Published on June 10th, 2016 | by Subhash Nair0
The GT Asia Series Battle Continues in the Heat of Thailand
The new Chang International Circuit hosted the final round of the 2015 GT Asia Series, and it provided an epic finale laced with plenty of intrigue, including a final race that saw the title contenders line up side-by-side separated by just a single championship point and with everything on the line.
History will show that Craft Bamboo Racing’s Darryl O’Young suffered every emotion possible that weekend after beaching the #99 VLT Aston Martin in the gravel in qualifying, forcing a rear-of-field start for the opening race. Aided by impressive English team-mate Daniel Lloyd, the former Macau GT race winner emerged from the two rounds as a worthy champion, whilst Chang International emerged as a circuit to respect and a circuit capable of delivering more than it’s fair share of surprises.
That was October 2015, when conditions were a lot more comfortable than is expected this weekend, with temperatures likely to be in the mid-high 30s, providing the GT Asia Series regulars with a different kind of challenge, a situation which may well be exacerbated on Sunday with the expectation of rain!
Coming into the second event of the season, it is Bentley who are without doubt the favourites, especially after Keita Sawa and Jonathan Venter claimed two wins from two starts at the opening round in South Korea, and Bentley Team Absolute were also the pace-setters at Buriram during the Series’ maiden visit in 2015 setting pole for both races, before taking victory in the first.
Their pace though may be under threat at Buriram, not the least due to the expected high humidity, but also due to a change in the BoP [Balance of Performance]. After their dominant victories last month, all three Continental GT3s will be carrying lower turbo boost than the previous round. They aren’t the only ones either, the rapid Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of rising Italian stars Andrea Amici and Edoardo Liberati has been handed a bigger inlet restrictor, whilst the Audis have taken a weight reduction, in an effort to close up the competition at front of the field.
Buriram however will be missing some of the Series regulars after South Korea. Points leader Keita Sawa is in France alongside three-time GT Asia Series champion Mok Weng Sun and former Series regular Rob Bell for an assault on the annual Le Mans 24 Hour race. That will see young Bentley favourite Fabian Hamprecht join Venter in the #8 Bentley, whilst the Clearwater Racing team have parked their gorgeous new Ferrari 488 GT3 to take their crew – the first Singaporean team entered in the annual 24-Hour classic – to Le Mans.
Another absentee will be Sawa’s Bentley team-mate Andrew Palmer, the young American having suffered an incident during practice for the most recent round of the US-based GT3 series in which Bentley Team Absolute competes, forcing them to draft in 2015 Buriram star Duncan Tappy to play a cameo role as the American recovers in hospital.
Whilst Venter and Sawa comfortably lead the outright points, there is also a strong battle brewing in the Pro-Am class between former race winner Anthony Liu in the new BBT Ferrari 488, Thailand’s Piti Bhirombhakdi and Phoenix Racing Asia’s Shaun Thong.
Thong, like team-mates Marchy Lee and Alex Yoong formed part of a four-man crew (with Absolute Racing’s Franky Cheng) in the recent Nurburgring 24 Hour race, the all-Asian crew running strongly in treacherous conditions before contact with the barriers just ahead of midnight brought their run to a premature end. Despite the setback all four drivers were fast, and will carry that form into Buriram.
GTC will also provide plenty of action, with the two local Ferrari 458 Challenge cars of Bhurit Bhirombhakdi and the returning Voravud Bhirombhakdi battling with fellow locals Suttiluck ‘Bobby’ Buncharoen in the True Visions Porsche, and Aekrat Discharoen and Pinet Piyaoui who will share the A Motorsport Type 991 Porsche.