Thomas and Franz Battle their way to a Podium in Bang Saen
GTM Supercar Class
Thomas Raldorf – Franz Engstler – Porsche 997
After the issues that plagued the team in rounds 3 & 4 at The Chang International Circuit in Buriram, the focus now was to get back into contention for the title race on the tight, twisty streets of Bang Saen. Leading up to the event that is held in conjunction with the Bang Saen Festival of Speed, the Porsche 997 was put through its paces in a test session at the Bira International Circuit to ensure the mechanical gremlins were gone.
As always the team arrived early in the week to begin preparations as the quiet beachside streets were transformed into one of the most challenging circuits in Asia.
The team welcomed Franz Engstler AKA Mr Motorsport who would be Co-driver with Thomas Raldorf for the weekend. Franz Engstler needs no introduction as he has one of the finest racing pedigrees on the planet and is a welcome addition to the team.
Franz soon got to grips with the 997 in the practice sessions as both him and Thomas constantly bettered their times. As qualifying arrived the team were in confident mood and the drivers delivered with Franz taking 4th on the grid for Race 1 and Thomas going two places better with 2nd on the grid for Race 2.
Thomas Raldorf Qualifying Lap 1:38.811
As the lights went green on the rolling start, Franz, who was driving the first stint of the race was slow off the line as second gear wouldn’t initially engage and was quickly passed on the main straight by the two Toyota’s, dropping him down to 6th, after a few consolidation laps Franz was soon on the tail of 5th place. The circuit is notoriously difficult to pass as Franz weaved left and right to try to get a run on the 5th place and his persistence eventually paid off squeezing past the #38 Toyota GT86. 24 minutes into the one hour race and Franz was all over the back of the 4th place GT86 who made a big mistake smashing into the wall completely destroying the front right section of the car resulting in the safety car being deployed and Franz, after some evasive driving to avoid the accident moving into 4th place overall.
The safety car allowed all the cars to bunch up giving Franz another opportunity to gain more places at the restart. A few laps into the safety car period the #38 Toyota following behind pulled into the pits for the Compulsory Pit Stop (CPS) and driver changeover. The Unixx TR-Motorsport pit crew decided to follow suit to negate any chances of the undercut. Franz was informed over the radio to box, box, box and he duly confirmed, however, the team were then told pitting under the safety car is not allowed, the team tried to relay this to Franz but his radio was down so in he came to the pits as originally asked.
As the safety car was still deployed Thomas quickly caught up to the back of the pack and when the safety car pulled in, the cars in front made their CPS leaving Thomas in first place by 23 seconds. However, due to the pit stop infringement the team were under investigation and were duly black flagged a short time after, disqualifying them along with the #38 Toyota who also committed the same infringement. A lesson learned as valuable championship points were lost.
Although disappointed from the pit stop confusion in Race 1, the team were still confident of a good haul of points for Race 2. They were several causalities from Race 1 that didn’t start the race leaving just a field of six as the lights went green. The pole position Ferrari 488 challenge quickly showed its speed as it started to break away from the chasing pack, while Thomas fought hard to hold off the B-Quik Porsche. The remaining #38 Toyota suffered brake failure on the very first lap and ended up in the barriers, the safety car was deployed soon after as the marshals removed the stricken car.
As the safety car pulled in the 488 challenge once again pulled away quickly leaving Thomas to defend his 2nd place from the faster B-Quik Porsche. The top three cars were constantly setting fastest laps and Thomas was starting to catch the Ferrari. By the time pit window opened the top three were separated by just over one second, Thomas followed the Ferrari while the b-Quik Porsche stayed out and with the clean air ahead of him started to put in some very quick lap times.
During the driver change over an issue with belts lost the team valuable seconds and when Franz eventually got going he was several seconds behind the Ferrari. The very next lap the B-Quik Porsche made their CPS and got out well ahead of both Franz and the leading Ferrari. Franz now had a mammoth task ahead with a 21-second gap to the leading Porsche. Peter Jaeger, TR-Motorsport Race Engineer got on the radio and asked for 4 more tenths per lap, Franz gave him an extra second as he continued to chase down to the cars ahead.
As the race wore on, the Ferrari which was originally 16 seconds down on the B-Quik car was now all over the back of the Porsche and challenging for the lead. With only a few minutes of the race left, the two cars fighting for the lead approached a backmarker and as the Porsche attempted to block the Ferrari and pass the backmarker he braked off the racing line where there was less grip and could not slow the car down quick enough sending him into the barriers allowing the Ferrari through to take the lead. Although the Porsche managed to get going again, significant damage to the front right of the car allowed Franz to quickly catch up and overtake him to claim a very hard fought 2nd place.
Franz drove back to the pit lane and was swamped by team members and jubilant fans celebrating a thrilling drive by the Danish Dynamo and Mr Motorsport to get the team on to the second step of the podium and some much-needed championship points. As the sun set on Bang Saen beach the team relaxed with sponsors and other guests to look back and reflect on another crazy weekend for the Unixx TR-Motorsport team.
In the race for the championship the team are now 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 Championship is still a possibility. The Porsche will be back on track for the final event of the season as they return to the Chang International Circuit in Buriram for the final rounds of the Thailand Super Series 2018.
The team would like to thank their gracious sponsors, Unixx Lubricants, Planet Porsche, Amber Food & Grapes, AKA Traders, SEARA Sports, Sky Marine Group, SCAN Global Logistics, Retox Group, Inspire Thailand, B-Quik Racing, Freem Thailand, PFC Brakes, MOGIT, Industrial Cutting Services, Grover Grover Tailors, BK Racing Clutch, Human i.t. and Thai Visa.
A special thanks to all the fans and guests who came along to enjoy the weekend.