International GT Open’s two-month ‘summer break’ is finally over and the second half of the season will get underway this weekend as the pan-European sportscar series heads for Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps Circuit for the fifth of the seven ‘double header’ rounds that make up this year’s calendar.
Pasin Lathouras will be right back in the thick of the action as he chases the championship title with just three events now remaining; they will take place at Spa-Francorchamps, this weekend, and then Monza and Barcelona next month.
The 21-year-old Thai driver and his Italian teammate Michele Rugolo in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3 are well positioned in the overall championship standings, they have collected 107 points so far and that positions them just 5 points off the top of the classification.
It’s really been an excellent year so far for Pasin as he steps up to contest a major international sportscar championship for the first time and he has netted two wins and five podiums from the eight races to be held so far.
The championship battle has been ultra-tight all year and the top spot has moved around at almost every race with Pasin and Michele taking their turn to lead the standings. But it’s now looking like it’s going to be a three way fight between the Thai and Italian pairing, the McLaren of Parente and Ramos and the sister AF Corse Ferrari which is crewed by Perez Companc and Gianmaria.
This weekend will actually mark a quick return to Spa-Francorchamps for Pasin – and it’s one he’s sure to enjoy.
For the Thai youngster there hasn’t been very much of a ‘summer break’ from International GT Open as during that gap in the calendar he contested the legendary 24 Hours of Spa resulting in a stunning victory in the Pro-Am class.
That was Pasin’s biggest career win to date and one of the most important by a Thai driver in recent years – it also sets him up perfectly for this weekend.
Spa-Francorchamps is one of the world’s most famous and demanding circuits, and is tough on both driver and car. The 7.004-km, 20-turn track has however been kind to Pasin so far. He impressively won his first ever race here; that, in fact, was a round of International GT Open 2014, the first of a brief programme of two events in the series he undertook last year in the series. Pasin says he enjoys the demanding high-speed tracks most of all and so it was no surprise that he instantly loved Spa-Francorchamps.
Then came the 24 Hours of Spa win this July. That race was regarded as one of the toughest on record as rain, wind and fog battered the field and resulted in no less than ten Safety Car periods during the race. This weekend should be a little less demanding though as the two races will be 70- and 60-minutes respectively.
However, Spa-Francorchamps usually has a sting in the tail and so expect changeable early autumn weather that’s so typical of the Ardennes region, to make an appearance at some point.
More front running cars and pro-level drivers are scheduled to join International GT Open this weekend and that’s going to make matters more complicated – however the target for Pasin and Michele this weekend is quite simple, to collect as many championship points as possible from the two races.
Pasin Lathouras: “It’s going to feel like I haven’t been away and for sure I’m looking forward to being back! The Spa 24 Hours was a fantastic result but I have to put that race behind me now and get focused on this weekend, winning GT Open is my main target of the season and Michele and I are well placed in the standings. We need to get points this weekend and that’s our aim, to grab as many as possible, preferably more than any of our rivals, as we are going into the closing races of the year and for sure it’s going to get tighter and tighter.”
The on track action starts tomorrow (Friday 4 September) with two Free Practice sessions before the weekend kicks off on Saturday morning (5 September) with the two 30-minute official Qualifying sessions for Race 1 and Race 2. They are scheduled for 0900-1000 (all times local, CET) and 1140-1210 respectively. Race 1 takes place the same afternoon, going to green lights at 1600 for a 70-minute race. Race 2 will take place the day after (Sunday 6 September) at 1400 and is scheduled for 60 minutes. Under the series regulations, Pasin and Michele qualify the car in one session each while they will also start one race each. Both races will be streamed live at www.gtopen.net