As he heads into the break between round two and round three of International GT Open 2015, Pasin Lathouras is able to reflect that, on a track he had never seen before and with a car that wasn’t fully up to speed, the 21 year old Thai driver was still able to deliver two very impressive drives in Estoril a week ago. Those performances culminated in a double points haul and the runners up spot in Race 2.
Those fighting drives were good enough to keep the young Thai and his teammate in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari, Michele Rugolo, in the Drivers’ championship lead with two rounds and four races now completed.
It also means that Pasin has taken three trips to the podium from the first four races of the year. Before the second round of the International GT Open got underway it had been expected to play out as one of the toughest of the season, especially as Pasin faced learning a brand new racetrack, Estoril – the former home of the Portuguese F1 Grand Prix – right from scratch.
After winning at the opening International GT Open round at Paul Ricard two weeks beforehand, Pasin and Michele were tied on points at the top of the standings, with the McLaren of Miguel Ramos and Alvaro Parente, arriving in Estoril; the experienced Portuguese duo, on home soil, would provide formidable opposition.
Matters got much worse as the weekend kicked off as the #51 car suffered ABS problems that would go on to plague it all weekend. Pasin put the car on the fourth row in qualifying and both he and Michele would battle hard all race.
Compromised by an extra ‘success’ time penalty mid-race, imposed in the regulations for winning the previous race, it was ‘damage limitation’ time so Pasin and Michele were very relieved after 70-minutes of tough racing to pick up the points on offer for P7, even if it meant the championship advantage had swung away from them overnight.
For Sunday’s 60-minute Race 2, the #51 car would start from the second row and Michele worked hard to keep the car, still struggling with ABS issues, right in the hunt for the top positions.
In fact Michele was able to position the #51 car perfectly in P2 as the pit window was about to open; managing the gap and keeping steady 9 seconds behind Parente with the McLaren set for an extra 25 second pitstop penalty while Michele and Pasin would have an extra 5 seconds. With the Ferraris of Balfe/Keen and Lopez/Russo running 29- and 39-seconds back, respectively, that perfectly positioned the #51 car on the track to assume the race lead once the pitstops were over and included a cushion to warm the tyres up to racing speed.
However the unexpected deployment of the Safety Car just as the pit window opened immediately bunched the field up and forced everyone rush to adjust their strategies – and it meant the race moved away from the #51 car.
Pasin replaced Michele and came out into the race lead but was under intense pressure from the #15 Ferrari and without sufficient time to get his tyres up to temperature Pasin was forced to concede P1.
When the driver changeovers had been completed and the race settled down for a sprint to the flag the 21-year-old Thai driver was still in P2, but had a gaggle of cars and ‘pro’ drivers tucked in right behind him as he got up to speed. It left Pasin needing to dig really, really deep if he was to defend P2 to the finishline. The final stint seemed to go on forever as the Thai youngster certainly put in one of the best performances of his racing career.
None of the highly experienced chasing drivers were able to find a way past the Thai who grittily held onto his position, making the #51 Ferrari as wide as possible, determined to prove that he is now a forced to be reckoned with, and all despite the braking issues he had to manage to the checkered flag.
Finishing runner up in the final race of the double-header weekend, as well the resulting trip to the podium was much more than Pasin and Michele had expected beforehand. In the first two rounds of International GT Open this year, Pasin has really raised his game and come of age as a racing driver.
Going into the weekend in Portugal Pasin and Michele had been tied with Alvaro and Parente at the top of the championship classification, and despite a very challenging weekend Pasin and Michele have actually opened up a single point advantage in the standings with 2 rounds completed. However there are still 5 more rounds remaining so it’s very early days yet.
There is a gap of a little under a month before International GT Open reconvenes for Round 3 at Silverstone Circuit. That’s a track Pasin has already raced on, in the British GT Championship last year, so he will have some knowledge advantage to build on. It will also be something of a second ‘home’ race for Pasin as he’s transferred his university studies from Bangkok to London to allow him to take his racing career into Europe.
Pasin Lathouras: “It was a good weekend really as we left Portugal still on top of the standings. But throughout the weekend we had difficulties with the ABS system in the car and we didn’t have any spare ABS ECUs at the track so they were very tough races, which made a tough track even tougher. But great work for the team, they tried hard to find solutions for the problem, working late into the night, so finishing on the podium was a good result for us.”