A life-long dream of many motorsports fans in Thailand was fulfilled last weekend when Chang International Circuit (CIC), the first world-class racing track in the Kingdom, made its debut with the Japanese Super GT and wowed racing enthusiasts around the world.
A huge turnout defied the baking heat and humidity to witness a victory for Kazuki Nakajima and James Rossiter of Petronas Tom's RCF in the GT500. Kazuki Hoshino and Spain's Lucas Ordonez of Japanese NDDP Racing team took the GT300 honours.
The Thai-owned i-Mobile AAS team, helmed by Thai racer Vuttikorn Inthraphuvasak and Swiss driver Alexandre Imperatori, claimed the GT300 pole position in Saturday's qualifying but had to settle for seventh in the final race on Sunday after suffering an engine malfunction.
Behind the success of the CIC's debut was Tipco Asphalt, which was entrusted to lay the FIA Grade 1 racetrack. But the firm said the job was not easy.
Kasidis Chareancholwanich, director of the project, said the FIA Grade 1 track required a special ultra-smooth surface able to withstand the impact of high-performance cars while retaining grip to ensure safety at very high speeds.
This was the first time a Thai company had ever made an international racetrack, said Kasidis, adding that working with renowned race circuit designer Hermann Tilke was very challenging.
The success of CIC could be gauged by the presence of 130,000 spectators during the event.
Newin Chidchob, chairman of the CIC's advisory committee, said the circuit is of world class and passed the test conducted by the Japanese Super GT organisers. He also declared that the circuit would be expanded to accommodate 100,000 spectators within this year.
With the better-than-expected response from motorsport fans and tourists, Newin's dream of turning Buriram province into a sporting hub is coming to a fruition.
"In the next five years, Buriram will become one of the top cities in Thailand. Thanks to sports entertainment in Buriram and the many tourist attractions in Thailand, the country will be able to compete with China, Malaysia and Japan as the tourist destination and sports hub of the region," he said.
The CIC will also host several major races during the remainder of the year, including the Asian Le Mans Series 2014, Touring Car Series in Asia and the Asia Road Racing motorcycle event. Local races lined up for the circuit include the Thailand Super Series, Pro Racing Series Thailand Championship, Truevisions Bobby Hunter Super One Race, Honda One Make Race and Toyota Motorsport Festival.