– Dale Earnhardt
The final battle for the 2017 Drivers Title took place at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, with a lead of just 11 points from Khun Manat of the Toyota Team there was still a lot of work to be done to secure the title and a tense few days were ahead of them. Due to the ease of the previous wins, 30 kg of BOP (Balance of Performance) had been added to the Porsche 997 this meant in total there was an extra 80 kg of weight to race with. With this in mind, the Team called on the services of their longtime long-distance Race Engineer Peter Jaeger A.K.A. Master Yoda. Peter was flown in from Denmark in time for the first practice sessions of the week to try and negate the disadvantages of driving a heavier car, his insight over the following days proved invaluable…
The 30 kg BOP did not have to be added until the official practice session, this gave Peter precious time to calculate the best setup and weight distribution throughout the car. Peter decided the best course of action was to add 10 kg of BOP weight immediately to help Thomas get a feel for the car and provide essential data back to the team that would give a vital insight into how the car would perform with its full weight allocation. Thomas set about the 4.5 km circuit and although the handling was nothing he had felt before he still managed to clock a 1.44:07 putting him in P2. For the following session, further alignment and settings were tweaked to try to find a few extra tenths as the Toyota of Khun Manat was 0.7 seconds faster than Thomas. By the end of the third practice session, Peter’s insight had edged the team closer to within 0.4 of the Championship rival with Thomas posting a very impressive time of 1.44:035. As Fridays official practice session arrived so did the extra weight with the final 20 kg being added to the car, a couple of setup changes were made and the team were hopeful of a competitive time. Thomas didn’t disappoint putting the car again in P2 on the timing sheets with a 1.44:192.
It was vital that the team got a good position on the grid as even with an 11 point lead the Toyota with less weight was going to be extremely fast and hard to catch on a dry track. Thomas and Peter squeezed everything out of the Porsche 997 to record a time of 1:44.080 although this was an exceptional lap considering how much extra weight was in the car the team were still behind the Toyota of Khun Manat by a massive 0.8 seconds. Race 1 would be a tense affair with the Rotary Mazda RX7 of James Runacres hot on the heels in 3rd and looking for his first victory of the season.
A light drizzle was a welcome sight on the first Race Day as any further rain around the lights out time would level out the playing field giving Thomas a chance to challenge for the top step of the podium, however, by late afternoon the rain had subsided and the sun shone brightly as the lights went out in Race 1. At the first corner, Thomas nearly edged out Khun Manat but had to leave room for the young Toyota driver by taking a wider line to maintain speed. Over the next 2 laps, James Runacres in the Rotary Mazda RX7 closed in and eventually overtook Thomas who valiantly fought back making a dive down the inside at turn five, unfortunately, both cars touched and were sent into separate spins with
Thomas getting the car back on the track first albeit in 7th place. After that, the Danish Dynamo put down the hammer and made his way back up to a very commendable 3rd place. Khun Manat crossed the line with a healthy lead to TR-Motorsport teammate Khun Pete in the JWD Porsche Cayman. The win for Khun Manat left him just 3 points behind Thomas for the Championship. The mood in the team became very tense as thoughts switched to Sunday’s race and what if anything could be done to bring home the title in their debut season.
The results from Race 1 had ensured that GTC Supercar Team Championship was secured with a massive point’s difference over second place, a fantastic achievement in their debut season.
Now it was time to finish the game……
After securing the Team Championship in Saturdays Race 1, the pressure was most definitely on to follow up with the drivers’ championship on Sunday. With Thomas only managing 3rd place in Race 1 and the Toyota of Khun Manat taking 1st the lead was reduced to just 3 points going into the final race of the season.
One hour before the race the heavens opened over the Chang International Circuit producing a deluge of water onto the track for the earlier TCR race, although the rain stopped the track was still wet for the start of Race 2. Wet weather tires were selected and a few tweaks to the setup were made.
As the lights when Green Thomas immediately started to challenge Khun Manat as they raced to the first corner but once again Thomas had to go wide to leave room and maintain momentum on the main straight. Thomas went in too deep at turn 3 forcing him wide on the exit and leaving him now in 4th, however, a massive charge down to turn 5 put him back in contention.
A safety car was called out before the end of the first lap, which caused confusion for the cars chasing Khun Manat. He seemed to have a problem and slowed down so the chasing trio of Khun Pete, James and Thomas jumped at the chance and dived down the inside into turn 12. Thomas was however quickly informed by Chief Mechanic Sven Thummel to let the Toyota of Khun Manat back past him so not to incur a penalty, Thomas obliged and sat patiently behind them waiting for the safety car to come in. After 4 laps behind the safety car, the lights went green and Thomas once again started pressuring the Toyota of Khun Manat, overtaking him comfortably on the main straight. The conditions were perfect for the Rain Master Raldorf and within a couple of laps, he had overtaken the Rotary Mazda RX7 of James Runacres to take 2nd place in the race. As the laps counted down Thomas began to reel in the leader who happened to be Teammate Khun Pete in the Porsche Cayman. With four laps to go young James was challenging Khun Manat when all of a sudden the right rear tyre of the Toyota exploded destroying that area of the car and the resulting debris hitting and destroying the windscreen of the Mazda, fortunately, no driver was injured however both cars retired shortly after.
Thomas was unaware what had happened behind him and continued to push on overtaking the Cayman of Teammate Khun Pete on the Pit Straight, much to the delight of the team watching from the Pit Wall and the sponsors and fans in the stands. The final laps soon counted down with Thomas crossing the line and taking the 20 points and the Drivers title and also taking the fastest lap with a time of 1.52:343 a massive 1.2 seconds quicker than anyone else. A sensational drive in tricky conditions by the Danish Dynamo in what was such a dramatic and perfect ending that only motorsport can produce.
Scenes of jubilation quickly followed throughout the paddock as the team, sponsors and fans raced to the pit entrance to congratulate the new champion, who was soon treated to a champagne shower! For everyone associated with the team this season has been one hell of a ride from the initial heartbreak of the fuel pressure issues at the start of the season to the dominant double wins in Bang Saen & Buriram and then when all seemed against them for the final race Thomas delivered one of the best drives of his career to bring home the spoils.
Unixx TR-Motorsport would like to thank Khun Manat and Toyota for the challenges they brought this year and look forward to another close battle in 2017. The Final Drivers’ Standings were Thomas 137 Points, Khun Manat 114 Points.
The Team would like to thank all their gracious sponsors for whom without none of this could be possible and big thank you to all the fans who have travelled and supported the team throughout and shared their photos and experiences on social media.
A special mention goes to Henk Kiks and his B-Quik Racing Team who have been magnificent in supporting TR-Motorsport throughout the season, their approach and professionalism are unequalled within the racing fraternity. Thoughts will soon turn to 2018 and what lies ahead as the team defend their title.
Source. TR Motorsport/Photo. Thailand Super Series