After running at the front of last weekend’s 53rd Rolex 24 at Daytona (’24 Hours of Daytona’) early on before hitting mechanical problems, Pasin Lathouras and his three teammates turned in a stunning comeback drive over the last 20 hours of the world famous endurance race to battle all the way from the back, where they had languished 14 laps down, to finish in a highly impressive fourth place.
It was in fact Pasin’s second fight up the running order. The Thai, along with teammates Matt Griffin, Michele Rugolo and Rui Aguas, had started from P13 on the grid in the #49 Ferrari and by the end of the fourth hour they had impressively worked their way through the field to take the lead in GT-D. However those mechanical issues sent them spiraling to the back.
At the green lights the 53-strong field had surged cleanly away. By the end of the first hour the #49 Ferrari, which was being supported by NaRaYa, Enigma and Tourism Authority of Thailand, was up to P6 and that became P5 an hour later. Committed driving by everyone helped to haul the car in amongst the front-runners and then into the GT-D overall lead as the race went into the fourth hour. That was a highly impressive display and the Thai youngster was leading the race on his first visit to this iconic 5.73-km, 12-turn course.
That sensational pace abruptly evaporated as the car suffered engine and transmission problems simultaneously. Pasin, who was in the cockpit at the time, reported he was having trouble maintaining revs and a gear-shifting issue compounded that. The team quickly called him in and unable to resolve the issues in the pitlane the #49 was taken ‘behind the wall’.
The Ferrari spent 16 minutes in the garage. Eventually fixed, the young Thai gunned the car back into the race 14 laps down in P16, right at the back of the GT-D field. It was a crushing blow, the chance to win of the of the world’s greatest races had completely evaporated at just one-fifth distance, indeed so had the chance of a podium.
Many, if not most, teams would have given up or just stroked the car home. But an Italian, an Irishman, a Portuguese and a 21-year-old Thai refused to be bowed or give up on the Daytona dream and for the final 5/6ths of the race, the quartet battled tenaciously over every inch of every lap, digging deeper and deeper while consistently posting the fastest lap times.
It was tough and unrewarding work, especially as down at the tail end of the pack where cars often have multiple laps between them. By the end of the eighth hour the #49 car had grabbed a place back, to run P15, and by the end of the tenth hour they were into P13. The scale of the task though was still daunting, especially as they would have to continue to push the car to the very limits for the remainder of the race.
By half distance – 12 hours – Pasin, Matt, Michele and Rui had completed 341 laps, and were now in P9. But they were still a massive 10 laps behind the class leaders. And still they fought on. By the end of the sixteenth hour, the race’s three-quarters distance, just as the morning sun rose up over a chilly Daytona, they picked up another position, moving into P8. By mid morning, at hour 20, fourth-fifths distance, they had completed 576 laps and were up to P6.
Over the final four hours of the race Pasin and his teammates kept pushing and when the checkered flag was waved they were in a quite sensational P4. That was an amazing result and certainly the jubilation in the #49 pit matched that of the winners. Tired and weary, they had a fantastic reward. The scale of that comeback can be put into the context as they completed 701 laps, just 3 laps less than the winning car. They set the fastest lap of the race and were the only car to dip below the 1:47s all race.
For Pasin it was a highly satisfying end to his first time at Daytona. Despite being metaphorically battered, bloodied and bruised, he hadn’t given an inch and responded to the adversity perfectly to nail a terrific ‘rookie’ year result. “Matt made a good start, making up a lot of places. We got up to first for a while then had we had mechanical problems which made me lose around 5 seconds a lap, the engine wouldn’t rev smoothly and also the gears wouldn’t change. We spent a lot of time in the pit fixing it. The rest of the race was a catch up game and we continued to fight our way up to challenge for third place, but we were low on fuel and there was also a Safety Car in last minutes of the race, which secured our fourth position. It was an amazing race with many amazing fans. The team did a very good job for every pitstop and all the drivers were amazing as well.”