Defeat Snatched From The Jaws of Victory
By Earl Brown photos care of www.motorsportfans.in.th
“If one does not fail at times, then one has not challenged himself.”
After all the pre-season hype the time had come for the Unixx – TR-Motorsport Racing team to take its rightful place in the Supercar Class of The Thailand Super Series. The new Porsche 911 (997) Generation 1 arrived in the Kingdom at the end of March and was quickly transferred to Bangkok to have all the modifications installed by the ever efficient B-Quik Racing mechanics and engineers. Our first glimpse of the car in its new Unixx – TR Motorsport livery wasn’t until the Wednesday before the first Race weekend of the season. The Danish Dynamo Thomas Raldorf had just three practice sessions to get used to the car and setup before qualifying on Friday afternoon.
The three sessions were the first time Thomas had been in the new Porsche and it showed as he tentatively eased the 911 around the Buriram circuit to get a feel for the car and the massive increase in power compared to the old Blue Blur Honda City. Thomas became more confident and pushed harder with each lap that passed and was putting in some good times although still not sure how the car should feel, luckily Porsche Academy's driver Will Bamber was on hand!
Will jumped at the opportunity to give the 911 a test run and provide some vital feedback to the team. After only just one lap Will came straight back into the pits to report on several issues with the car, Sven Thummel Chief Mechanic of TR-Motorsport listened intently as Will went through the issues, Sven made detailed notes about these issues which would be worked on later after the session had finished. After the quick debrief Will completed a few more laps for the team clocking a fastest time of 1.45.314. As day one of practice finished the B-Quik mechanics got to work on all the issues mentioned while our mechanics were in close attendance assisting, watching and learning as much as possible about the new Porsche.
The following day Thomas took to the track again and immediately reported back that the car was feeling a lot better and everything seemed to be working as it should, after a couple of warm-up laps Thomas quickly got up to race speed. Now was the time to find the limits, Thomas pushed and pushed to see how much he could squeeze out of the car. During the previous day's testing Will Bamber had gone into turn four 16kmh faster than Thomas and this is where he had to improve if he wanted to post a competitive qualifying time - and improve he did by taking turn four just 1km slower than Pro-Driver Will. As the final practice session came to a close Thomas found himself in second place on the timing sheets with a very impressive 1.46.623, an outstanding achievement taking into consideration the amount of track time the team had, next up was qualifying.
Before the week began the team discussed expectations for the first races in the Porsche, it was agreed that a top 5 finishing position in both races was more than achievable and anything above that would most definitely be a bonus. The car was meticulously checked over by both sets of mechanics and prepped for qualifying, a new set of Yokohama Slick Tires were bolted on and the car was good to go. Qualifying began at a very humid 5 pm with the average temperature still around 34 degrees Celsius. The opening laps saw only a few cars on track with Thomas going fastest early on, as the session counted down the more seasoned drivers entered the fray setting even faster times with the lead times changing position many times throughout. The team on pit wall and in the pits could see the live timings. On lap four Thomas was faster over the first two sectors only a slight mistake cost him Pole Position and when the chequered flag eventually came out Thomas and his Porsche 911 had qualified third on the grid with a time of 1.45.033 just 0.186 off the Pole Position time.
As Race One of the new season quickly approached there was a great sense of excitement, tension and nerves permeating throughout the pit garage. Such was the tension that all guests and sponsors were politely asked to leave the immediate area to allow Thomas and the team some seclusion helping them to focus on the task that lay ahead. After a few minutes, the shutter was raised and the Porsche roared out of the garage and onto the grid.
Each of the Super Car races this season began with a rolling start, however, for this particular race it was deemed that three rolling starts were required. At the first attempt the lead 72 car seemed very confused as to where pole position was and meandered into the middle of the track causing a false start, the driver still wasn’t sure on the restart and yet another false start was called. However, third time lucky was the case as the cars roared down the straight heading for the first corner and that was where Thomas dived up the inside leaving the other cars in his wake. From that corner onwards Thomas began to pull away from the rest of the field and had soon built up a three-second gap from the Toyota GT 86 in second place.
With three laps to go and on the brink of a debut win tragedy struck! A warning light on the dashboard indicated the fuel pressure was dropping, this resulted in a loss of power from the engine so Thomas pushed even harder to maintain his lead, but it was inevitable the chasing pack would catch him and on very last lap both the 2nd & 3rd place cars were right under his gearbox. Thomas fought bravely to hold them off as long as possible, he ran wide at turn four letting the Toyota get level and as he entered turn five the cars were three abreast with Thomas on the outside. The Toyota driver lost the rear end of the car in the corner and as he corrected the slide he inadvertently touched the Porsche's wheels forcing Thomas wide and onto some radiator fluid that had been left from a previous race incident. The resulting loss of traction caused the car to spin out leaving Thomas facing the wrong way round in the middle of the track.
The Danish never give up and Thomas quickly fired the Porsche back up and completed the race finishing 5th which then became 4th after the 72 car was given a 30-second penalty for causing the false starts. As you can imagine the team were crestfallen after coming so close to a debut win but as we have experienced so many times in racing you can never be sure of a win until you pass that chequered flag. Although dejected there was still work to do as overnight the Fuel Pump and Fuel Filter were replaced and an extra 30 litres of fuel added to hopefully fix the fuel pressure issue.
The team arrived at the track on Sunday full of confidence for Race Two. The heartbreak of Race One was now nothing more than a distant memory and focus was aligned to the task at hand. Thomas would start from pole due to getting the fastest second lap time in qualifying, so the odds were most definitely in the team's favour! As the cars came around the last corner two by two the lights went green and Thomas made an incredible start. Unfortunately, two of the following pack didn't do the same and collided into each other causing the safety car to be deployed.
Being behind the safety car in the new Porsche is a world away from doing the same in the Honda City and Thomas needed to keep the tires warm and the engine cool. The safety car pulled in and again Thomas roared away from the pack in some style, after five laps the pit team told him the gap was a massive five seconds and to ease off a little. Thomas replied that he wanted to push on and increase the gap just in case the fuel pressure issues came back, and come back they did! Just two corners after Thomas said he would push on, the Fuel Pressure light came on again along with that feeling of Déjà vu. Within two laps the five-second lead was gone and once again the Toyota GT 86 was all over the back of the limping Porsche.
It would have been impossible to hold the Toyota off for the next 2 laps so instead of fighting, Thomas let the driver through and slotted into second place with a very healthy lead over third place, it was the sensible thing to do and would guarantee some good championship points. Thankfully no other issues transpired and the team finished with a very good second place. Although they fell agonisingly short of the top step in the drivers’ championship they did claim top spot in the Team Championship with the cars finishing 2nd and 3rd. With six races still to go and as Thomas gets more track time with the car the team are well positioned to mount a serious challenge for the championship.
Unixx – TR-Motorsport will next be in action in the Honda Integra DC-5 in the TOYO 3K Championship at Bira Circuit Pattaya June 10/11 and the next races in the Porsche will be at the Bang Saen Festival of Speed for Rounds 3 & 4 of The Thailand Super Series June 29 – July 2nd.
For more information check out www.TR-Motorpsort.com and Facebook - search TR Motorsport Thailand.
Join the official line account @tr-motorsport and Instagram trmotorsport_thailand
Finally, we would like to thank all our sponsors, guests, fans and friends who followed us to Buriram and supported us through a great weekend.