Words by Earl Brown photos by Wuttikorn Lungnoum
6 Hour ENDURANCE RACE
The word Endurance as an Adjective is defined as:
denoting or relating to a race or other sporting event that takes place over a long distance or otherwise demands great physical stamina.
However, I feel the best way to describe how this season has gone is to use the Noun definition of the word: the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way
The 3rd and final race of the 2016 season was held at the postponed Bang Saen Festival of Speed. The championship standings showed the #36 Toyota with such a commanding lead from the first two races that only a small miracle would see TR-Motorsport crowned as champions. However unlikely it may be the scenario was Thomas and the DC5 to finish in first while the Toyota failed to cross the line at all, being the slowest car on the grid - this was tall order!
As with all the endurance races this season the team was beset by mechanical issues.During the extended practice period, gearbox and clutch problems arose resulting in a complete change out of the gearbox. Luckily this rectified the problems and the team were ready for qualifying. Tony Percy, longtime friend of the team and co-driver took the reins of the Honda Integra DC5, with the previous issues still fresh in his mind Tony gently eased the car through qualifying and into a respectable 9th place, which is was an outstanding achievement considering that there were 61 other cars on the track at the same time all vying for a clean lap.
As with all endurance races the 6 hours is split between drivers, for the first stint, Tony pushed the Integra into 7th before the first changeover. The safety car period eventually became a red flagged race and all cars returned to the pits resulting in the team losing any advantage they had gained. Seven cars had been involved in the on-track pileup and although this meant fewer cars in the race and more space on track it took several hours to remove the cars and fix the damaged barriers.
At the restart, Thomas powered his way into 2nd place overall and was somehow setting faster times than the leading Toyota. He consolidated his position up until the next driver change however the gremlins were back playing with the clutch again causing the car to struggle to change gear. Eventually, all the gears except 4th had failed with Tony limping around the circuit. The decision was then made to pit early and see if the issue could be solved. No fix could be applied so it was 4th gear all the way to the chequered flag for the final 1 hour 24 minutes. Ironically the leading Toyota crashed several times and finished dead last but this was still enough to win the championship. TR-Motorsport finished 4th in class,later promoted to 3rd as another team had received a 30 lap penalty for a jump start behind the safety car.
TR-Motorsports final position in the Enduring Endurance Championship was 3rd in class, with just a little bit more luck who knows what might have been……
Super Production Class
An eventful weekend of racing greeted TR-Motorsport at the final rounds of the Thailand Super Series held at the picturesque Bang Saen Beach Street Circuit. The final event had been postponed from November ’16 to February ’17 due to the passing of the late King. With the postponement came a long gap giving us the perfect opportunity to concentrate on some R & D in the hope of closing the gap to Championship Victor Hideharu Kuroki. After some minor tweaks to the car, a major redesign of the front Air Intake was undertaken which provided very encouraging results after completing several simulations on the Dyno equipment.
Simulations are all well and good, however, it’s on the track where it counts and Thomas fully obliged with the fastest lap around the circuit in official practice. When qualifying began both Thomas and Hideharu were setting fastest lap after fastest lap, nip and tuck all the way. Eventually, Thomas managed to claim a fantastic Pole Position by just one-tenth of a second from Hideharu, being Pole on a tight and twisty circuit is always vital so the race to the first corner could possibly decide the race.
Due to our first gear ratio being longer and the race to the first corner uphill we knew wewould be at a disadvantage. Thomas got off the line perfectly and stormed up the hill defending his line to the left to try and outwit Hideharu who was virtually alongside the ‘Blue Blur’, paint was traded several times before Hideharu backed out and slotted in behind to mount another challenge. The final corner of lap 1 caused a gasp from the TR-Motorsport team and fans as Hideharu once again tried a move, this time on the inside but again showed professionalism by backing off at the right time.
By the middle of lap 2 Thomas had pulled out a small lead and held on for the remainder of the race even breaking the lap record on several occasions, Hideharu pushed Thomas all the way to the chequered flag and saw his 100% record gone as Thomas, 10 years after his first win at Bang Saen came home with the spoils and a much needed 20 points, cementing his second place position in the championship.
After the elation of the previous victory had faded, the team of mechanics led by Sven Thummel got to work on the car to check everything over and prepare for Race 2. The team soon spotted an issue with the wishbones as the bushings were damaged and as a precautionary measure these were duly replaced. As with all previous rounds, the top 5 finishers from Race 1 started in reverse order meaning Thomas would start from 5th. As the cars assembled on the grid all looked good and a top 3 position looked more than possible.
As the car left for the warm lap Thomas felt an issue with the steering although not terminal, Thomas made the wisest choice to visit the pits to try and ascertain what the issue was. The team of mechanics could not find anything obvious so the car headed back out on track. People reading this familiar with the rules and regulations of motorsport, will of course know that our little visit to the pits would mean starting at the back of the grid, this was only compounded by the fact that due to a miscommunication with the stewards we forced to wait at the pit lane exit some 600 meters away from the back of the grid!
Regular readers will know that we have had similar issues before and still come out on top. However, today was not going to be one of those days! The first 3 laps of the race went perfectly with Thomas making his way through the field from a lowly 19th to a respectable 10th. The racing gods were smiling on us as a safety car deployment bunched the whole pack back up and with 9 laps to go top 3 was still an outside possibility. In came the safety car down went the throttle and that's where the problems began, a massive loss of power resulted in cars streaming past a limping Thomas. On the pit to car radio turning the electrics on and off to reset the car,was suggested - it worked! But by now Thomas was once again at the back of the grid. For the remaining laps, a valiant Thomas fought back to a very respectful 8th place and again set the fastest lap and broke the track record for the Super Production Class.
After the race, the car was checked over by the official Thailand Super Series scrutineers and as with all races we have competed in this year,they found nothing to report. Although dejected the team were still in good spirits after another great week of motorsport at Bang Saen Beach and look forward to returning in July to compete in the GTC Supercar Class with the new Porsche 911 (997).
In next month’s Pattaya Trader we will have a big update for your regarding the upcoming season, in the meantime you can follow us through our website Tr-Motorosport.com, our Facebook page Facebook.com/TRMotorsportThailand and our Instagram account tmotorsport_thailand