Three teams and six drivers representing Thailand - third only to Hong Kong and China in terms of numbers - will compete on home soil at Chang International Circuit in Buriram this weekend when Blancpain GT Series Asia stages its third and fourth races of 2017.
Securing a robust entry for its inaugural campaign in a new market was the championship organiser’s prime focus before this year began, but with more than 20 full-season cars signed up and expectations exceeded SRO Motorsports Group has switched its attention to regional drivers and teams eager to compete in a pan-continental series.
Thailand’s rich history in and passion for motorsport will be clear for all to see this weekend at Buriram where five drivers and three teams are making their championship debut alongside full-season entrant Sandy Stuvik. This number would have been even higher were it not for the X-One Racing Lamborghini’s last-minute withdrawal as a result of damage sustained at Sepang.
Singha has long supported motorsport across the region and internationally, and its logos will adorn three of the race-by-race entries competing this weekend. Singha Plan-B Motorsport Team’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi and Kantasak Kusiri comprise the only all-Thai driver line-up, Naiyanobh Bhirombhakdi shares a Craft-Bamboo Racing Porsche with Chris van der Drift, and Voravud Bhirombhakdi lines up in his Singha Motorsport Team Thailand Ferrari 458 with long-time driver coach Carlo van Dam alongside.
Another Porsche 991 GT3 R, this time entered by est cola Thailand’s Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak and Thailand-based Frenchman Maxime Jousse, contribute towards a 26-strong field this weekend in Buriram.
Similarly, discussions are ongoing with several additional Japanese teams and drivers interested in contesting Blancpain GT Series Asia’s upcoming rounds at Suzuka and Fuji. CarGuy Racing’s plans have already been confirmed, while further announcements are expected in the coming weeks.
Bhurit Bhirombhakdi, #59 Singha Plan-B Motorsport Team Audi R8 LMS GT3: “We were planning to do the full season and the car didn’t arrive in time, but it’s nice to start here at our home round. I used to race in Ferrari Challenge and this is my first season with the Audi GT3, which feels more like a thoroughbred racing car. It’s very different! The championship is also packed with cars and good drivers, so we’re expecting a very competitive field.”
Voravud Bhirombhakdi, #9 Singha Motorsport Team Thailand Ferrari 458 GT3: “I’m more used to driving on my own in sprint-style GT races and actually haven’t shared a car with Carlo [van Dam] before! However, I’m delighted to be competing in Blancpain GT Series Asia for the first time this weekend. The championship is very competitive and there are a lot of top drivers, which made me want to be a part of it even more. We know our Ferrari 458 won’t be as competitive as the newer cars but it’s still good to get some track time, hopefully enjoy ourselves and think about entering more races next season. We’re taking it step by step.”
Naiyanobh Bhirombhakdi, #88 Craft-Bamboo Racing Porsche 991 GT3 R: “I wanted to continue with Craft-Bamboo Racing this year but, due to work, couldn’t commit to a full season. Then I got a call asking me to do Buriram, my schedule was clear and here I am! It’s good that we can pick up where we left off with last year’s GT Asia programme. Racing at home does give me a little extra incentive, but I’ve also been keeping an eye on what SRO has been doing in Asia and watched the Sepang races last month. The grid is tremendous and hopefully it’s something I can be a part of full-time next year.”
Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak, #8 est cola Thailand Porsche 991 GT3 R: “I’ve done plenty of GT racing but this is my first time in a Porsche GT3 R and using Pirelli’s tyres. I’m definitely excited but there’s a lot to learn and hopefully I can adapt quickly. Fortunately our sponsor, est cola, gave us the opportunity to race this weekend. There’s a chance we’ll be back for a few more - the championship looks very competitive, so it’s just as well I have a fast co-driver in Maxime [Jousse]!”
Sandy Stuvik, #66 Vincenzo Sospiri Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3: “The track is relatively flat so the change in elevation doesn’t pose any issues. But it does have a lot of areas inside the kerbs you can use, which is the key to going fast here. Knowing how much to use and where - because there’s a lot more grip - but without abusing track limits is important. In that regard it’s difficult to find the limit. I haven’t raced here since last year but this will be my first proper international event at home. Feeling the support and seeing myself on the billboards is pretty cool!”
The first of this weekend’s races takes place tomorrow afternoon at 15:20 local time before a second 60-minute race begins at 13:30 on Sunday.