When the new Thailand Super Series (TSS) season kicked off in Buriram, positioned somewhere in the ‘middle’ order of the programme, two categories – Super 2000 and Super Pickup – did their usual job, playing to their strengths and popularity, to stand right out. Both have become synonymous with close racing from talented and very equal drivers in equally similar machines and that story looks like it’s going to continue in 2016.
‘Touring car’ racing has always been strong in Thailand, a core and highly popular component on the scene with bumper grids and exciting cars. The arrival of TCR Thailand has split the 2.0-litre ‘tin top’ scene into two and clearly there is plenty room for both to prosper. Super 2000 however has to find new feet, reposition itself slightly and to provide a platform into the exciting new ‘TCR’ concept. That way both will grow in strength and complement each other – and that ‘stronger together’ scenario started to play out in Buriram.
As one would expect from Super 2000 there were two different winners from the two races and in fact the two winners – Khun Kittipol Pramoj Na Ayudhya and Khun Chayut Yangpichit – were locked together in both races and with a first and a second place each to their names they emerged from the season opener on equal points. It really looks like it’s going to be that sort of year.
Meanwhile Super Pickup is going through a renaissance and while Khun Tanawat Suwannarat emerged with a double win he had to fight for the points and it doesn’t look like he’s going to have it all his own way this year. The strength in depth of the truck category in Buriram hasn’t been seen for many years and talk of a new golden age seems very well founded.
Full Super 2000 and Super Pickup race reports from Buriram follow.
Super 2000 Race 1 (Saturday)
As the Super 2000 grid bathed in the sunshine of a Saturday afternoon in Buriram, on pole was hotshot driver Khun Kittipol Pramoj Na Ayudhya. During qualifying he’d planted the #25 Singha Motorsport Team Thailand Honda Civic FD at the top of the timesheets early on and had stayed there as the 30-minute session ticked away. No one got close to him and the double Super 2000 winner in Bangsaen last November looked determined to continue his winning run.
Alongside Khun Kittipol on the front row lined up Khun Chayut Yangpichit while right behind them was Toyota factory driver Khun Manat Kulapalanont, who is back in Super 2000 after a year away in Super Car GTM, and the Honda City of Khun Phatwit Phayakcso. Khun Thanavud Bhirombhakdi led out the third row but there was a vacant space alongside him on the grid, that was vacated by Khun Thanakorn Buttawong in the first of the two factory run Toyota Altis entries who would make a late race start. Khun Thanakorn has been promoted to this seat as a prize for winning the Toyota Altis One Make Race championship last year.
The fourth row meanwhile was the preserve of Khun Pure Hongsapan, in the other factory Altis, and Khun Ekprawat Petcharak in the unique Civic FB who was starting his second season in Super 2000. Right at the back were two top runners – Khun Rudolf Yu and Khun Munkong Sathienthirakul – and they would be expected to move up the order fast. The former had qualified in seventh place the previous day but was moved to the back of the grid as he required overnight repairs to his Civic’s gearbox while the latter would have started on the second row but he also had technical issues to resolve.
At the green lights Khun Kittipol led them away perfectly and Khun Chayut quickly tucked in behind but already Khun Manat was in trouble, he suffered transmission failure as he pulled off from his starting slot. He was immediately swallowed up by the pack and his participation in the race was over. Into Turn 1 and Khun Phatwit took full advantage of the slow moving Toyota to move into P3 while a great start by Khun Ekprawat saw him dive down the inside and he went into Turn 1 side by side with Khun Thanavud. Then it was Khun Pure and the yellow Toyota Altezza of Khun David Yupensak side by side.
Khun Kittipol, who was however struggling with an unwieldy car as his power steering had failed on the grid, and Khun Chayut had already pulled out a couple of car lengths as the pack swept round Turn 3, with Khun Ekprawat in fine form and getting the jump on Khun Phatwit to move into third place as they powered back up the hill for the first time. Khun David though ran wide at the hairpin and lost places. As the cars swept through the middle esses Khun Chayut was piling the pressure on Khun Kittipol with Khun Ekprawat in plenty of space in third as Khun Phatwit had fallen back into the clutches of Khun Thanavud. Then it was Khun Munkong, who was making a blistering pace up from the back of the grid, Khun Pure and Khun Rudolf, who was busy clawing back lost ground. At the end of the first lap Khun Manat trundled into the pits and retired.
Into the second lap and Khun Munkong pulled himself right into the middle of the battle for P4 as he passed Khun Thanavud on the run downhill to the hairpin, but Khun Thanavud held onto the racing line grabbed the place back within a few turns and now Khun Rudolf was locking on the back of this trio.
As the pack came down to the main straight Khun Thanavud tried to outdrag Khun Phatwit to Turn 1 but the City driver kept the lead and instead Khun Munkong saw an open door and moved back up to fourth again, this time he would keep his momentum going and he did the job on Khun Phatwit down to the hairpin with Khun Rudolf also seeing the gaps and diving inside Khun Thanavud and into sixth place. Neither however lasted long as being off the racing line Khun Phatwit regained fourth on the long run back up to Turn 4 while Khun Thanavud edged Khun Rudolf out of fifth. It was gripping stuff – and exactly what Super 2000 dishes out year in year out. Four cars nose to tail for fourth place using every inch of the road and in fact kicking up puffs of dust as they strayed off the circuit’s smooth asphalt. Khun Thanavud squeezed past Khun Munkong into the last turn but immediately they switched back places along the main straight.
On the third lap Khun Artit Masathirakul’s Civic FD had an engine problem and stopped on the track while Khun Pure tripped on the oil left behind and had an off track moment. Meanwhile a few hundred metres ahead of that incident, Khun Rudolf once again got back past Khun Thanavud on the run down to the hairpin.
Driving like a superman – and putting all of his off season marathon running to good use – Khun Kittipol was digging really deep, pumping his arms and fending off Khun Chayut, which he did successfully until the Safety Car was deployed so the track workers could remove Khun Artit’s car. As they slowed down to form up behind the Safety Car it was Khun Kittipol from Khun Chayut, Khun Ekprawat, Khun Phatwit, Khun Thanavud, Khun Rudolf, Khun Munkong, who detoured off the track slightly to avoid Khun Artit’s accident and thus lost a couple of places, the Altezza of Khun David and the sole surviving Altis of Khun Thanakorn.
The Safety Car period had given Khun Kittipol some breathing space and he controlled the pack away when the race went back to green flag conditions with Khun Chayut again in second place. However a slow start for Khun Ekprawat had Khun Phatwit, Khun Thanavud and Khun Rudolf tight on his tail as they surged into Turn 1. At Turn 5 Khun Phatwit and Khun Thanavud tripped over each other as the latter got on the brakes too late and the Civic FD clunked the City and that allowed Khun Rudolf and Khun Munkong to get past while Khun Thanavud recovered quicker to jump Khun Phatwit. A little further back and Khun David and Khun Thanakorn traded places.
There would be running order changes that lap as Khun Thanavud had in fact sustained damage the front right corner of his car during that contact with Khun Phatwit at Turn 5 and he came sailing into the pits at the end of the lap to retire while in the fight for P1 Khun Chayut finally found a way past Khun Kittipol, getting on the power round the outside of his rival in the sweep through Turn 10 and clattering over the kerbs as they shot uphill into Turn 11 but holding his nerve and grabbing the racing line for the final corner as Khun Kittipol tripped on a slippery patch and ran wide. There were immediately more changes amongst the leading trio as Khun Ekprawat retired with mechanical problems and that elevated Khun Rudolf into third place.
Khun Kittipol is a real street fighter though and he didn’t give up his ambitions on first place despite his lack of power steering and over the last few laps he hassled the red and white DC 5 in front and almost regained the place, getting his car side by side with the leader at one point and dipping his wheels on the grass at another. The gap at the finishline was just two tenths of a second to Khun Chayut who used all of his great experience to keep P1 covered.
There was some great driving on show by these two experienced touring car stars, good, clean, bumper-to-bumper action that’s the foundation stone of Super 2000. Ever the showman, on the slowing down lap as these two gladiators came round side by side Khun Kittipol reach out and folded in Khun Chayut’s door mirror.
In truth Khun Kittipol would have been pleased to pick up the points for second place and for this driver, who clearly wants to win the title and is the favourite to get the job done, it was a very decent result for a race where he was in ‘damage limitation’ mode. “I drove onto the grid, no problem,” the runner up explained afterwards. “When the 1 minute sign came on, I started the engine and there was no power steering! It [had also] happened in Free Practice but the issue solved itself and we couldn’t find any faults. So I had to race with a very heavy steering!
“I managed to put some space between [Khun Chayut] but then the Safety Car came out,” Khun Kittipol continued. “At the restart, my arms were getting tired, especially around the back half of the circuit. Then I slipped on the spilt oil and went wide, that’s when [Khun Chayut] got up on the inside into last turn. I tried to get him back on the straights but he defended very well. It was a very exciting and fair fight until the end, we left each other just enough room.”
Thirteen seconds back and Khun Rudolf was the winner of the multi-car race-long battle for third place, he was a full seven seconds clear of Khun Phatwit in the end while in fifth place – and thus successfully nabbing pole for the next day’s final race – was Khun David. In sixth came the Altis of Khun Thanakorn, he won Class 2 on his Super 2000 debut, while in seventh place Khun Munkong limped home to grab some vital championship points.
Super Pickup Race 1 (Saturday)
Khun Tanawat Suwannarat lined up on pole position in the #22 Isuzu D-Max after posting a 2:02.208 lap during qualifying that no one was able to get anywhere near. Khun Yuth Jhannet (#98 Chevrolet) was the best of the rest although he was a massive 2.8 seconds away from the top slot. It didn’t bode well for the rest of the pack as the trucks trundled round to form up on the grid.
The second row was led out by Khun Peerawat Pajeeyachart who was aiming to turn the great pace he had shown last year on his way to winning the Class C championship (with three class wins, including one here in Buriram) into overall podium results. Khun Nuthaporn Namjuk in the #46 Donut D.N.A Exedy Isuzu D-Max completed Row 2 while Khun Phisit Netdechathanasit rounded out the top five.
The third row was completed by the faster of the two new Toyota Hilux Revo entries, the #92 of Khun Songsak Kornsirisuepsakun, and all eyes were on these shiny new trucks which were straight out of the box and clearly need some development kilometres. The second Revo, the #98 driven by reigning Super Pickup champion Khun Jaras Jaengkamolkulchai, qualified on the sixth row. Both drivers know how to hustle a truck through a race and their target would be to pick up as many points as possible to keep themselves in the championship hunt before gaining a breathing space to develop their raw machines by the time the racing action resumes here in July.
At the green lights Khun Tanawat made an inch perfect getaway from the standing start to lead the pack into Turn 1 while Khun Yuth neatly slotted into P2. Behind them Khun Nuthaporn made a superb start to get down the inside of Khun Peerawat and into P3. However Khun Peerawat got a good run down the hill to Turn 3 and came in between Khun Nuthaporn and Khun Yuth and the three went side by side back up the hill with Khun Phisit locked onto them and ready to capitalise over who got squeezed offline as they approached Turn 4. By this point Khun Tanawat had already pulled out four of five car lengths at the front while further back Khun Jaras had a big wobble under braking into the hairpin but however kept the Revo together.
Into Turn 5 the multi truck battle for second place went off as they all arrived with too much pace and Khun Peerawat ran very wide while Khun Nuthaporn spun on the inside of the corner after he dived up the inside of Khun Phisit but the Mazda came across and the two made contact, however Khun Nuthaporn quickly corrected the #46 D-Max and everybody safely streamed round him and he kept his classification drop to just a few positions, the damage to his truck being not too extensive.
As the competitors flowed through the middle esses it was Khun Peerawat in second place with Khun Phisit locked onto his tail and then Khun Yuth right behind. That changed a few metres later as Khun Phisit jumped Khun Peerawat while behind that trio Khun Nuthaporn grabbed back a place to move into fifth. Moving up to sixth by this point was Khun Phillip Massoud in the Krating Daeng D-Max, he was superbly picking off places as he working his way up following his grid demotion.
Across the line for the first time Khun Tanawat already had a three second lead as the trucks behind focused on each other. Second was Khun Phisit ahead of Khun Peerawat, and then Khun Nuthaporn jumped Khun Yuth for fourth place down the inside into Turn 1. Khun Yuth seemed to be struggling as he lost fifth place on the run down to the hairpin as Khun Phillip got past and locked onto Khun Nuthaporn. At the end of the first lap the race suffered its first casualty as Khun Wuttichai Solgosoom pitted in the #20 Triton although he would soon rejoin.
One driver on the move was Khun Waris Onyarab in the #93 D-Max, he had started from thirteenth place but was now scything through the lower positions of the top ten and he picked off Chaleampon Phonlookin for P7 in Turn 4 although the #13 D-Max wasn’t happy giving up the place and immediately started looking for a way back. Just ahead Khun Yuth seemed to have found some more pace and was looking to regain the fifth place he had lost to Khun Johnny. Boxed in behind the Australian’s pickup in the final turn, Khun Waris didn’t miss the opportunity to nip past Khun Yuth and the #98 driver who had been trying to get back past Khun Philip had instead lost a place.
Down the hill to Turn 3 Khun Waris got on the power, hit the inside line and got a slingshot past Khun Philip into fifth while the Krating Daeng truck, emerging on the outside, was passed by Khun Yuth on the run back up the hill. However it now looked like Khun Philip had a car issue and he slowed up allowing Khun Chaleampon to also get past. That was three places lost in a few hundred metres and indeed he had a big problem, the turbo had stuck and he couldn’t get on the power leaving him gasping for a full complement of ‘horses’.
As the lap wound on Khun Nuthaporn, sporting some flapping bodywork, faded as he lost fifth gear and thus top end oomph and so he dropped several positions while the also down on power Khun Philip spun in Turn 9 and that cost him a lot of time, losing places to Khun Nuthaporn and Khun Songsak. Khun Phillip quickly re-passed the struggling Khun Nuthaporn who then lost another place to Khun Akasit.
Further forward Khun Waris had closed up on Khun Peerawat and he passed him out of Turn 7 with Khun Yuth also getting ahead Khun Peerawat into the final turn, these two were now third and fourth with Khun Peerwat, who had gearbox problems, being demoted to fifth. That quickly became sixth as Khun Chaleampon powered past on the start-finish straight. Just behind them Khun Phillip pitted for a long stop as his mechanics tried to resolve his turbo boost problems.
The race started to settle down as it approached the hallway point although there was a good scrap going on now between Khun Akasit and Khun Songsak which was resolved when the former also made a short pitstop. On the tenth lap Khun Supakit Dangintawat pulled off with an electrical problem, although he would get his truck going again and circulate to the line.
Khun Supakit’s pickup in fact has been out of use for several years (it was formerly raced by Khun Pravit) and so after Team Donut D.N.A Exedy Racing acquired it there had been a big race against time to get it prepared to Super Pickup regulations and renew parts and so the very short scheduling time meant that the simple target was to try to get the truck to the checkered flag – that push would prove successful, albeit 3 laps down, and Khun Supakit would collect points in Class C. Meanwhile Khun Phillip’s race was going from bad to worse as he pitted for a second time.
The race went relatively quiet over the last couple of laps although on the final tour Khun Chaleampon had a spin at Turn 5 and that demoted him a place. At the checkered flag it was Khun Tanawat with a 16-seond cushion over Khun Phisit who took honours.
Third went to Khun Waris with Khun Yuth next up in fourth, but both trucks would be excluded post-event for an regulation infringement and that meant that more than 20 seconds down the road Khun Songsak, who had driven a very neat and tidy race and kept clear of trouble while it went off all around him, planted the new ‘Revo’ on the overall podium on its debut race, being eventually classified in an excellent third place. Khun Songsak just about fended off Khun Chaleampon, who lost the place after his final lap spin, by just eight tenths of a second although the latter driver still won Class C with an over two second margin in hand over Khun Anulak Kladthong who was next up and wrapped up the top five overall.
Khun Nuthaporn hung on to finish sixth overall, Khun Jaras made it both of the new ‘Revo’ trucks in the top seven, while the top eight was wrapped up Khun Peerawat who suffered transmission problems and thus faded well away from the front running action after being in the hunt early on.
Super 2000 Race 2 (Sunday)
With the top five on the grid being reversed for Sunday’s second race that handed pole position to Khun David and the yellow Altezza duly took up the front spot with Khun Phatwit lining up alongside him. Row 2 was an all ‘FD’ affair with Khun Rudolf and Khun Kittipol side by side while Race 1 winner Khun Chayut led out Row 3 with Khun Thanakorn next to him thanks to his sixth place in the previous day’s race. Then would have come Khun Munkong, but he was an unexpected no-show and that left Khun Thanavud on his own on the fourth row of the grid.
Two retirees from the day before occupied the fifth row, Khun Pure and Khun Manat, while it was the same story on the sixth row with Khun Ekprawat and Khun Artit being moved back as both required overnight mechanical changes.
At the green lights everyone got away smoothly apart from Khun Rudolf who couldn’t get the power down and the pack swallowed him up; he would be out, pulling off the track after by Turn 1, with drivetrain issues. Khun David converted pole into P1 and led the pack into Turn 1 with Khun Phatwit swarming all over his back bumper, then came Khun Kittipol, Khun Chayut, Khun Thanavud, Khun Thanakorn, Khun Ekprawat and Khun Manat.
Khun Kittipol wasn’t hanging around and he barged past Khun Phatwit on the run down the hill to get the inside line through the hairpin as Khun David ran wide and so Khun Kittipol moved into the race lead, all in the matter of a three turns. Khun Phatwit also took advantage of the Altezza’s wide line to move into second place and chase Khun Kittipol up the hill. Khun Chayut then demoted Khun David to fourth under braking for Turn 4 and locked onto the back of Khun Phatwit through the stadium esses.
Meanwhile Khun David lost another place as Khun Thanavud passed him out of Turn 7 although the FD driver outbraked himself into Turn 8, gave the place back but then retook it by going round the outside of the Altezza through Turn 10 and getting the line as they climbed up through Turn 11. Through the back section Khun Chayut squeezed past Khun Phatwit and as the pack came across the line for the first time it was the day before’s top two back in command of the race. It was looking like it was going to be a replay – albeit this time Khun Kittipol seemed to have a working power steering system.
At the end of the first lap it was Khun Kittipol from Khun Chayut, Khun Phatwit, Khun Thanavud and then Khun Ekprawat who had been given a free pass by Khun David as he went wide through the final turn. Then came the Toyota of Khun Manat who was moving up quickly from the back of the grid.
Through Turn 5 of the second lap and there was disaster for Khun Ekprawat as he slowed up, he was a race retirement for the second day in a row, while in the middle part of that lap Khun Manat and Khun Thanakorn, got past Khun David who was falling backwards fast, the two Toyotas moving up into fifth and sixth place.
Into the third lap and the top four – Khun Kittipol, Khun Chayut, Khun Phatwit and Khun Thanavud – were spreading out with a big gap back to the two Toyotas with Khun David hanging on their tail.
And those gaps would grow quickly. By the time another lap had been completed Khun Kittipol had pulled out a 3.2 second lead over Khun Chayut with Khun Phatwit in third and a further 4 seconds back. Then came Khun Thanavud, Khun Manat and Khun David while a couple of places further back Khun Thanakorn led Class 2.
After 6 laps, the halfway stage, Khun Kittipol had edged out to a 4.217 second advantage and it looked to be all over at the front. The main action was Khun Manat edging in on Khun Thanavud in fourth place. The gap though was one and a half seconds and the Toyota was only chipping tenths away. In fact as the race got to the two thirds distance mark the Singha Motorsports Team Thailand Civic FD started to edge away. At that point, 8 lap, Khun Kittipol had the gap up to 6 seconds.
With three to go though Khun Manat closed up and passed Khun Thanavud into Turn 9 but on the main straight as they went into the penultimate lap, Khun Thanavud powered past and by the time they got to Turn 3 he had the momentum and built up five car lengths. Just as soon as this battle looked to be full of drama it was back to the status quo.
Into the final lap and Khun Kittipol’s gap was 7.555, it was looking all over – and literally so for his teammate as Khun Thanavud’s engine blew spectacularly as he dived into the last turn to start his final tour of the track and he was out, allowing Khun Manat to finally nail down third place. Khun Phatwit had a problem and slowed up through Turn 6 and dropped away and that allowed Khun David into fourth place.
In the Super 2000 championship standings overall Khun Kittipol and Khun Chayut jointly share the lead with 35 points apiece, Khun David and Khun Phatwit are equal third with 16 points each while Khun Manat and Khun Rudolf are joint fifth, both emerged from the North East with 12 points apiece.
Meanwhile in Class B Khun David, thanks to the strong helpings of points he collected after finishing runner up in both the races, leads the classification with 30 points while Khun Artit and Khun Rudolf, who had a win and a DNF each in Class B from the weekend, are in equal second place with 20 points each.
Super Pickup Race 2 (Sunday)
With the reverse grid the new Toyota Revo had claimed its first ever pole position, thanks to that strong run by Khun Songsak in the first race, with Khun Yuth alongside him. Row 2 comprised of Khun Waris and Khun Phisit while the comfortable winner of Race 1, Khun Tanawat, led out Row 3 with Khun Chaleampon alongside him.
At the start Khun Yuth and Khun Waris had a great start to depose Khun Songsak and move into first and second place with the Toyota third and over the first lap they pulled away from the pack while there was a big squabble going on for fourth. Four trucks started from the pitlane and one on the move already was Khun Philip, he was up to seventh at the end of the first lap.
By the end of the second lap Khun Yuth was pulling away and had 2.5 seconds over Khun Waris who had 2 seconds over Khun Songsak who in turn had fallen into the clutches of Khun Akasit while Khun Phillip was having a great race and was up to fifth.
Lap 3 and Khun Philip was all over Khun Akasit in what had become the battle for second as Khun Songsak had dropped away and Khun Waris was gone. Race 1 winner Khun Tanawat joined them on lap 4 as it became a three-truck battle for second. Khun Phillip muscled through and now Khun Tanawat was all over Khun Akasit. Meanwhile, Khun Ekasit spun out of sixth place on the approach to Turn 5 but recovered after loosing time.
At the end of the fourth lap Khun Yuth had 7.1 seconds over Khun Phillip who had crucially broken the challenge of Khun Thanawat and had stretched out a 2.5 second cushion so he could now focus on trying to haul down the deficit to the race leader.
But no sooner than Khun Philip had got the bit between his teeth than he lost power for a second day; it was bitter disappointment for the pacy Australian as the intercooler hose had burst and he quickly started to drop away before pitting at the end of the lap.
At the end of lap 5 Khun Yuth crossed the line with 13.6 seconds of an advantage and as the race headed for the halfway point it seems to be game over. Further back Khun Jaras was making steady progress; he had started down the back but was by now up to eighth.
Six laps to go and the gap at the front was steady, Khun Yuth was well down the road, with Khun Tanawat in second, while Khun Songsak had recovered his pace to hold onto third and Khun Chaleampon was up to P4 and leading Class C with Khun Wuttichai wrapping up the top five and also holding down second in Class C. A bit further back Khun Jaras and Khun Pheerawat were slugging it out for eighth. Into the ninth lap and Khun Chaleampon finally muscled past Khun Songsak into third.
It stayed that way over the final three laps as Khun Yuth eased out to an 18.4 second victory over Khun Tanawat who after running away from everyone in Race 1 seemingly had no answers to Khun Yuth’s pace. However post race Khun Yuth would be excluded for a technical infringement and that handed Khun Thanawat his second win of the weekend. Khun Chaleampon was 7 seconds further back to claim the overall runners up spot and to win Class C. Khun Songsak showed that the new ‘Revo’ has plenty of promise to unlock as he took third place for the second day in a row while his team mate in the other band new Toyota worked his way up to finish in sixth place. The top five was wrapped up by Khun Akasit and Khun Nuthaporn, the latter had been forced to race without the fifth gear that he lost the day before, as the team wasn’t carrying a spare part.
With two maximum points scores to his name Khun Thanawat left Buriram as the championship leader with 40 points. Next up is Khun Songsak who enjoyed a rewarding couple of races in the brand new Revo to bank the points, 27 in fact, and that positions him very well in the championship for the next rounds when his new machine should be much more competitive. Khun Nuthaporn is next with 20 points ahead of Khun Jaras and Khun Akasit on 16 points apiece.
As well as his overall triumphs Khun Thanawat also picked up both Class B wins and has 40 points while Khun Nuthaporn is second in Class B on 24 points. Both Class C wins went to Khun Chaleampon and that meant he also left Buriram with the maximum score available, 40 points, while Khun Anulak is next up in Class C, he’s on 27 point