Pasin claimed his biggest career victory so far at the weekend as he sensationally won the 67th 24 Hours of Spa, one of the world’s most prestigious endurance races, at his first attempt. It was a dramatic win as the 21-year-old Thai driver and his three teammates in the #47 AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3 took everything that the race threw at them in their stride, dealt with the terrible weather conditions and emerged at the checkered flag as the clear winners of the Pro-Am Cup.
Taming Spa-Francorchamps is one of motorsport’s biggest challenges and Pasin, along with teammates Gianmaria Bruni, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Stéphane Lémeret did just that. Fighting straight back after a difficult qualifying session left them starting well down the grid in P22 they never stopped working over the whole race and coupled to ultra-slick pitwork and excellent strategy from the AF Corse team plus a racecar that ran on the pace for 24 hours, a stunning victory unfolded.
When Pasin gunned the #47 Ferrari across the finishline on Sunday afternoon in Belgium it was much more than just a Pro-Am victory with a comfortable two laps in hand over their closest rivals, as they also finished an impressive fourth overall, the NaRaYa and Tourism Authority of Thailand supported car mixed right in amongst top professional teams with all-pro driver lineups and full factory support.
Spa-Francorchamps has a legendary reputation for inflicting terrible weather conditions on the 24-hour race and this year was to be no different. The rain started coming down as the bumper 57-strong field of GT3 cars lined up on the long grid on Saturday afternoon and it continued to rain as the lights went green for the rolling start. Regarded as one of the fastest and most challenging circuits in the world, with a streaming wet track it wasn’t long before the Safety Car arrived – and it kept being deployed over the opening hours.
The constant Safety Car periods and the fact that the length of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, at 7.004 km, means there are two Safety Cars used, added up to a lot of confusion and it was often sheer luck where the cars ended up. Such were the awful conditions that the Safety Car was deployed at times simply because visibility was too bad to continue at full racing speeds.
Running as high as P2 in Pro-Am during the opening hours the #47 Ferrari was thrown down the running order as far the mid P30s as the Safety Car came and went, along with yellow flags and ‘Virtual Safety Car’ periods, but crucially Pasin and his teammates didn’t drop a lap on the race leaders at any point and by the six-hour mark as the race started to settle down they had clawed their way into the top-ten overall.
Night came and there was a new test for the quartet of drivers in the #47 car – fog, which rolled over Spa-Francorchamps, drifting in patches across the darkened circuit.
For Pasin this all added up to a huge challenge, not just to race for 24 hours at Spa-Francorchamps but also to cope and adapt to the extreme conditions that the circuit had thrown at them ever since the lights went green. As the night ticked away it was one that thus far the 21-year-old was coping well with.
In the darkness the #47 car kept pushing and pushing and by the end of the seventh hour, as midnight approached, Pasin and his teammates had forced their way into the lead of Pro-Am. It was a lead they wouldn’t relinquish again, apart from during scheduled pitstops.
As daylight started to flood over the hilltops of the Ardennes Forrest on Sunday morning mist and clouds hung over the track, visibility was still poor. But as the morning wore on the circuit dried out and it turned into a very pleasant day, which remained the situation all the way to the checkered flag as forecasted late race rain failed materialise.
Throughout the morning and afternoon as the hours gradually ticked away Pasin and his teammates continued to push, all four drivers posting race pace laps that allowed them to continue to build up a cushion at the front while managing the condition of the car, their rivals dropping away one by one.
It eventually fell to Pasin to bring the #47 car across the finishline for a quite sensational win, one of the most important and dramatic by a Thai driver in recent years. For the youngster it was the biggest result of his career so far, a hugely impressive performance where his laptimes and consistent pace demonstrated he can clearly mix it with the best drivers in the business.
Pasin Lathouras: “I hardly know what to say, it’s not really sunk in yet, but to go out onto the winners podium at the end of the Spa 24 is a really, really special moment, I think every racing driver dreams of moments like this. Also to win again so soon after winning at the Red Bull Ring in GT Open is very satisfying. The race was chaotic at the start and with so many Safety Car periods and two Safety Cars being used it was quite hard to know what was going on. The rain, fog and mist was tough, Spa is really something else, but we battled through all that and when the race settled down we just had to keep pushing at the race pace, make no mistakes and control our advantage, which in the end we did. The team was superb, they made the right calls and had the right strategy and my teammates all drove so hard and in the end we delivered the win. To win after that race and to win the Spa 24 is just fantastic, I couldn’t be happier now.”