Pasin Lathouras is all set for the biggest challenge of his racing career so far as he undertakes final preparations for his first season in Blancpain GT Endurance Cup, one of the world’s leading sportscar championships.
The five round series kicks off this weekend (23-24 April) at Autodromo Monza, the longtime home of the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix. The 22-year-old Thai will line up for AF Corse, sharing the brand new #54 Ferrari 488 GT3 with two experienced Italian drivers, Michele Rugolo and Alessandro Pier Guidi.
It’s going to be the toughest call of his career so far as he goes up against some of the leading factory-supported teams and professional drivers in sportscar racing over some of Europe’s most renown racetracks. Blancpain GT Endurance Cup, which is promoted by SRO and exclusively reserved for FIA GT3 cars, always features packed grids and this year is set to be no different with a staggering fifty-seven cars from eleven brands on the entry list and with no less than seven of those coming from the new 488 GT3.
Not only all that but he also has to get to grips with the new Ferrari 488 GT3 which is a totally different animal to the Ferrari 458 ‘derivatives’ he has raced so far in his career. The brand new 488 GT3 only made its racing debut a few weeks ago so it’s also going to something of a development year for the latest Ferrari sportscar, which features a completely new engine, a 3.9-litre V8 twin turbo, and that will entail a new driving approach.
But the time is right for Pasin to take the next step towards his ultimate goal of racing at Le Mans and develop his career by mixing it up with the best drivers in the world of sportscar racing.
This will be the young Thai’s fifth year in sportscar racing. He spent his formative years competing in junior single-seater formulae before his sportscar racing career kicked off in the Ferrari Challenge Asia Pacific, where he became Vice Champion during his rookie year (2012) and Champion the next season (2013). From there he switched to Europe, stepping up to ‘GT3’ level racing, contesting the British GT Championship in 2014. Last year Pasin moved up to International GT Open and secured the Vice Champion’s position after being in the title hunt from the first to the last race. At the same time he’s also contested several major endurance races, including the Daytona 24 Hours and Sepang 12 Hours, but it was in the 24 Hours of Spa last year where he claimed his biggest career victory to date, sensationally winning the Pro-Am Cup.
While this weekend is certainly going to represent another steep learning curve, Pasin will arrive with an excellent record at the famous 5.793-km/11-turn Monza Circuit, known in motor racing as the ‘Temple of Speed’. His first appearance came in 2013 in a one off outing in Superstars GT Series where he finished on the podium; it was also his first ever time out in a GT3 car. His next visit came in 2014 when he took in the Italian track as part of a late season two-round mini programme in International GT Open and a visit to the podium beckoned again. His third trip came last year, again in International GT open, and again the podium beckoned.
It means Pasin has visited the iconic podium, which famously juts out over the main straight, every time he’s raced at Monza and while that’s unlikely to be the case again this weekend the young Thai and his teammates will be pushing as hard as they can to secure a strong finish and kick the year off in the points.
Helping his build up Pasin has squeezed in three short pre-season tests to get his acclimatisation to the 488 GT3 underway and these have gone hand in hand with overall development programme of the new car, namely a one-day and a two-day test at Rome’s Autodromo Vallelunga Piero Taruffi as well as a one-day run out at Monza.
While car and championship will both be new territory for the young Thai, this will in fact be Pasin’s fourth season with AF Corse while he’s also familiar with his two teammates as the Italian team paired him with Michele in International GT Open last year and during the 24 Hours of Spa Alessandro was one of the other drivers.
The opening round of Blancpain GT Endurance Cup 2016 takes place at Monza and will kick off on track this coming Saturday (23 April) with a 90 minute Free Practice Session (1100-1230), all times are local (CET), before the Pre Qualifying Session concludes the afternoon’s track action (1625-1755). The following day (Sun 24 April) sees the 1-hour Qualifying Session (0900-1000) take place in the morning before the 3-hour race gets the season underway from 1500-1800.
Pasin Lathouras: “Needless to say I’m pretty excited for this season, it’s a big, big step forward for me but there is nowhere better to be than Blancpain and it’s great news that the programme came together so I want to thank all the people who have supported me through my career and helped me get to this stage. I’m particularly relishing driving the 488; my first impressions from the tests are good, it didn’t take too long to get to grips with car, it’s very easy to drive, and everything about the car has been improved, such as the aero, ergonomics and traction. My feeling is the car will be very competitive this season. I really like Monza, it’s a fantastic circuit for the driver and so I hope we can have a good debut this weekend and bring the car home in a strong position.”
2016 Blancpain GT Endurance Cup Calendar:
Rd1 23-24 April Monza, Italy
Rd2 14-15 May Silverstone, UK
Rd3 24-25 June Paul Ricard, France
Rd4 28-31 July Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
Rd5 17-18 September Nürburgring, Germany