THAI RISING STAR PASIN TAKES ON MACAU GP CHALLENGE
words and pictures by Edd Ellison
For Thai racing drivers there are few lures greater than contesting the Macau Grand Prix and for one of our leading young rising stars Pasin Lathouras – a name well known to Pattaya race fans – it really is a lure, this was his fourth consecutive year driving a ‘GT’ sportscar on the streets of the Chinese principality.
Adding to the allure, the famous ‘GT’ race has been reborn into a new era of blistering competitiveness. The FIA GT World Cup arrived in the Macau for the first time last year and Pasin was lucky enough to gain an entry into the midst of the best of the best. It proved to be a successful ‘world cup’ debut for the Thai driver as he kept away from the walls and worked his way up the running order to finish tenth, the only non-professional driver in the top ten as well as being the youngest competitor on the race.
Move forward one year. The inaugural edition of the FIA GT World Cup really caught the imagination and the second running, mid last November, saw more factory teams and drivers taking part. The FIA explained the concept behind the ‘World Cup’ initiative in a statement to accompany the second edition, which read: “The creation of a GT World Cup is a way of harmonising all GT championships taking place all over the world, since it is imperative to contest a series recognised by the FIA and based on the FIA technical regulations in order to be eligible for qualification to the GT World Cup. FIA GT World Cup has become a reference event for GT drivers or manufacturers – an event that absolutely must feature among their record of achievement.”
And it really was a reference event. To say the entry list was at a ‘world class’ level is an understatement and there were four full factory teams in action – Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Lamborghini – with factory drivers as well as a string of further factory supported teams. The winners of the last five GT races to be held in Macau were included on the entry list. The FIA GT World Cup brought the best of the best together.
For Pasin, this year he was behind the wheel of the new Ferrari 488 GT3 for the first time – a big step up from the predecessor 458 GT3 he used for the last three years, but with a small team and without the mega bucks and factory support of the front runners he was going to have to fight to make his mark. It started well for Pasin, who turned 23 years old just after the event was over, as in free practice as he banged in times that put him in the ballpark – but a clunk with the wall early in the qualifying session left him with a mountain to climb in the ‘semi final’ and ‘final’ – and in Macau passing is virtually impossible.
In the end the ‘World Cup Final 2016’ turned out to be one of the strangest races in living memory. There were just four laps in total, a rolling start that saw the race red flagged on the opening lap, then a lengthy delay before the race was restarted and again on the restart lap the race was red flagged.
This time, due to concerns about light conditions (the GT race had already late thanks to incidents that occurred during the preceding touring car race pushing the programme back), there would be no third rolling start and the results were declared final. In fact the winner finished the race with the car on the roof having dramatically flipped over and slid along the track at high speed upside down while lying in second place on the road – and that really just about summed up this year’s edition.
For Pasin there was simply nothing he could do during a race that didn’t even see even one full racing lap. He enjoyed a good start and again performed superbly on the restart, keeping track position and avoiding incidents, but he would finish where he started in P14, having survived through a long tough week on this track to record a fighting finish. This year’s FIA GT World Cup will certainly go down as something of a historical novelty.
Pasin had added another appearance at Macau to his racing ‘CV’ but he just didn’t get the chance to fight for a top ten position. He was reflective after the race. “We made a good start to the week in practice and looked to be in good shape but matters really conspired against us and in the end there wasn’t really a race, just two rolling starts, and so there was nothing we could do to try to fight back from our earlier setback and aim for a strong finish,” said the Thai. “It really was an odd event I have never seen anything like it and I think everyone already will be thinking about next year’s event.”