Raldorf & Engstler battle to podium in Bang Saen

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Thomas Raldorf (right) and Franz Engstler celebrate their second place finish in Bang Saen.
Thomas Raldorf (right) and Franz Engstler celebrate their second place finish in Bang Saen.

The Pattaya based Unixx TR-Motorsport team rolled into the coastal town of Bang Saen for rounds 5 & 6 of the Thailand Super Series last month.

After the issues that plagued the team in rounds 3 & 4 in Buriram, the focus was to get back into contention for the title race on the tight, twisty streets of Bang Saen at the race festival held from July 11-15.

The team welcomed Franz Engstler as the new co-driver with Thomas Raldorf for the weekend, the former needing no introduction as he has one of the finest racing pedigrees on the planet.

As qualifying arrived the team were in confident mood and the drivers duly delivered, with Engstler taking 4th on the grid for Race 1 and Raldorf going two places better with 2nd on the grid for Race 2.

As the lights went green on the rolling start for Race 1, Engstler was slow off the line and was quickly passed on the main straight by the two Toyotas. This circuit is notoriously difficult to pass but Engstler fought back to fifth place before a racing incident led to the safety car being deployed.

The Unixx TR-Motorsport team decided to pit the car for the driver changeover at this point but later found out that changeovers were not allowed under the safety-car ruling and Raldorf, who had taken over in the driver’s seat was subsequently black flagged from the race.

Tony Percy consolidated his lead in the Super 2000 / Thailand Touring Car class championship after a fine performance in Bang Saen.
Tony Percy consolidated his lead in the Super 2000 / Thailand Touring Car class championship after a fine performance in Bang Saen.

There were several causalities from Race 1 that didn’t start Race 2, leaving just a field of six as the lights went green. The remaining #38 Toyota suffered brake failure on the very first lap and ended up in the barriers, meaning the safety car was once more deployed as the marshals worked to remove the stricken car.

As the safety car pulled in, the pole-sitting Ferrari 488 got away quickly and left Raldorf to defend his 2nd place from the faster B-Quik Porsche. The top three cars were constantly setting fastest laps, Raldorf was starting to catch the Ferrari and by the time pit window opened the top three were separated by just over one second.

During the driver changeovers the top two teams lost valuable seconds and the B-Quik Porsche took advantage to take the lead. The Ferrari gradually caught up to the B-Quik car and with only a few minutes of the race left, the two cars fighting for the lead approached a backmarker and the Porsche driver made a mistake, sending him into the barriers and allowing the Ferrari through to take the lead. Engstler also took advantage of the error to fly through and claim a very hard fought and valuable 2nd place.

In the race for the championship the team now lie level on points with the Ferrari team in 2nd place and only 16 points behind the B-Quik team with a further 60 points available in the rounds 7 & 8. The Porsche will be back on track for the concluding event of the season as they return to the Chang International Circuit in Buriram for the final rounds on October 23.

In the Super 2000 / Thailand Touring Car class, Unixx TR-Motorsport and driver Tony Percy were in confident mood in Bang Saen, but due to an unavoidable engine replacement during qualifying Percy was forced to start at the very back of the grid for Race 1.After taking several positions within the first three corners disaster struck again and the Honda was forced to retire from the race with a mechanical issue.

The Unixx TR-Motorsport Porsche competes in the GTM Supercar class.
The Unixx TR-Motorsport Porsche competes in the GTM Supercar class.

Race 2 was a completely different affair, this time the charge from the back came and the car held together, with Percy storming through the field to take a very well deserved 2nd place and some valuable championship points to extend his lead in the title race.

Unixx TR-Motorsport’s young Danish prodigy Victor Jensen was competing in the Super Production class in Bang Saen in the team’s Honda Jazz.

First practice didn’t start well as Jensen’s car soon lost power steering due to an electrical issue but once the problems were sorted out, and with Thomas Raldorf’s sage words of advice in his ear, the young Dane blew away the more senior opposition in qualifying to take pole position with a time that was 4 seconds faster than his best lap in free practice.

As the lights went green for Race 1, Jensen struggled to get the car off the line and fell back to 3rd place, but over the next few laps the young driver regained focus, pushed hard at every corner and soon retook the position. The lead car was 7 seconds down the track and Jensen was on the hunt, closing the gap to just 2 seconds after only a few laps, however a wayward backmarker held up his charge and despite then setting the fastest lap of the race he was unable to catch the eventual winner.

Unfortunately a stomach virus laid young Jensen low before Race 2 and the decision was taken by the team to withdraw him from the starting grid. He will now be hoping for better fortune for rounds 5 & 6 at the Bira International Circuit from August 31 – September 2.

For more information about the Unixx TR-Motorsport team and upcoming events, visit tr-motorsport.com.

(Photos courtesy The Baristographer)