Coming into the third round of the 2015 TCR Asia Series at Buriram United International Circuit in Thailand, the series regulars were faced with a number of new faces, drivers with good local knowledge, but without the significant laps in a TCR touring car.
TCR series Thailand, Buriram 23 -25 October 2015Two days on, that local knowledge has helped propel Thai drivers Munkong ‘Turbo’ Sathienthirakul and Tin Sritrai to the top of the timesheets after qualifying, Sathienthirakul particularly impressive having made the second stanza of qualifying amongst the top 12 international drivers.
“We are really happy with the result, but honestly I was thinking I could make eighth or ninth [outright] so that I’d be at the front for the second reverse grid race, but it wasn’t to be,” he laughed. “Even so, the result is good, but I know I still have room to improve and the car too wasn’t without a couple of challenges having developed more understeer and a slight misfire during qualifying, so I’m sure we can mix it with the guys inside the top ten during the races and maintain our position at the front of TCR Asia.”
Whilst the Craft-Bamboo driver was happy but reflective, new Asia Racing Team [ART] recruit Tin Sritrai was also all smiles, but again the underlying message was that there was room to improve..
“The car is better, and of course I’m better than I was yesterday,” he admitted. “Being my first time with the turbo-charged front-wheel drive car being so different to what I’m used to, I took a bit of time to get up to speed. Unfortunately on my first qualifying lap I locked a brake and lost that lap, so I had to pit and change tyres which cost me more valuable track time.”
For Sritrai’s ART team-mate Kevin Pu, the challenges were even greater, the European Le Mans Series regular only arriving at the circuit for the first time on Saturday morning immediately ahead of opening practice.
TCRAsia_Buriram_test_Turbo-2_231015_BL_med“The car handles quite well, especially mid-corner speed, and the lap time is actually faster than I was expecting,” he said. “I’m not happy with my performance today. Practice was good, but I wasn’t able to improve in qualifying, I am perhaps using too much of my front tyres, especially coming from a rear-wheel drive prototype with high downforce to a front-wheel drive touring car – it’s something I just need more time with.”
Another driver looking for time was British Touring Car star Robb Holland, the American driver subbing for FRD team-boss Kenneth Ma, and despite some impressive laps during Friday’s two-hour testing session, the Ford Focus pilot didn’t enjoy the best of luck on Saturday.
“Today was a bit tough, it wasn’t what we were hoping for. The car was really good yesterday – we turned probably more laps than it’s ever done in its life. We came in today hoping for a good result, but we had a broken driveshaft in free practice one, so we got one lap in, then a broken alternator in practice two, so we got no laps in.. The boys fixed the alternator for qualifying, but the ECU didn’t like the voltage or something, so we got a lot less horsepower than we expected, and were probably down 10kph on the straights. We got a time, but no improvement on yesterday despite new tyres.”
Roadstar Racing’s Felipe de Souza too was in the wars, as he was sadly unable to convert promising practice speed into a strong qualifying position, the Macanese driver ultimately losing all his qualifying laps after an off early in the session, assistance from officials ruled as external help, so he will be forced to start rear of field in the opening race.
“Practice one and two went very well,” he explained. “The team spent a lot of time on the setup of the car and I felt very comfortable, but in qualifying I made a big mistake. I feel very sorry for the team because they gave me a car I thought would be good enough for top three, but I didn’t get the tyres up to temperature enough for my hot lap and I locked up into turn two and destroyed the tyres, totally my mistake.”
For series points leader Michael Choi and his Prince Racing Honda Civic TCR team-mate Kennetha Lau there were no such problems, the two Hong Kong drivers turning solid laps in qualifying, with Choi getting the best of the duo to claim the third fastest time.
“The car was okay in qualifying, but the track seemed to be a little slower, so I wasn’t able to improve on my practice time, but I’m still happy with the result,” Choi admitted. “The aim is to stay safe, finish both races and look to make the podium so that I can consolidate my championship lead.
For team-mate Kenneth Lau, he wasn’t quite as happy, feeling he had lost a little of his practice momentum during the 20-minute session.
“Qualifying didn’t go as well as I would have liked, but I was happy with my pace after free practice two, so I’m hoping I can regain that form during the two races tomorrow.”
Ben Potter
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