After his stunning victory in the 24 Hours of Spa in July it was straight back to the legendary Belgian grand prix track last weekend for Pasin Lathouras as he returned to International GT Open action – and it was straight back to the top step of the podium for the 21-year-old Thai.
Pasin, along with his teammate Michele Rugolo in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3, took a hard fought win in the pouring rain in the first race of the weekend and they followed that up with a fighting drive to fourth place in the second which quickly became third when the runner up car was hit by a post race time penalty.
That double podium result keeps them right in the championship hunt, moving them up to second place in the classification with two rounds now remaining.
At the green lights for Race 1 the #59 McLaren got a better run down to Turn 1 while Michele slotted in behind for P2. The front two cars quickly pulled away from the rest of the field and the race then started to settle down.
That was the pattern until the halfway point when Michele handed over to Pasin.
Just as the pit window opened light rain started to fall on the track, the infamous Spa weather arrived. It wasn’t yet suitable for wets though and Pasin returned to the action on slicks. However a lap later he was back in for wets as the rain now started to pour down. At the same time another car had a big crash and that brought out the Safety Car.
As the cars formed up behind the Safety Car the train was led by Verbergt (Aston Martin) while Pasin assumed P2 but he had his two main championship rivals Gianmaria (Ferrari) and Parente (McLaren) right behind him.
With both those drivers above the Thai in the championship, Pasin needed to keep these ‘pros’ behind him when the race returned to green flag running. At the same time the rain started to fall even heavier. In fact Pasin, a ‘Silver’ level driver, had a ‘Gold’ driver in front, Verbergt, while behind him were Gianmaria (‘Gold’) and Parente (‘Platinum’).
Verbergt isn’t a championship rival but he was sitting on the extra points for P1 that Pasin needed, so he had to try to pass. However Verbergt is a top Belgian star that knows Spa inside out, especially in the rain, so it wasn’t going to be easy. Pasin pressurised the Aston Martin and after a couple of laps squeezed down the inside at La Source to move into the race lead.
Meanwhile Parente and Gianmaria were chasing down Pasin and Verbergt as the track visibility continued to reduce. Parente and Gianmaria also got past Verbergt but Pasin had already pulled out a 2.5 second cushion while the places were swapping around behind him.
Pasin had to dig in and in the pouring rain there could be no slip up as the pro drivers behind him applied the pressure as the race went into the closing minutes. The young Thai drove one of his best races to date as he controlled proceedings and when the checkered flag waved he led Parente over the line by 1.4-seconds.
A superb result and his third GT Open win of 2015. After his win here in July’s 24 Hours of Spa it was Pasin’s second consecutive victory on this circuit and actually his third in less than a year.
Sunday’s second race saw the #51 car starting from the fourth row of the grid. Pasin made up two places at the start, engaged in some big tussles for position on the damp and tricky track and was able to work his way up the order to handover to Michele at half distance in an excellent P5.
Taking a massive 25-second ‘success’ time penalty at the mid race pitstop due to series regulations gave Michele a lot of work to do during the closing stages but he fought hard, turned in blistering laps and kept the car safe when rain fell during the closing stages of the 60-minute race and fought up to P4.
They were later classified third when the #59 McLaren, which had finished second, was given a 40 second time penalty after the race, and that P3, added to the previous day’s win, moves Pasin and Michele up to second in the standings, 9 points off the top. It means there is all to fight for as the series moves into the closing stages.
Pasin Lathouras: “The win was great to get, hard work at the end but I was able to control the gap once I got into the lead. Thank you to the team, they did a really superb job with the tyres, especially the second set which we changed because of the rain, the AF Corse team do superb pitstops, especially at the last race, the Spa 24, too, everybody is running like clockwork and thanks also to Michele he kept the car safe at the start and helped set up the car this weekend so it was really easy to drive. In the second race it was tough starting down the grid but we got the job done and got the points on offer for third place so we are still in the championship.”