Super Car GTM provided some of the closest and most dramatic racing of Thailand Super Series’ (TSS) long weekend in Bangsaen as the big and powerful pack of GT sportscars was very evenly matched – but right at the front the landscape was dominated over three days of explosive racing by just one family which locked out all three poles, led every racing lap and nabbed victory in all three races.
It feels like it had been pre-ordained that one day the two young and super-talented Kusiri brothers would be fighting each other, hand to hand, for P1 in Super Car. That day has been relentlessly ticking down for a decade as their careers blossomed. Finally, the day dawned on a hot and dry weekend in Bangsaen.
The younger of the two siblings, Kantadhee, announced his intentions very clearly on what was just his second weekend in Super Car, following his debut in GTM at the season opener in Buriram, as he claimed his first ever Super Car pole position for Friday’s first race but the anticipated straight fight with his older brother, Kantasak, would have to wait a little as it was a rejuvenated Pitsanu Sirimongkolkasem who planted his Porsche alongside on the front row, raced to second place, his best ever top tier result, and kept his golden hued racecar in between the two brothers at all times with Kantasak having to be content with third place.
It took until Race 2 for the Kusiri vs Kusiri showdown to finally take place. For the second day on the trot Kantadhee was on pole, but come the race it was Kantasak on the move and this time he deposed of Pitsanu at the start. At last, the planets aligned as two of the defining young Thai talents of their racing generation engaged in arm to arm combat for P1, no hold was given and it was the older, more experienced and slightly wiser head of Kantasak who pounced to take the win as the brothers ran away to a 1-2 finish. That made it one-all between the pair and one-all between Ferrari and Porsche. Sunday’s final race assumed even more significance.
And the narrative couldn’t have played out any better as this time they locked out the front row, albeit a little luckily as Pitsanu was bumped down from pole to the second row due to a penalty being applied for an incident in the previous race.
With the brothers standing on a win apiece the question was – which one would go on to make it two wins from the final race? Although one of course always has to take into account that the grand old lady of Bangsaen always has the final word, it did appear that the hand of history was looming large over the Kusiri boys.
The third race would be decided over the first few hundred metres as Kantasak got clean away and Kantadhee was bogged down although younger brother would try every trick he could to find a way past all the way to the chequered flag, the youngster pushing his Porsche well past the dynamic edge as the pair kept the spectators on the edge of their seats.
As they crossed the line it was however Kantasak, taking his second win in 24 hours, from his younger brother and that made the score 2-1 to the elder sibling for the weekend. A truly amazing three days of dramatic racing when both brothers had finally come together to slug it out for the wins in Super Car. This moment had been anticipated for many years and when it arrived it didn’t fail to deliver – and so expect many more of these encounters in the future.
But it wasn’t just about the Kusiris, a plethora of drivers really raised their game in Bangsaen and that glittering list has to be headed by Pitsanu who stood out all weekend – not just due to the gleaming gold Porsche he drives – and after a tough couple of seasons in Super Car he looks very close to his first win in the big league and he’s certainly hungry for it. Aekarat Discharoen was another Porsche driver who suddenly looks sharper and was in the podium positions fight all weekend. Craig Corliss in the Holden looked quicker than he has for some time as big man and big machine harmonised on these small streets, while Tanart Sathienthirakul is also knocking on the door of the top order.
In Super Car GTM Am, the wins were spread out between Thanavud Bhirombhakdi (2) and Paul Kanjanapas (1) and that meant the former narrowly extended his lead in the championship points standings although the latter, the reigning champion, certainly hasn’t given up his clear aspirations to retain his crown. The Am class saw a lot of action over the three races with Chairat Sangtong and Chinnapol Jongprasert both standing out as they quickly got to grips with racing a Super Car at Bangsaen for the first time.
Bangsaen GP: Super Car GTM Race 1 (Race 3 of the year).
Kantadhee Kusiri had banged the #18 AAS Motorsport Porsche 997 GT3 Cup onto pole position for the first race of the weekend after a dazzling performance during last Thursday’s official qualifying session. It was his maiden pole position in Super Car and as he lined up for the first of the three Super Car GTM races he was eyeing up making a little bit of history. He was standing on the threshold of a very special weekend with no less than three opportunities coming to nail his first win – but to achieve that goal he would have to deal with a large and hungry GTM pack.
Porsches were really in the ascendancy during qualifying in Bangsaen and alongside the polesitter was the similar ‘991’ of Pitsanu Sirimongkolkasem. He’s had a trying time since joining GTM a couple of seasons ago, being ‘nearly there’ and suffering a few bumps along the way. But he looked fast and edgy at the season opener in Buriram and he had carried that uptick in pace over to these streets.
Kantadhee’s older brother, Kantasak, is a driver you can never count out. The 2015 Super Car GTM champion is now a fast and well-honed driver and always goes well here; the Singha Motorsport Team Thailand Ferrari pilot led out the second row and was snapping at the heels of the two Porsches in front. Then came two more Porsche 991s, one driven by veteran Aekarat Discharoen and the other by youngster Tanart Sathienthirakul, who was also racing in Porsche Carrera Cup Asia over the weekend in a very similar car.
At the green lights Kantadhee withstood pressure from Pitsanu up the hill through Turn 1 and kept it all together to lead the GTM runners into the mountain section for the first time with Kantasak tucking in behind. Behind them Craig Corliss in the Holden Commodore V8 had a great start to power his way into fourth past Aekarat and Tanart.
Over the first lap the main battles were Pitsanu pressuring Kantadhee for the race lead while Aekarat was pushing Craig for fourth. Further back Nattavude Charoensukhawatana in the factory run #39 Toyota, having started from the back of the grid, was quickly making places up while Paul Kanjanapas (#60 Porsche) had converted GTM Amateur (Am) class pole into the lead.
Into lap 2 and Pitsanu got a decent run through Turn 1. He ducked down the inside of Kantadhee in a tussle for the race lead and the #90 Porsche swept ahead but P1 glory was to be very short lived as Pitsanu was carrying too much speed into Turn 2, he ran wide and his rival nipped in to reclaim the race lead. Their squabbles though let Kantadhee close right up and Pitsanu now had to keep his eye on the mirrors as he was locked bang in the middle of a ‘Kusiri sandwich’.
Through the tricky mountain section for the second time the top order was made up of Kantadhee, Pitsanu, Kantasak, Craig who had by now dropped about five car lengths away the top trio, Aekarat, the fast charging Nattavude who had sliced his way up from the back of the pack, and Tanart.
As the leaders raced through the roundabout section and towards Laem Taen Cape they were starting to get bottled up by one of the slower GTM Plus cars and that tightened everyone right up. However, Kantadhee dived down the inside of this car at Turn 18 with Pitsanu squeezing through behind him and although Kantasak also tried a run past the Audi on the main straight he couldn’t make it stick and he remained stuck behind the yellow and black car as the leaders powered back up the mountain for the third time which gave Kantadhee and Pitsanu a chance to break away at the front. Just behind them Aekarat found a way past Craig as fourth and fifth places were reversed.
Through the second half of lap 2 and Kantasak just couldn’t get on terms with the GTM Plus Audi and as he toiled Aekarat quickly closed down the gap and was on the tail of the #34 Ferrari by the time they swept through the fast esses on the approach to Laem Taen Cape, Turn 15.
As the race approached one quarter distance the pecking order remained the same with Kantadhee and Pitsanu out front while Kantasak remained unable to find a way past the GTM Plus car in front and in fact he had drifted a few cars lengths back; he didn’t appear to have the pace to get close enough to attempt a pass. Aekarat was still on the tail of the #34 Ferrari but was now hanging on rather than trying to make a pass stick as the race seemed to be moving away from him.
In the Am class Paul Kanjanapas was really romping away at the front. The defending champion was driving one of the best races of his career as he controlled the class pace, his experience and a calm head paying dividends. Such was his pace too he was keeping up with the #38 factory Toyota of Nattapong Horthongkum, running in eighth place overall, just a couple of car lengths ahead, and the pair were both being hindered by one of the slower GTM Plus cars ahead although there were unable to get in close enough contact to trouble it.
Into the fifth lap and Kantadhee had finally put a couple of lengths between himself and the gold #90 Porsche behind, but he then bridged the gap to two more GTM Plus cars; he had another Audi in front which in turn was bottled up behind the Camaro.
The GTM leader swarmed all over the back of the Audi ahead as the race ticked to one third distance but Kantadhee couldn’t find space while Pitsanu wasn’t able to take advantage and he continued to remain a couple of lengths behind Kantadhee. However, at this point Kantasak finally got clear of the GTM Plus car he had been stuck behind and with track position having at last swung in his favour he was quickly reeling in the top three – a task he completed by the time the leaders were halfway through the seventh lap.
On the seventh lap Craig, who was running in sixth place 42 seconds off the race leader, was involved in an incident and slowed up with front bodywork damage. That moved Tanart up to sixth, Nattapong to seventh and Paul, the Am class leader, up to eighth.
As the race hit the halfway mark Kantadhee was still trying every trick he knew to find a way past the GTM Plus class Audi in front, Pitsanu was still on his tail but unable to get in the zone where a pass was viable and Kantasak was still snapping at his heels. Aekarat had now almost bridged the gap as the top trio’s pace was slowed by the GTM Plus car.
Bang on the half distance mark one of the GTM Plus Lamborghinis had a high speed spin at Turn 17 and blocked the track just as the leading quartet thundered down the beachfront section. The Lamborghini got going again but there was a real bottleneck as a scrum of GTM Plus and GTM cars burst out onto the main straight. In the melee Kantadhee was finally able to jump the two GTM Plus cars in front, the #26 Audi and #28 Camaro, to finally move into clear air and crucially put a car between himself and his two key rivals, Pitsanu and Kantasak, as they were both able to jump the Camaro but unable to get past the Audi.
With eight laps to go a GTM Plus Lamborghini pulled up in the mountain section with an oil fire and that brought out the first Safety Car of the race. As the GTM runners formed up it was Kantadhee ahead with the GTM Plus Audi still holding onto track position between himself and Pitsanu. Then it was Kantasak, Aekarat, Nattavude, who had passed Tanart’s Porsche to haul himself up to final podium step after starting from the back, Nattapong and Paul, the Am class leader, and Craig, whose splitter was hanging down and scraping the track surface.
It took a few laps to remove the Lamborghini and clean up the track and at the restart Kantadhee was cleanly away, the youngster lapping a backmarker GTM Ferrari as he ran uphill to Turn 2 while Pitsanu was still unable to get past the GTM Plus Ferrari in front and was now really losing sight of the race leader. Places remained the same apart from Paul nipping past Craig and into eighth place overall.
As the cars powered their way round the restart lap, with three to go, Aekarat ran very wide out of the roundabout (Turn 12) slapping the wall on the inside and although he lost places to the GTM Plus car and the lapped GTM car that had been buffering him to Nattavude behind he was a little lucky to collect the #11 Porsche and tuck in to the racing line just ahead of the #39 Toyota and the car. A little surprisingly Aekarat was able to continue at a reasonable racing speed although he appeared to have problems.
Down the beachfront section Nattavude squeezed past Aekarat’ damaged car and up to fourth place and as these cars went into the penultimate lap of the race there was a three car battle for fourth as Nattavude, Aekarat and Tanart locked horns.
But with two laps to go there was a big melee at Turn 2 as Craig spun round on the exit and Chairat Sangtong in a GTM Am Ferrari as well as two GTM Plus cars were all unsighted and caught up. That incident brought out the safety Car and the race with less than two laps remaining trundled round to finish under red flags.
The race finished at a trundle but the winner, Kantadhee, was higher significant as the younger Kusiri had finally followed his brother into the Super Car winners’ circle – and at just his third attempt having made his GTM debut at the ‘double header’ season opener in Buriram back in April. This day had seeming always been ordained, but finally it had played out and it was somewhat appropriate that it took place at Bangsaen. In fact, it was to be a 1-3 finish for the two brothers as Kantasak came home in third place while Pitsanu, recording his best Super Car result to date, split them after a very strong drive.
The first Toyota, the #39 of Nattavude, who had started the race from the back of the grid, and the damaged #11 Porsche of Aekarat nailed down the final two steps of the podium. Tanart and Nattapong wrapped up the Pro-Am runners and then it was Paul who bagged GTM Am victory. The black and pink #60 Porsche hadn’t been threatened for the lead all afternoon but Paul more importantly than the win really needed the maximum points score that comes with P1 as he looked to bounce back from a dismal time in Buriram and get his title defence back on track.
Then came the Craig’s Holden, front splitter still dragging on the track, and finally the classified finishers were wrapped up by two more GTM Am Ferraris, the #94 of Chinnapol Jongprasert and the #91 Chairat, both a lap down but both having driven neat and tidy races to steer well clear of trouble on these tough streets to safely reach the chequered flag and the podium on their Super Car debuts in Bangsaen.
Bangsaen GP: Super Car GTM Race 2 (Race 4 of the year).
The front of the grid saw Friday’s opening race winner, Kantadhee, perfectly positioned to continue his winning run as the white and pink #18 Porsche 991 GT3 Cup was occupying pole again with Pitsanu next to him making it an all ‘shiny wrapped’ Porsche front row, the front row unchanged for a second consecutive day. Kantasak and Aekarat locked out Row 2 with Tanart and Craig next up. Nattapong in the first of the factory Toyotas, Paul, the Am class polesitter and Friday’s winner, Thanavud and Chinnapol, wrapped up the top ten starters.
Starting from the back of the grid once again would be the other official Toyota, the #39 of Nattavude. Due to engine overheating issues and then a broken driveshaft the former multiple champion failed to set any representative qualifying laps and would once again hope to scythe his way quickly through the pack when the lights went green.
At the green lights Kantadhee safely converted his pole into the race lead but Kantasak got a decent break and pulled off a vital move within the first few hundred metres to dive up the inside and grab second place off Pitsanu as the #90 Porsche got bottled up behind a GTM Plus car taking a wider line right in front that was then slow through Turn 2.
It’s almost been pre-ordained by the gods of Thai motorsport that one day the two young and super-talented Kusiri brothers would be fighting each other, hand to hand, for P1 in Super Car – finally that day had dawned and the spectators in the grandstands were being treated to the first ever Kusiri vs Kusiri lead battle. It’s unlikely to be the last time either. One certainly expects that this inter-family tussle will become a regular feature in Super Car over the coming decade.
Aekarat kept his P4 as the cars headed into the mountain section while Tanart picked off Craig to move up to fifth with the Holden on his tail. Then it was Nattapong and Paul, the latter keeping a tight grid on the Am class lead.
Nattavude enjoyed a great first lap for a second consecutive day as he clawed his way up from the back, he was up to ninth overall by the time the cars assumed a single file order through the sweeping narrow curves that make up the section from Turn 8 to the roundabout. Into the second lap he passed the #60 Porsche to move up to eighth place and lock onto the back of his teammate. That would unfortunately be as far as he would get as a faulty valve started to deflated the right hand front tyre and Nattavude would pit to have it changed, emerging a lap down.
In the GTM Am class Paul already had a small cushion at the front, the defending champion looking to build on his win the day before and rack up another maximum points score. Thanavud, the current class championship points leader, however was sitting handily placed in P2 with Chinnapol third, Naputt fourth and Chairat, fifth. Chinnapol and Chairat, both in Ferraris, racing here in Super Car for the first time.
Over the opening laps Kantadhee, Kantasak and Pitsanu chased each other at the front with the race leader appearing to have the quickest pace but he was bottled up behind a GTM Plus Audi and couldn’t take any advantage of the race coming to him.
Further back the Am class leader, Paul, who was being compromised by Nattapong in front and under growing pressure behind him from Thanavud, outbraked himself as the trio raced through Turn 1 for the fourth time. The Porsche whacked the back of the Toyota and both drivers’ races were over. More crucially, Paul’s resulting zero points score, thanks to that DNF, would also put a huge dent in his chances of clawing his way back into the title fight, especially as the GTM Am championship points leader coming into Bangsaen, Thanavud, needed no second invitations to assume the class lead. However, Paul’s team would be able to fix the front end damage overnight and get him back into the third race so he had another chance to respond.
The fourth lap would in fact be an unlucky one for Painkiller Racing as not only did they lose Paul but his teammate Naputt Assakul in the #6 Porsche went ‘Missing in Action’. He suffered transmission problems and without a spare unit (as he was already using the spare gearbox) he limp out of the race and in fact was out for the rest of the weekend leaving the team with a long night ahead to put all their focus on Paul’s car to get it ready for the final day.
Nattapong, meanwhile, with a badly damaged rear end that was sagging down and a loose diffuser that was dragging on the ground, was able to continue at a much slower pace for another three laps before he was forced to call it a day. The Toyota team would also have a late nighter ahead as the back end of the #38 was stripped down and a new rear panel was fitted.
Paul and Nattapong’s incident bought out the Safety Car for the first time to recover the #60 Porsche which stopped on inside of the blind exit to Turn 4. As the cars formed up it was Kantadhee from Kantasak, Pitsanu, Aekarat, Tanart, the lapped Nattavude now running in amongst the midfield, Craig, Thanavud, who had assumed the GTM Am class lead, Chairat, Nattapong, who was struggling around in his damaged Toyota, and Chinnapol.
The race resumed and battle recommenced, however both Kusiris passed a GTM Plus car to put a handy buffer between themselves and Pitsanu in third but in that melee Kantadhee nearly touched the Audi, had to correct his Porsche and Kantasak, the older and more experienced of the two young brothers, need no second invitation and he powered round the outside through Turn 2. Another historic moment as one Kusiri passed the other for track position advantage in a full blown battle for a race lead.
Further back Thanavud was coming under sustained pressure from Chairat who was in just his second race event after returning from a hiatus of a few seasons and looking faster and faster with every lap. However, his race would abruptly end as he overcooked the exit of the roundabout and whacked the barriers with his left hand corner, breaking the suspension and that meant he exited the race on the spot.
The Safety Car was deployed for a second time as the black and red #91 Ferrari was recovered from where it had ground to a halt between Turn 12 and Turn 13. When the Safety Car went in there were 7 laps – just over one third distance – remaining – and Kantasak kept a tight grip on the lead with Kantadhee tucking in behind. However once again they were bottled up behind a GTM Plus car which would compromise their pace and keep them looking in the mirrors. Pitsanu in third had another GTM Plus car between himself and the top two to there was some advantage for the Kusiris. Then it was Aekarat, Tanart and Craig, the Australian pushing hard to find a way past the Porsche on the restart lap although he would soon fall away, with Thanavud and Chinnapol, one and two in GTM Am, and the lapped Nattavude wrapping up the order.
Into the final half dozen laps and Kantadhee was pushing Kantasak hard, he really wanted to add to his debut Super Car win just 24 hours previously, it was young brother vs young brother, superb stuff to watch.
The GTM leaders soon joined a bottleneck behind the GTM Plus Camaro which had collected a train of cars behind it including other GTM Plus runners and that meant everything was getting even more closed up in the battle for the podium spots. With three laps to go the Camaro would peel off into the pits to serve a penalty and suddenly the front two finally had clear air ahead and a no holds barred sprint to the finish over the final 10 km of racing distance was on the cards.
As the Camaro peeled off and the Kusiris were released, Pitsanu in third, but with a GTM Plus Audi between himself and the front two tried a wide move round the outside as the gaggle of cars sped round the S2 Bangsaen Hotel hairpin, the bottleneck as the road funnelled narrow on the exit of Turn 19 saw contact and the Audi spinning and it punted into the barriers on the inside of the long and narrow sweeping right-hander hard and it suffered major right front end damage.
Pitsanu quickly swinging across to the inside line from behind the slowing Audi touched the lapped Nattavude who was just behind and carefully picking his way through the unfolding accident by hugging the barriers but both continued while Tanart emerged a brief winner from the situation as he was able to take advantage to pass Aekarat who was caught up behind Pitsanu and the rapidly slowing Audi, the A Motorsport Porsche tapping the gold Porsche, but Tanart was also caught by the fishtailing rear of the Toyota as Nattavude recovered from his door to door clash with Pitsanu and clearly the #15 Porsche’s suspension had sustained damage as Tanart wobbled on the main straight with tyre smoke puffing out.
As the cars broke out into the wide open space provided by the main straight it was a case now of who could get to the finish. Tanart clearly couldn’t, his race was over and with his suspension damaged he climbed gingerly through the mountain section before pulling off into the escape road at Turn 5. Aekarat and Pitsanu, who had a slowly deflating tyre, hobbled on but it was Craig, who had had only just caught up the train of cars before the incident who was the big beneficiary as he picked off Aekarat and both the Holden and the #11 Porsche passed the slowing Pitsanu on the final lap. However, all three were beneficiaries of an extra place with Tanart out of the fray.
Into the final lap and Kantadhee, who continued to push to the limits, tried a last gasp attempt to beat his brother to the win, hustling him though the mountain section and as the pair raced down the beachfront for the final time. In truth though Kantasak is a little older, a little more experienced – and at this stage of their racing careers probably a little bit wiser – he wasn’t going to put a foot wrong, he didn’t make any mistakes all race and as the chequered flag was unfurled he gave Singha Motorsport Team Thailand its second win of the year in Super Car GTM, and in the process building on his first win in Race 2 in Buriram during the season opener. For the Bangsaen weekend it was now 1-1 between the Kusiris and it set everything up perfectly for Race 3 which would be a winner takes all affair.
Craig was the biggest winner of the big incident at the end of the penultimate lap and he kept his head, steered clear of the carnage and then picked off the damaged cars over the final lap to finish in third place. The big green ‘V8 Supercar’ Holden Commodore was really back in business. Aekarat came home in fourth place while Pitsanu was somewhat lucky that his deflating tyre held up to give him fifth place and the final step on the podium, although he would clearly have hoped for much more from the race.
Thanavud was next home, but more crucially he was the GTM Am class winner; the Ferrari driver was the joint championship points leader coming into the weekend but was bouncing back with a maximum score after he failed to score any points on Friday having retired from the opening race. Chinnapol kept out of trouble and claimed the runners up spot for the second day in a row as he continued to enjoy a strong Super Car debut weekend in Bangsaen. The final classified finisher was Nattavude, one lap down. The Toyota driver had started from the back of the grid, was forced to pit early to change a tyre and emerged a lap down, but kept battling away to claim sixth place in Pro-Am and collect 6 useful points for his troubles as he clung onto his very rapidly diminishing title hopes.
Bangsaen GP: Super Car GTM Race 3 (Race 5 of the year).
One family was really making a lot of history over the weekend as for the first time ever we had an all-Kusiri front row and it was Kantadhee taking his third pole in three races, a clean sweep, as Pitsanu had been penalised and bumped off Row 1 for an incident during the previous race so Kantasak was elevated to the front for the first time in the weekend.
The brothers stood on a win apiece, Kantadhee had claimed honours in Race 1, his maiden Super Car win at his first attempt, while Kantasak had tenaciously bounced back to nip through to beat his brother and win Race 2. The question was – which one would go on to make it two wins from the final race? Although one of course always has to take into account that the grand old lady of Bangsaen has the final word, it did appear that the hand of history was looming large over the Kusiri boys.
Aekarat, who was really rejuvenated this weekend, led out the second row, the A Motorsport veteran putting much of his uptick in pace down to improvements to the Porsche’s suspension since Buriram, while, for the first time during the weekend the gold #90 Porsche had been relegated off the front row with Pitsanu starting from fourth place thanks to his three position grid place penalty. He had in fact been all set to start from his first ever Super Car pole position before he was moved back and with passing almost impossible here that was agonising for Pitsanu as he chases his first ever Super Car win.
Row 3 comprised of Tanart and Craig, the pair seemed to have locked horns all weekend long, while right behind them came the first of the factory Toyotas, the #38 of Nattapong and the GTM Am class polesitter, the #23 Ferrari of Thanavud. Behind him were two more GTM Am Ferraris, the #91 of Chairat, which had its left had rear corner repaired overnight, and the #93 Chinnapol, who was on two runners up positions from the first two races.
The final row saw Paul take his place as the sole surviving Painkiller Racing entry as the team had withdrawn Naputt’s #6 Porsche after the previous day’s race. Paul had been docked three grid places by the stewards for his incident with Nattapong early in Race 2, Finally, and for the third day in a row, the last spot on the grid was the preserve of the second factory Toyota, the #39 of Nattavude, who was right at the back once again as he had been unable to set any representative laptimes during qualifying.
After an incident during an earlier race had required safety guardrails to be replaced, an action that took almost an hour, the already tight programme was now running very late and with Porsche Carrera Cup Asia scheduled to wrap up the day immediately after Super Car GTM Plus/GTM, and with fading light set to become a potential issue for the Carrera Cup runners, the Super Car finale was reduced from 19 to 14 laps.
At the green lights the story was simple. Kantadhee got bogged down, Kantasak was fast off the mark and the #34 Ferrari powered away into the lead while behind him Pitsanu was also able to take full advantage of the polesitter’s tardy getaway to nip through into second place as Aekarat, who started immediately behind the polesitting Porsche, was bottled up behind Kantadhee. As they raced up the mountain and down again for the first time and trooped single file though Turn 6 the top order was Kantasak, Pitsanu, Kantadhee, Aekarat, Craig, Tanart and Nattapong.
They remained that way over the rest opening lap with the main focus of attention being on Aekarat who was now hustling Kantadhee in P3. Once again the top runners had GTM Plus cars right in front that were compromising their pace – cars which were virtually impossible for the GTM runners to pass here. Behind Aekarat the gaps were growing though as Tanart dropped back as did Craig behind him.
On lap two Pitsanu left too much space on the inside through Turn 14 and Kantadhee needed no second invitation, he powered down the inside and had cleared the gold #90 Porsche before they all stood hard on the brakes for the Laem Taen Cape left hander. A passing spot that’s usually reserved for the brave, Kantadhee this time had space and got the job done smoothly and cleanly, he was away. Immediately the #18 Porsche locked onto the leader and it was Kusiri vs Kusiri again, with one win apiece, the victor of this race would get all the bragging rights.
As they completed three racing laps Kantasak’s ‘Prancing Horse’ had a quartet hungry Porsche drivers assuming a train behind him. The man on the move though was Nattavude, he had started from the back of the grid once again and had jumped all the Am class runners as well as his teammate Nattapong; he was now up to P7 with Craig’s big black and green #88 Holden the next car in his sights.
With 10 laps still to go the top order started to break up for probably the first time during what had been an explosive and relentless weekend as Pitsanu started to drift away from the two Kusiris at the front who were still going at it hammer and tongues. The gap quickly grew to more than two seconds while a little further back Nattavude was finally past Craig and into P6, the gap to Tanart in P5 was just three seconds and the Toyota driver was on a real charge as he could sense his second chance of a podium finish from the weekend. Tanart was something of a sitting duck as he bottled up behind a GTM Plus Audi and unable to get extract his full pace. A little bit further back Thanavud was cementing his grip on the Am class with Chinnapol, Chairat and Paul completing the ‘gentlemen’ runners.
By half distance Nattavude had latched onto the tail of Tanart who was still being hindered by the GTM Plus class car in front and a lap later, with six remaining on the clock, the Toyota driver and a podium finishing position beckoned. The same lap though saw Chinnapol run wide at Laem Taen Cape and bed himself into the TECPRO barriers, he would be out of the race and after two runners up spots on his Super Car rookie appearance in Bangsaen he ended the weekend on a very quiet note.
With five laps remain and as the shortened race approached two thirds distance the lead battle showed no signs of abating, Kantadhee was pulling every trick he knew to get past his brother’s Ferrari in front to no avail. He was pushing the car hard as he had all weekend. Kantasak though was driving like a pro in a car that didn’t seem to be working as well on this track, but the older sibling has grown in stature now, experience is building and he was driving very smoothly, sticking to the racing line, leaving no gaps and making no errors or missing any gears. It was going to take something very special from the younger brother if he was to break the deadlock.
The battle for the final podium step suddenly changed direction as Nattavude, now looking to reel in the top four ahead took a very late look down the inside of a GTM Plus car occupying track position ahead and as the top class car cut in for the turn it was tipped into a spin and Nattavude bumped into it. As the Audi and Toyota extracted themselves Tanart ran right round the outside of them to retake his fifth place.
Then one of the other GTM Plus cars oversteered head first in the tyre bales at Turn 8 and that brought out the Safety Car, but as they formed up Pitsanu’s strong weekend came to an abrupt end as his left hand rear tyre deflated on the main straight and with the tyre starting to shred quickly and little chance of making it round to the pits he trundled down the escape road at Turn 2 and out of the race. The pack was rapidly being decimated as Nattavude then came into retire, the result of damage picked up when he hit the spun GTM Plus Audi at Turn 18 a lap earlier. His tough weekend had ended in a first DNF.
Behind the safety Car it was Kantasak, Kantadhee, Aekarat, Tanart and Craig, the New Zealander now moving into the last podium position, Nattapong, Thanavud, Chairat and Paul.
The Safety Car went back in with two laps to go, there would be a short – a 7.4 km to be exact – dash to the chequered flag. Paul swiftly grabbed P2 in the GTM Am class off Chairat but at the front there was an almighty squabble as the front runners were bottled up by a struggling GTM Plus class car and everyone was looking everywhere. Kantasak, Kantadhee, Aekarat and Tanart were locked together and Tanart tried to come round the outside of Aekarat as they swept through Turn 18 for the final time – but to no avail.
As they crossed the line it was Kantasak, taking his second win in 24 hours, from his younger brother and that made the score 2-1 to the elder for the weekend. A truly amazing three days of explosive racing when both brothers had finally come together to slug it out for the wins in Super Car. The moment had been anticipated for many years and when it arrived it didn’t fail to deliver – expect many more.
Aekarat gunned the #11 A Motorsport Porsche over the line for third place. It had been a weekend of rejuvenation for this veteran driver, two fourth places on Friday and Saturday followed up by a third place on Sunday. Three trips to the podium and after struggling recently this driver was right back in the game.
Tanart came home fourth, a little surprisingly that his first podium finish of the weekend having finished sixth in the first race and retiring right at the end of the second race while the fifth and the final podium step was inherited by Nattapong once Craig had been slapped with a 30 second penalty post-race. Nattapong in the #38 factory Toyota had a very quiet weekend, seventh in the first race and punted in the back in the second he had always been someway shy of the podium pace but kept it neat and tidy and was around to capitalise in the final race and grab one trophy from the three days of racing action.
Then came the GTM Am class runners, Thanavud taking the class win for the second consecutive day. The championship leader coming into the weekend he DNF’d in the first race but bounced back well on both Saturday and Sunday to collect two maximum scores and cement his advantage at the top of the standings.
Paul and Chairat were next up with Craig the final classified finisher. However, the veteran New Zealander was pretty happy with how the weekend had panned out. He’s been racing here since 2010 and in fact set his best ever time on the street circuit this time around; he pointed out that seven years after starting racing here he’s still improving and Craig, having unlocked new car/driver pace over the weekend that’s been somewhat lacking over the last season is rejuvenated, refreshed and looking forward to getting to Buriram for the next round.
Championship standings (after 5 races)
With two wins and a third place from his weekend in Bangsaen, coupled to the first and a second place he earned at the season opener in Buriram, Kantasak further extends his advantage in the GTM Pro-Am championship points classification. The 2015 champion now has 87 points and in fact it’s his brother who moves into second place with 63 points. That’s a healthy 24-point cushion for Kantasak, more than a win clear, and his rivals will have to respond immediately at the next round in Buriram if they are to stop him from cruising away to a second title.
The biggest looser in Bangsaen was Nattavude, who drops down a place to third after a dreadful weekend. Forced to start from the back of the grid in all three races after mechanical problems in qualifying, 16 points was a very meagre haul for the factory Toyota driver and he moves up to 44 points. That’s virtually half the score Kantasak currently sits on so Nattavude’s going to need a heck of a weekend in Buriram next time out if he is to retain any ambitions for the crown. But if anyone can pull that feat off, then this driver can so don’t count him out just yet.
A strong weekend for Aekarat at the seaside hauls him up to fourth place in the Pro-Am standings, with 44 points, so he’s just 2 points adrift of third place and the A Motorsport driver will be looking to build on his momentum and move up to the top three. Nattapong (39 points), Tanart (36 points), Pitsanu (33 points) and Craig (29 points) are next up which means third to eighth places in the classification are covered by just 15 points so there is all to play for when the series resumes next month.
In Super Car GTM Am Thanavud has picked up three wins from five races so far and the rookie is clear at the front on 72 points. Paul, the defending champion is in second place on 47 points, that’s a hefty 25 points adrift but it’s not an insurmountable gap yet and he needs to get back to winning ways in Buriram, one win from three races in Bangsaen just wasn’t good enough for him, he needs a double winning weekend in August.
With AAS Motorsport having two cars in the action in Bangsaen, Kantadhee and Tanart, compared to one, Kantasak, for Singha Motorsport Team Thailand, the Porsche outfit is going to be very hard to beat in the Teams’ championship and has totted up 99 points already compared to the Ferrari team’s 87 points. But that is still only a 12 point deficit so anything can still happen. Toyota Team Thailand (83 points) is only just adrift of these two and if the factory team can bounce back in Buriram next month the tables could very be turned. A Motorsport (42 points) and GFPT Motorsport Team (33 points) wrap up the top five in the Teams’ standings.
Although it only had one car scoring Teams’ points in Super Car GTM Am at the Bangsaen Grand Prix, Singha Motorsport Team Thailand still retains its healthy cushion at the top of the standings with 102 points while Painkiller Racing (73 points) after a torrid weekend at the beach leads the chase. CTS Motorsport (38 points) is a very distant third.