Thailand’s iconic Bangsaen Grand Prix signals the close of the fifth season of the TCR touring car concept’s longest running series with the final event of the 2019 TCR Asia Series hosting two races on the demanding and sometimes treacherous 3.7-kilometre, 20-turn beachside street circuit, a venue that has in the past had a big impact on the championship points leaders.
Playing host to this year’s final could also be the turning point in the title race as history has shown across the past two years that the points leaders have suffered a torrid time on the popular coastal circuit, with neither reigning champion Luca Engstler, nor 2017 champion Kantadhee Kusiri recording a win on a circuit that Kusiri for one had enjoyed significant past success in other categories.
As they have done the past three seasons though, German-based Liqui Moly Team Engstler come into the Bangsaen final as points leaders, with both their Hyundai i30 N TCR drivers in contention for the title, whilst they have already wrapped up the Teams’ title for the fourth consecutive year, and with that, the maiden title in Asia for Hyundai as winner of the coveted ‘Car Model of the Year’ for this season.
Off the back of victory in TCR Asia in 2018 and the complete domination of the season-opening TCR Malaysia Championship, reigning champion Luca Engstler comes into Bangsaen as points leader with a somewhat comfortable 30-point advantage over team-mate Diego Moran, although it is Moran who has been amongst the most successful campaigners on the Chonburi circuit in the Series’ past visits, having placed second twice from four starts.
Last year, Engstler suffered a tough run at Bangsaen despite having dominated practice and qualifying (just as Kusiri had done 12 months prior), the German teenager though suffering a drive-through penalty for a start infringement in race one and brake failure in race two whilst fighting for the lead leaving him with a best finish of just sixth.
In contrast Moran claimed second in race two behind Lo Sze Ho’s Maximum Racing Honda, a strong recovery from his own setback in race one with a broken drive-shaft sidelining him before the start.
The two will likely form the focal point at the front of the field, although both can expect that international star Pepe Oriola will be keen to assert his own authority on the popular street race, an event that is certain to attract a big passionate local crowd, although at 57-points down on Engstler he has no chance of claiming the title with just 55-points on offer for the race weekend..
The outright battle isn’t the only title up for grabs at Bangsaen, with Douglas Khoo still in with a mathematical chance of victory in the TCR Asia Cup, although he will start the event 37-points down on Volkswagen Team Oettinger’s Roland Hertner, however with six prior starts to his name at Bangsaen he could push that past experience, whilst his recent test in an LMP2 car with TCR rivals Eurasia Motorsport will see him more than race ready for the coming weekend.
Speaking of Eurasia, the Philippine-based team will again field a pair of Hyundai i30N TCRs for rising star Daniel Miranda and China’s Hua Yang [Zack] Gao, the pair keen to impress on the challenging street circuit layout, with Miranda keen to cement his position at the top of the standings in the hotly contested Asian Driver’s points race. He will need to turn in an almost flawless performance though, with Solite Indigo Racing’s Kim Jin Soo just 15 points behind, whilst Volkswagen Team Oettinger rising star Adam Khalid is just 11 points further back..
Locally the big vocal Bangsaen crowd will have plenty to cheer about, with reigning TCR Thailand champion Jakraphan Davee back in the Series behind the wheel of the bright yellow Alpha Factory Racing Team by Pulzar Cupra TCR looking to return to the outright podium, whilst impressing upon his rivals his past experiences on the Chonburi circuit.
Sadly prior commitments have kept TeamWork Motorsport’s Alex Hui from his Bangsaen debut, although the Audi team will be well represented by Hong Kong’s David Lau who returns to the seat after kicking off the season during the opening event at Sepang in early April.
WHO TO WATCH OUT FOR..
You’d be hard pressed to look past reigning champion and points leader Luca Engstler, the young German, fresh from a strong run at Red Bull Ring in Austria in TCR Europe is looking to cement his second TCR Asia driver’s title, although he won’t be without challenge, with Ecuador’s Diego Moran intent on claiming the biggest title in his motorsport career.
For Moran his greatest asset could be Pepe Oriola. A ‘brawler’ skilled in the fine art of touring car combat, Oriola will not be the least bit phased about his debut on the tight, twisty 20-turn Bangsaen street circuit layout, and after a tough year that has netted a string of podiums and not a single victory, he will be looking to close out the season on a high.
As freshly crowned TCR Asia Series ‘Car Model of the Year’, Hyundai have nothing to lose in their debut at Bangsaen, and with more than half the field behind the wheel of the Korean ‘hot hatch’, they will have numbers on their side, but as to who the marque’s leading driver will be is yet to be determined, with all six drivers capable of making the podium..
The TCR Asia Series Cup will also represent great viewing, as will the battle to be top Asian driver, providing fans a number of epic battles right through the field, although if there’s anything the drivers should take away from past events at Bangsaen, it’s the knowledge that the race isn’t won off the start.. Nor the first (or second) corner!
Action begins at Bangsaen with two official practice sessions on Friday morning, before the twin qualifying sessions that will begin from 8:30am (ICT) on Saturday, with the opening 30-minute race (Round#9) coming at 11:00am. The final round of the 2019 season (Round#10) will come during the Sunday afternoon heat (12:45pm). All sessions will be available to follow through live-timing, whilst qualifying and both races will be live streamed through Facebook and YouTube.
HOW TO FOLLOW THE BANGSAEN EVENT;
Both TCR Asia Series Bangsaen races will be live-streamed through the TCR Asia Series website and through Facebook. Details of the streams and the broadcast times will be available on the TCR Asia Series website - www.asia.tcr-series.com- and through social media; www.facebook.com/TCRAsiaSeries will also post news, video clips, images and updates, and you can also get involved in the conversation on www.twitter.com/TCRAsiaSeries
Media images from across the event will be available via the TCR Asia website; http://asia.tcr-series.com/index.php/multimedia/photogallery
WHO’S COMPETING IN BANGSAEN?
1. Luca Engstler [GER] Liqui Moly Team Engstler Hyundai i30N TCR
3. Roland Hertner [GER] Volkswagen Team Oettinger Golf GTi TCR*
4. Adam Khalid [MAS] Volkswagen Team Oettinger Golf GTi TCR
20. Daniel Miranda [PHI] Eurasia Motorsport Hyundai i30N TCR
23. Diego Moran [ECU] Liqui Moly Team Engstler Hyundai i30N TCR
30. Hua Yang Gao [CHN] Eurasia Motorsport Hyundai i30N TCR
33. Jakraphan Davee [THA] Alpha Factory Racing Team by Pulzar Cupra TCR
36. David Lau [HKG] TeamWork Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS TCR*
65. Douglas Khoo [MAS] Viper Niza Racing Cupra TCR*
74. Pepe Oriola [SPA] Solite Indigo Racing Hyundai i30N TCR
97. Kim Jin Soo [KOR] Solite Indigo Racing Hyundai i30N TCR
BANGSAEN GRAND PRIX CIRCUIT;
Bangsaen Street Circuit, Chonburi (Thailand)
Track length: 3.700-kilometres
Circuit first opened: 2007
Number of times TCR Asia Series has competed at Bangsaen previously: 2 [2017/2018]
TCR Asia Series lap record (qualifying): Kantadhee Kusiri (Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR): 1:42.124
TCR ASIA SERIES AND THE BANGSAEN GRAND PRIX;
The TCR Asia Series will return to Bangsaen for the third time in succession, this time as the host of the season finale. Of the four races contested on the Chonburi beach circuit, the champion elect hasn’t won a single race, with the points leaders traditionally facing dramas on the tight, 20-corner venue where any minor contact has major consequences.
For Liqui Moly team Engstler they come into the final event of the season as points leaders for the fourth year in succession, with only reigning champion Luca Engstler or team-mate Diego Moran capable of taking the teams fourth drivers crown, and with Moran having stood on the podium once each in 2017 and 2018, he may well start favourite..
TCR ASIA SERIES AND THE BANGSAEN GRAND PRIX..
2018 TCR Asia Series - Rnd#5 (15-laps) - 14 July
Pole position: Luca Engstler (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswgen Golf GTi TCR) - 1:43.443
1. 59. Pattarapol Vongprai* - Vattana Motorsport Honda Civic TCR# - 15-laps
2. 96. Leewattanavaragul* - Morin Racing Team by Sunoco Seat Leon TCR# +0.767
3. 33. Jakraphan Davee* - Alphafactory by Pulzar Seat Leon TCR# +5.200
4. 3. Alex Liu - Elegant Racing Team Seat Léon TCR +11.526
5. 30. Kelvin Wong - Elegant Racing Team Seat Léon TCR +19.606
6. 8. Luca Engstler - Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR +25.578
* TCR Thailand
2018 TCR Asia Series - Rnd#6 (15-laps) - 15 July
1. 28. Lo Sze Ho - Maximum Racing Honda Civic TCR - 15-laps
2. 32. Diego Moran - Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR +2.673
3. 29. Mitchell Cheah - Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR +5.513
2017 TCR Asia Series - Rnd#7 (7-laps) - 1 July
Pole position: Kantadhee Kusiri (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswgen Golf GTi TCR) - 1:42.124
1. Tin Sritrai (Team Thailand Honda Civic TCR)
2. WS Lai (R Engineering Honda Civic TCR) +7.417
3. Pasarit Promosmbat (RMI Racing Team Seat Leon TCR) + 8.424
2017 TCR Asia Series - Rnd#8 (11-laps) - 2 July
1. Tin Sritrai (Team Thailand Honda Civic TCR)
2. Diego Moran (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswgen Golf GTi TCR) +1.507
3. Nattanid Leewattanavaragul (RMI Racing Team Seat Leon TCR) +1.659
Rnd#9/#10 - 2019 TCR Asia Series
Bangsaen Grand Prix Circuit, Chonburi, Thailand
Schedule (ICT - GMT +7)
Friday, 30 August, 2019
08:50am - TCR Asia Series - Practice#1 (30-mins)
11:55am - TCR Asia Series - Practice#2 (30-mins)
Saturday, 31 August, 2019
08:30am - TCR Asia Series Qualifying#1 (20-mins)
08:55am - TCR Asia Series Qualifying#2 (10-mins)
11:00am - TCR Asia Series - Race#1 (15-laps)
Sunday, 1 September, 2019
12:45pm - TCR Asia Series - Race#2 (15-laps)