The first race of the first TA2 series into Asia, TA2 Thailand, is still three and a half months away; however, interest in the new concept is already skyrocketing and TA2 Racing Asia, the regional promoter, has just put key building blocks in place to rapidly grow its ASEAN footprint, as, at Bira Circuit, Pattaya, last week, two of the leading Philippines racing drivers tested the current roster of TA2 machines here.
The new dawn of ‘TA2’ will kick off in ASEAN with TA2 Thailand next year, which will run as part of the premier national racing programme, Thailand Super Series. TA2 Thailand racecars are starting to stack up here with teams and drivers beginning to take delivery.
The exciting new ‘one make’ racecar – which comes in a choice of three body styles: Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro – features a 525 hp 6.2-litre V8 engine and sequential transmission in a purpose-developed spaceframe ‘silhouette’ chassis.
Interest has been high already and that is already extending well beyond Thailand. So, into the mix last week at Bira Circuit came two of The Philippines established top drivers, Don Pastor and Gabrielle Dela Merced.
Both Don and Gabrielle have plenty of experience of racecars ranging from single seaters to big V8 sportscars – so they were well positioned to be able to tap straight into the potential of this exciting new breed of racecars.
Don Pastor, one of The Philippines most successful racing drivers of the nation’s current generation has enjoyed a career that’s been underpinned by rewarding stints in Asian Formula 3 and Asian Formula BMW single seaters as well as in touring and GT level cars over a decade and a half that’s seen him also race extensively in the U.S. as well as across Asia. In recent years, he’s best known though for having raced in the powerful Euro NASCAR series and bringing the Asian V8 Championship to The Philippines in 2014, so he was perfectly placed to extract the most from the dynamic power and handling that the TA2 machines exude. He also came with local knowledge having raced single seaters at Bira Circuit in the past.
Gabrielle Dela Merced, became the first lady driver to ever test a TA2 car in Asia when she hit the track at Bira Circuit last week and she has a very similar ‘formula’ background to Don, having raced previously in Formula BMW, Formula Toyota and Formula 3 – as well as turning her hand to big V8 powered sportscars and also taking her career to the U.S. as well as right across Asia. Like Don too, Gabrielle has a strong profile away from the cockpit, she enjoys major mainstream recognition in The Philippines as a regular TV host with her own series as well as making a splash as an FHM cover model, mentoring on the History Channel’s popular ‘Celebrity Car Wars’ series and even appearing as a housemate in The Philippines’ franchise of ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ – her race track successes helping to cement a big fan base outside the sport.
Don and Gabrielle shared a Ford Mustang TA2 between them during the day, which stayed hot and dry, and both drivers were quickly into the groove, getting used to the TA2 and putting in representative laptimes.
The latest test comes as TA2 Racing Asia responds to rapidly growing demand from right across ASEAN for its exciting new ‘One Make Race’ series that’s centred on the dramatic new breed of TA2 machines. Cost effective and competitive, TA2 will kick off with a championship in Thailand next year, to be followed by other national series, a regional series and ‘intercontinental’ challenges. The lights haven’t even turned green yet but TA2 is already hitting the sweet spot.
Don Pastor: “My first impression is that it’s very, very easy to drive. Some people get off-guard when they hear of 500 or 600 horsepower with 500 torque, with numbers like that it seems like it will be a monster to drive but actually the TA2 has a very easy quick steer and with a paddle shift, it’s not as tiring or as brute as I would have imagined it to be before, rather it’s actually like a GT2 or GT3 car it’s so easy to drive. It has tons of grip so it’s very forgiving if the car gets unsettled out of a corner there’s so much you can do to save yourself from throwing a lap away, there’s not as much ground to make up for. It’s a beautiful car too, it’s so much more than I imagined in every area.”
Gabrielle ‘Gaby’ Dela Merced: “This car really surprised me. I was a bit worried as we just had an 8-hour race so my body isn’t exactly up to shape so I was a bit concerned about not being able to manage the G’s when I got into this car. I’ve never driven a car with this type of technology but it’s a fun and easy car to adapt to, it sinks you into it. I’m really happy I was able to come in and test the car. It’s a really balanced car, even for this track it’s great. My whole tactic today was to take it slow, I knew I had the whole day to test the car. It was good, times were improving, but in all essence, I pretty much have the feel of the car now, what I needed to gain from the experience I think I already have in terms of the car’s capabilities and it’s a fun car to understand.”
Craig Corliss (Distributor for TA2 Asia Racing Co., Ltd.): “I’m very pleased that Don and Gaby were able to come and test the TA2. They’re both experienced drivers, who are familiar with this type of machine and are arguably the two top Philippines drivers today, so it was really also a case of putting the TA2 concept on the line to impress them. That they were so positive about all aspects of the car is very satisfying for us, as is the fact that they got so quickly into the groove and onto the pace. We are aiming to roll TA2 out across ASEAN, as well as hooking up with other TA2 championships such as TA2 Australia, and the robust and cost-effective platform we have put in place with the TA2 concept is perfect for that, so it means getting strong and early interest from The Philippines is very important. With the TA2 concept it really feels like we are pushing at an open door. We will now look to pull together to get Don and Gaby into the cars for TA2 Thailand’s first year.”