Team NZ Motorsport enjoyed a winning start to the New Year at Buriram’s Chang International Circuit last Sunday afternoon during the third round of Asian Le Mans Series 2016-17.
Thanks to excellent driving from Graeme Dowsett, John Curran and Paul Kanjanapas, coupled to superb teamwork and slick pitstops from the crew and a faultless afternoon’s running from the #77 Porsche 997 GT3 Cup, it all added together nicely to put us on the top step of the GT Cup class podium – and that sets everything up perfectly for a dramatic title showdown at the final round of the Asian Le Mans season, to be held at Sepang Circuit in just over a week and a half’s time.
It was a very early start to the season for Team NZ – this was after all the first weekend of 2017 – but it proved to be a superb way to kick the New Year off. We determined that entering the two races (in Buriram and Sepang) that comprise the second half of the Asian Le Mans Series 2016-17 calendar was the ideal route to get the team back out on track, blow off the cobwebs and sharpen up everyone’s skills as we head into another racing year.
As usual John Curran and Graeme Dowsett were behind the wheel, but for the 4 Hours of Thailand in Buriram we were joined by Thai racer Paul Kanjanapas, who brought plenty of experience racing the Porsche 997 GT3 Cup as well, of course, of the Buriram circuit. Paul, as expected, slotted in seamlessly.
The car was well prepared by the team and the only hiccup to affect us in the run up to the weekend was a dose of food poisoning for Graeme on Friday evening which left qualifying duties in the hands of John, who capably banged in a time that lined us up nicely on the grid in P1.
Come raceday we were delighted to welcome special guest Mr. Patrick Simiyu Wamoto, Ambassador Extraordinary of the Republic of Kenya, to our garage and to show him the #77 car.
When the lights went green the game plan was really to stay clear of trouble, especially with two dozen LMP2, LMP3 and GT3 category cars on the track that would each be lapping at a much quicker pace than in GTC Cup. John took the first stint, the Irishman making a clean start and settling in before handing over to Graeme for a short second stint. Paul took the middle shift and then it was back to the regular duo to close down the final segment of the race.
The car ran perfectly while the pitstops were fast and inch perfect and that meant we were able to emerge from four hours of racing on a hot afternoon in the North East of Thailand with our first win of the year – just eight days into 2017 – and the maximum Drivers’ and Teams’ points we scored haul us dead level in the GT Cup classifications with championship leaders going into this round.
That means when the Asian Le Mans Series 2016-17 resumes in Sepang for the final round of the season in just over a week and a half’s time (21-22 January) it’s going to be a ‘winner takes all’ showdown for the prestigious GT Cup title.
Team NZ Motorsport was supported in Buriram by Completion Products, Asia Pacific Spiral, Motosure, Pioneer Consultants, Nam Aik, FC and IMPACT SpeedPark .
Graeme Dowsett (New Zealand): “It was a good race, the mechanics did an excellent job with our pitstops, I think we were about two or three seconds under our allocated time on the pitstops so it was good to have that spare time. It was hot on track; I didn’t have a cool suit for the first stint, so it felt a bit hot, especially as I was still getting over the food poisoning. But other than that the race ran pretty much like clockwork, good times from all the drivers, so it was good, and now I’m looking forward to Sepang.”
John Curran (Ireland): “Obviously we missed rounds one and two so round three was the first round for us, so good to finally be in Asian Le Mans, a little bit later than we expected. I set a couple of personal best times this weekend, that was good progress, the whole secret though was to stay out of trouble and still have a car circulating at the end of it and ready to go into round four in two weeks time and hopefully have more Cup cars to race against.”
Paul Kanjanapas (Thailand): “It was a fantastic experience and Team NZ did a very good job in preparing the car, it ran absolutely trouble free for the whole weekend. I think we had a lot of fun on and off the track and I think the organisers’ did a very good job as well as I saw a lot of great drivers and good cars out there. So it was a lot of fun but it was also a very good experience for me to participate in this series.”