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Pattaya Pro Racing Series, Rd 5, Bira Circuit, Chonburi - Pro Pick-Up views from the paddock

The pick-up runners seemed to be mostly ones I had seen in action on the equivalent bill of the Super Car series this year and the same plumes of black diesel smoke enveloped the track whenever these hulking machines ventured out of the pitlane. The pick-ups ranks, split over three classes, were made up of workhorses from the Chevrolet, Toyota, Ford, Isuzu and Mitsubishi stables. The light was starting to fade now as the 13 pick-ups swiftly assembled on the grid for a scheduled 5 oclock green flag. These beasts again provided plenty of attention, especially with some of the chosen lines that appeared to defy racing convention not to mention the laws of physics, with the top-three competitors locked in a battle for supremacy during the opening laps. The battle raged right over the 12 laps to the chequered flag with honours eventually going by just 0.313 of a second to the gloriously-named Worrapoj Boonchouylhoue in the #14 Izuzu and he crossed the finish line in a cloud of diesel smoke after 15 minutes and 48.091 seconds of tooth-and-nail fought racing. He also posted the fastest lap in 1 minute 17.44 seconds, an average speed of 111.564 km/h, and collected the Class A/B honours. Pitoon Thamasirikul (#27 Mitsubishi) claimed second place, while the last podium position went to Jaras Jangkamolkunchai (#5 Chevrolet) who faded off the lead battle by the flag, but was still less than two-and-a-half seconds off the runner-up spot. As these runners wreathed the rolling Pattaya countryside in thick black smoke as if it was in the clammy grip of a grim industrial plant, it was hard to tell how dusky it is getting. Twenty seconds off the winner and fifth overall, arrived the Class C winner: Maram Sukkato (#51 Mitsubishi). Eventually eleven pick-ups many sporting contact damage took the flag, ten of them are un-lapped.


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Drag Racing @ Tepnakorn Motor Sports Complex
Drag racing is a popular if niche motor sport across the world, the noise, smoke, style and razzmatazz of the events drag in thousands of aficionados, and in Thailand this genre is reportedly popular and well-attended, so its time to check out this scene. There are two 1/4 miles strips in the vicinity of Bangkok, and one, the Tepnakorn Motor Sports Complex, is a modern, purpose-built track located just off the Rama II highway about 50 kilometres out of the city on the long stretch down to Samut Songkram. Events run at the Tepnakorn Motor Sports Complex every Saturday night with practice starting in the daytime as the action winds up to a climax in the early hours of Sunday morning. Surprisingly the track is pretty easy to find, and heading down the Rama II highway it suddenly looms large on the right hand side following a dearth of the landmarks shown on Google Maps. It's a sea of floodlights, a sprawling car park, banging noise and a huge, unmissable illuminated sign angled close to the road. If only every destination in Thailand was as easy to find. It's nearly 11:00 PM by the time we arrive, and there's is a healthy crowd milling about and the car park is packed with vehicles of all shapes and sizes. The action will apparently go on until 2:00 AM. There seems to be a pretty big mix of 'drag' cars hitting the 1/4 mile strip, and in action at this point are warmed-up road-legal cars including the - ever popular here - Honda Jazz and Civic as well as the Toyota Yaris and Vios. The strip is only a couple of years old and its clearly still a work in the final stages of completion as there are garages going up alongside one side of the track while there is a - packed out - grandstand along the otherside, in the middle of the two lanes is the usual set of christmas tree lights. The place has a fresh, clean feel and the concrete barriers haven't had time to become dull as they accumulate the customary grime of age. Above the start-line an oval-shaped control tower, packed with timing gear inside and clad with shiny gold-coloured corrugated steel panels on the outside, looks down imperiously on the unfolding action. The strip itself is quite wide and lined with concrete barriers. All-in-all its a pretty good complex and one that looks like it is set - judging by the ample crowd - to have an ever bigger and better future. The Tepnakorn Motor Sports Complex is the brainchild of Bangkok businessman Sittichai Sirithatthamrong who is a keen proponent of drag racing and drove the ambitious project to fruition. The "main act" tonight is Raoul Blanchetti, known as the Fastest Man in Thailand, who holds the record down the 1/4 mile in 7.260 seconds. An Italian who has lived in Thailand for more than a decade, Raoul has a boatbuilding business in Pattaya. His black-white-and-gold Top Fuel dragster is the centre of attention tonight at the Tepnakorn Motor Sports Complex as his mechanics make the final preparations and system checks under temporary floodlights in the paddock to the sleek car ahead of its headlining scream down the strip. According to Raoul's website this car has a "665 c.i. Top Sportsman engine with a Dart Big M block and a Callies crankshaft; GRP aluminum rods connected to a set of JE pistons; a set of 12° Pro-Filer heads with Jesel Pro rocker arms with an HRE sheet metal intake with two 1150 Quick Fuel carbs; a complete dry sump system with a Stef's tank; and there is an MSD Ignition system with a Jesel Belt Drive. It's a potent package and as the car is rolled into the starting area the railings of the compound and the grandstands are packed with anticipation. Raoul is a showman for sure, this is his stage, the darkened, spotlight-lit amphitheatre is his, as he squeezes into the tiny cockpit and is helmeted up. The burnout is every bit a part of the drag racing sensation as the timed dash up the 1/4 mile and the dragster's huge Hoosier rear tyres spin and smoke as Raoul warms them up and leaps forward beyond the line before the machine comes growling and snarling its way back into the starting area ready for its run. Up-close it's a veritable sea of noise, tyre smoke, fuel smells and adrenaline as he floors the sleek machine and with every horse in its gleaming, chromed engine thrusting, it explodes forward, within seconds a tiny dot in the darkness. Hauled back minutes later, the crowd cheers again, the fastest time of the night has been set, and its time for the next acts to take to the stage.

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