After the two opening races of the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup season didn’t translate plenty of promise into hard results it finally came absolutely right for Pasin Lathouras and his teammates in the #50 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 during Saturday night’s Paul Ricard 1000 km as the trio fought their way to a superb second place finish.
For the 22-year-old Thai this is his debut season in Blancpain GT Endurance Cup and it represents a big step up in his career as he has joined Italian’s Michele Rugolo and Alessandro Pier Guidi in the new Ferrari 488 GT3. A new car and a new series but the opening two races, at Monza and Silverstone, were tough as the results didn’t come due to issues outside their control.
But then came the prestigious Paul Ricard 1000 km last Saturday, which started at 1800 local time and ran for 6-hours into the deep of the night – the race finishing at midnight.
It turned out to be a superb weekend as the #50 car qualified on pole position. Pasin took up duties during the Q1 session, Michele was in for the Q2 session while Alessandro sealed the job with a blistering laptime in the Q3 session that planted the yellow Ferrari right onto pole position.
Pasin was in the car from pole for the first stint – the first time that he had started from P1 in Blancpain GT, the most competitive sportscar championship reserved for GT3 cars in the world. Behind him on the grid he would have no less than 56 other GT3 cars with some of the best professional drivers in the world in their cockpits – it was a daunting task for the youngster but one he was clearly relishing. This year is all about development and there could be no better way to learn than to start from pole position in a world-class field and all the pressure it entailed.
The young Thai (who would in fact start on old tyres as the team optimised its race strategy) led the pack into Turn 1 and through all the usual hustle of an opening lap when you have the best in the world fighting it out together for track position. From then on a 6-hour race into the night unfolded that saw Pasin, Michele and Alessandro battling towards the podium from start to finish. The team kept Pasin in the car at the first pitstop to run a double stint; so he undertook the first one-third distance (two hours) before handing over to Michele. Alessandro completed the race to bring the car to the checkered flag in a stunning second place and in fact he was just 3.3 seconds off the winning car.
It was a dramatic climax to the weekend and a superb result for Pasin in his first season in Blancpain GT. Now attention turns to the fourth round next month, the headlining 24 Hours of Spa. Last year Pasin won the PRO-AM class in the race, this year he will be competing in the PRO class and targeting another big result.
Pasin Lathouras: “It’s been a great experience this weekend and to get a this result is a big confidence booster for everyone. At the start I felt a lot of pressure from the two Bentleys, especially when we were four cars wide on the straight it was a bit too tight for comfort. My goal was to keep a steady pace, because it’s a long race and we had to be consistent. It became a bit slow during the long full course yellow but we did some good pitstops and by the time I got out of the car we were still in a good position. Michele did a super drive fighting up the positions very quickly and then Alessandro did super consistent driving always in 58-59s even in traffic. The team prepared a great car and the stops were fast so a big thanks to all their efforts. It’s great to get this result and we can go forward now and start looking towards the Spa 24.”