rained through the event, almost every category was affected by the weather and by Sunday evening the racetrack and its surroundings were saturated. It wasn’t just at the circuit, 15 km further down towards the coast, Pattaya itself was also battered by rain.

However the conditions didn’t affect the programme one iota, instead it added to the show as the one of the most dramatic, exciting and nail-biting weekends in Thai racing history played out in front of the many fans who braved the conditions to be part of the ‘New Era’.

When the rain comes it shakes up the established order by introducing the biggest variable possible in racing. It levels the game and the best drivers can overcome machinery deficiencies and rise to the top. In some cases they are already at the top and stay there – and that was the case with superstar Super Car Class 1 driver Vuttikorn Inthraphuvasak. He left Bira on the Sunday night with two wins out of two and firmly back on course for the title after his big slipup at the last round, which was also held here back in August.

But ‘The Boss’ was made to work hard. From talented youngster Pasin Lathouras and the returning ‘street fighter’ Piti Bhirombhakdi to the vastly experienced Vattana Motorsport owner Chonsawat Asavahame, it would seem Vuttikorn’s days of cruising to the chequered flag are well and truly over.

In Super Car’s Class 2 Nattavude Charoensukhawatana led out a crushing Toyota 1-2 in the first race of the weekend as he closed in further on the title, but the final day’s encounter turned out to be one of the most exciting in recent memory and through the bucketing rain Grant Supaphong emerged after a faultless drive to claim his first ever Super Car victory.

The headlining Super Car Class 1 and Class 2 might have been the biggest attention grabbers but there was a real depth to the support programme with talented drivers, fast machines and non-stop close race action.

Arguably the defining duel of the Thailand Super Series season has been Tin Sritrai (BMW) versus Kantasak Kusiri (Honda) in Super 2000; these two talented youngsters have been locked onto each others bumpers all season and no one else has really had much of a look in.

It had been expected that the same story would unfold at Bira and that certainly was the case in the first race. However the second race saw the season’s long playing script ripped up as Kantasak ended up in the tyre wall at the first turn on the first lap and with a car far too badly damaged to get very much further. Tin was thus able to coast to a comfortable second place and, crucially, open up a gap at the top of the points’ standings.

The new ‘Super Eco’ category is rapidly proving to be the perfect stepping stone for budding drivers to get onto the racing ladder. It’s also attracting more experienced racers. Another superb blend. Reserved solely for the new breed of ‘eco’ cars, this category offers very close racing from cars with limited modifications and almost equal horsepower.

Super Eco went into its second weekend at Bira and as the grid swelled up the racing stayed just as close. Last time out there was a double win for Suzuki’s Swift, this time round Honda’s Brio picked up its first victory as David Yupensuk emerged from the rain on Saturday to take the chequered flag first – but it really could have been anyone as the positions continued to swap with each lap. It was much the same story in Sunday’s race, also wet and also frenetic, this time Kassapon Dechmark restored honours for Suzuki.

In Super Production the weekend started with another win for Kajornsak Na Songkhla – making it five wins from five races this year. Race 2 though threw up a new winner with Pete Thongchua giving the new Mazda2 its first win after a battling drive.

While Pete got some clear air at the front Kajornsak was preoccupied with attacks from behind. However, second place was more than enough to put the title out of reach. 

Another driver who can’t be caught is Kantadhee Kusiri; he’s been up at the front in Super 1500 all season despite lugging ‘success ballast’ and the highly rated youngster has an important trophy to add to his cabinet.

In Super Pickup Pete Thongchua (Mazda BT-50) emerged from the weekend with three wins from three races. The reigning truck racing champion seems to have easily carried his unstoppable form through for another season and has closed in on the 2013 title.