The final battle for the 2017 driver’s title in the Thailand Super Series took place at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram over the weekend, September 23-24.
With a lead of just 11 points from Manat’s Toyota Team there was still a lot of work to be done by Danish driver Thomas Raldorf and the Pattaya based Unixx–TR-Motorsport team to secure the title and a tense few days were ahead of them.
It was vital that the team got a good position on the grid in qualifying as even with a healthy point lead the Toyota with less weight was going to be extremely fast and hard to catch on a dry track. Raldorf squeezed everything out of the Porsche 997 to record a time of 1:44.080 although this still left him a massive 0.8 seconds behind Manat’s Toyota.
A light drizzle was a welcome sight on the morning of the first race day as this promised to level out the playing field, 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, Raldorf nearly edged out 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 the Dane who valiantly fought back but unfortunately both cars touched and were sent into separate spins, with Raldorf getting the car back on the track first, albeit in 7th place.
Following this mishap the Danish dynamo put down the hammer and made his way back up to a very commendable third place. Manat crossed the line with a healthy lead to TR-Motorsport teammate Pete in the JWD Porsche Cayman. The win for Manat left him just 3 points behind Raldorf in the championship race.
The results from Race 1 had ensured however that the GTC Supercar Team Championship was secured with a massive point difference over second place, a fantastic achievement in the Pattaya team’s debut season.
After securing the Team Championship, the pressure was now most definitely on to follow up with the drivers’ championship on Sunday. One hour before the race the heavens opened over the Chang International Circuit, producing a deluge of water onto the track and wet weather tires were selected and a few tweaks to the setup were made.
As the lights when green, Raldorf immediately started to challenge Manat but the Dane 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 led to confusion among the frontrunners and Manat lost the lead as he appeared to have a problem with his car. When racing got underway once more, Raldorf again started pressuring the Toyota of Manat and overtook him comfortably on the main straight. The conditions were perfect for the rain master Raldorf and within a couple of laps he had also overtaken the Rotary Mazda RX7 of James Runacres to take second place in the race.
As the laps counted down the Dane began to reel in the race leader who happened to be Teammate Pete in the Porsche Cayman. With four laps to go young James was challenging 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 the windscreen of the Mazda. Fortunately, no driver was injured however both cars retired shortly after.
Raldorf was unaware what had happened behind him and continued to push on, overtaking the Cayman on the main 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 Raldorf crossing the line and taking the 20 points and the driver’s title.
Scenes of jubilation quickly followed throughout the paddock as the team, sponsors and fans raced to congratulate the new champion, who was soon treated to a champagne shower!
The final drivers’ standings saw Raldorf finish on 137 points, 23 points ahead of Manat in second place.
For more information on TR-Motorsport visit www.tr-motorsport.com.
(Photos courtesy of the Thailand Super Series)