It’s finally here. The most anticipated annual motorsport event in Thailand kicked off on Tuesday at 0900 when the lights at the end of the pitlane flicker from red to green and waiting cars growl out onto the track for the first free practice session of what’s set to be an intensive opening day.

In fact for the for the first time the Bangsaen Thailand Speed Festival is gong live on the Tuesday thus making it a non stop six day event. But that’s just one of many changes that are in store this year and probably the biggest is the arrival of FIA Grade 3 homologation that will set the event well on its way to a new international era.

But it’s the drivers and racecars that will battle it out for supremacy on track and it looks to be very evenly matched across the classes with titles and well as the individual of glory winning in Bangsaen being at stake.

In Super Car the three classes will be in action with Class 1-GT3 joining Class 3-GTC on the grid. In the top class Khun Tomáš Enge will be back to try to repeat his double win of last year while a further highlight will be the appearance of hotshots Khun Jack Lemvard and Khun Narasak Ittritpong in a pair of Lamborghini Gallardo Extenso R-EX machines.

In Class 2-GTC there’s a mouthwatering title showdown in store between Khun Craig Corliss (Holden) and Khun Kantasak Kusiri (Ferrari) while Hong Kong driver Khun Darryl O’Young is returning in a Porsche to try to recreate his sensation double debut victory of last year.

That really lays out the story across the programme with all the classes set for close and exciting racing. Super 2000, Super Pickup, Super 1500, Super Production and Super Eco are all getting ready to dazzle over the coming days as well as guest series on the programme, the Renault Clio Cup and Touring Car Series in Asia, as well as the action packed 6 Hour Endurance Race.

class 1 gt3Preview: Super Car Class 1-GT3
In the top class Khun Tomáš Enge will be back to defend his sensational double win of last year. Wrestling the big Camaro GT3 round the tight and twisty streets he delivered a master class in racecraft and he’s looks all set to do it again this year.

The Czech driver is now synonymous in Thailand with the brutal American sportscar and he will clamber in the striking black machine once again with the full intention of doubling his two wins from last year to four by the time the engines fall silent late on Sunday afternoon.

“It’s always great to come back to TSS,” said Khun Tomáš. “Bangsaen is a challenging track, it has a nice atmosphere and is a nice place as the location sits on the coast and really looking forward to the event and looking forward to driving the Camaro again on this tight track and thanks to Reiter Vattana Motorsport for letting me come and defend my wins.”

If anyone is going to stop him it’s going to have to be one of his teammates in the Vattana garage and there will be a new name in Class 1-GT3, Khun Narasak Ittritpong who will substitute in the #28 Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 R-EX ‘Extenso’.

class 2 gtmPreview: Super Car Class 2-GTM
At least on paper, its promising to be one of the most enthralling weekends in Super Car history as there are likely to be two showdowns, both at the front, one for the pride of taking home a Bangsaen winners’ trophy, one of the most coveted prizes in Thai motorsport, and the other for the destiny of the overall championship title, which is still wide open with two drivers running neck to neck.

Into that explosive cocktail comes a brand new variable as for the first time ever there will be a ‘triple header’ format in Super Car with Class 2-GTM races scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday – and that’s going to provide an extra challenge that all the drivers and teams will have to respond to.

For a second straight year the destiny of the championship is on a knife-edge. Last year Khun Voravud Bhirombhakdi (Ferrari) and Khun Nattavude Charoensukhawatana (Toyota) arrived in the resort separated by just a single point. This year the actors names have changed and Khun Voravud’s teammate Khun Kantasak Kusiri is just two points adrift of the big green Holden Commodore of Khun Craig Corliss. Once again it’s going down to the wire in a graphic demonstration that the regulations in Super Car really are working to equalise the action.

class 3 gtcPreview: Super Car Class 3-GTC
Grant Supaphong should be able to cruise to the title in Bangsaen. He has a 19-point cushion over his teammate Khun Daychapon Toyingcharoen with a maximum of 40-points on offer from the weekend. That means he needs just one more win to be sure. He comes into the event with thee straight wins and in fact four wins from six races this year. It looks like his biggest issue, the reliability of the Mitsubishi Evo X has been cured and he’s the clear favourite to claim the second Class 3-GTC championship title succeeding Khun Akihiro Asai who has moved up to Class 2-GTM this year.

Any slip up and the title could go to Khun Daychapon, but more realistically the runners up spot is a straight fight between the Nissan Skyline R32 driver and Khun Pete Thongchua’s Mazda RX-8 – there’s just 3 points between them with all to play for. Hovering seven points back from Khun Pete is Khun Sontaya Kunplome and eight back is Khun Naputt Assakul so nether are out of the fight for the runners up spot, 11 points cover second to fifth so it’s going to be pretty hectic around the streets of Bangsaen this weekend.

super 2000Preview: Super 2000
Seemingly the combination of Jack Lemvard and Vattana Motorsport’s potent BMW E90 was well on the way to the title after the first four races of the year in Buriram. However at the last round Khun Jack picked up only 10-points all weekend, a fourth place in the first race being followed by a DNF as he suffered a wheel bearing failure. His closest rival going into that weekend, Khun Munkong Sathienthirakul, was unable to capitalise on his rival’s misfortune though and suffered a zero overall points score and that meant Khun Pasarit Phromsombat was the big winner as a second and third place allowed him to chop 17-points out of the Vattana driver’s cushion at the top, which now stands at 80-points, and that means the gap is down to just 10-points with one round just the two races in Bangsaen this coming weekend remaining.

With a maximum score of 40-points being on offer from Saturday and Sunday’s races Khun Pasarit has reopened the title race. However Khun Jack will finally get rid of some of the ‘success’ weight he’s built up and that’s going to give him an early advantage while Khun Pasarit, who has very consistently scored points in every race this year, will have more to weight to carry thanks to his results in Bira.

The title fight is effectively between those two drivers but there was a new name in the frame at Bira Circuit as Khun Kantadhee Kusiri finally had the car to unlock his natural speed and he won both races to jump up the unofficial classification into third place; he has 56-points and so is mathematically still in the title race.

Preview: Super 1500
The battle for the Drivers’ title between Khun Nuttapong Lertlumprasertkul and Khun Kajornsak Na Songkhla is likely to go right down to the checkered flag of the final race. The advantage has swung all year and going into Bangsaen the former has a 5 point advantage, far too close for comfort, it’s 90 points vs 85 points. Expect these two, who have won all six races this year between them, four to Khun Nuttapong and two to Khun Kajornsak, to be out front as usual.

But there is also the glory of winning in Bangsaen and that’s going to bring more people into the winning mix, look out for Khun Nuttapong’s brother, Khun Komkrit, to be targeting ending the Super 1500 year with a victory – and also taking away vital championship points from Khun Kajornsak. In Class C Khun Teerasak Sakphaet has already won the title but he’s certainly going to want to add to his four wins from the six races so far and wrap up a crushingly dominant year on a high note.

super productionPreview: Super Production
The momentum is with Khun Yotsarun Sansuk as he has three wins and a second place from the last four races and – despite missing the opening rounds of the year – that’s pulled him to the top of the championship classification. If he can continue that pace then he has to be a very strong contender to convert his classification lead into putting both hands on the championship trophy.

But Khun Yotsarun’s advantage is only 8 points and in Bangsaen that means very little. While the championship leader has 75 points, Khun Chatrapol Jiemvijid is on 67 points and Khun Settasit Booykiat is on 62 points. Both are highly experienced and know how to dig in and extract points out of Bangsaen so are a long way from giving up pretensions for the crown. It’s going to be an explosive weekend in Bangsaen at the front of Super Production.

super ecoPreview: Super Eco
In Super Eco the title fight is still wide open and is going to be a showdown between Khun Konpichit Toyingcharoen, Khun Jakraphan Davee who is just 5 points adrift and Khun Suphong Khamtonwong who is a further 5 points back. The current points leader has enjoyed a very consistent year with a win and points in every race and that’s kept him at or close to the top of the classification all year.

Khun Jakraphan also has a win and has been on the podium in five of the season’s six races so far, but he had a costly DNF at the season opener that he’s been recovering from that ever since. However Khun Jakraphan, a former Thai finalist in Nissan’s GT Academy ‘racing game’ initiative, certainly has the best momentum as the Super Eco drivers’ arrive in Bangsaen
 
Khun Suphong seized control of the championship over the first four races of the year with three wins but he missed the last round at Bira and that allowed Khun Konpichit and Khun Jakraphan to both overhaul him. However he’s only 10 points adrift and if he can quickly recapture his early year form and bang in two more wins then that would be enough to hand him the title and that all means Khun Konpichit is really going to have to dig in if he’s to defend his slender title advantage to the end.

In the Teams’ championship Krating Daeng Racing Team has 98 points, a decent cushion over Alphafactory Racing Team by Pulzar (66 points) and it’s an advantage that the team should be able to hold onto as it targets wrapping up three teams championship titles in Bangsaen, namely Super Car Class 3-GTC, Super Pickup Class C and Super Eco.

Ben Potter

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