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New Bumblebee buzzes Bira

Pattaya One

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Henk-997-300x199.jpgThere’s a new bumblebee all set to give the established order in Super Car Thailand a real buzzing this year – rapid Dutch driver Henk J Kiks and the B-Quik Racing outfit are ready to stir up the hornets nest this year by stepping right on the gears and running a new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup racer.

Henk and B-Quik Racing have already forged a name for themselves in quick-time in Super Car Retro with the now-familiar black-and-yellow supercharged Porsche 944 that swept to class success last year. Not content with being unmatched in the Super Retro class, Henk regularly put the twenty year old sports car in amongst the big boys, and rounded out the season with a double category win at the Bangsaen Thailand Speed Festival.

Now with the team pulling together and with its growing experience filtering through the ranks of the B-Quik crew it’s time to open a new chapter and take on the finest Thailand has to offer in the burgeoning Super Car Normally Aspirated class. And that involved acquiring a 911 GT3 Cup machine from Europe.

“The car arrived here the first week of June, virgin white as they all leave the factory,” Henk explains. “We decided not to wrap the car in yellow due to the tendency of the yellow sticker to lose its true colours. So the car went for re-spray to SS Body where Khun Ouan did a marvelous job of the prepping and painting. After that it went to Dang Sticker to get the livery on it in black.”

All that flurry of activity was completed just in time for the car’s programmed shakedown over the weekend of 23, 24 and 25 June at Bira Circuit.

Few drivers racing in Thailand understand the fundamental metrics of racing like Henk does, that the job has to be done properly, perfectly, or not at all, and B-Quik Racing’s attention to every tiny detail is unrivalled. They arrive at the track very well prepared and have so far walked away with a lot of trophies. This year they have to raise their game – so it’s a new car, a new step and also a new core of highly experienced personnel drawn from R&T Racing (Road & Track).

Barry Forth, R&T’s Principal, will be the 911 programme's Team Manager for B-Quik Racing this year with a focus on handling, strategy and set up. As the team set up in the permanent pit garage at Bira on Saturday morning, Barry was methodically going about his business; working with the Porsche factory’s endless track output is akin to breathing for this experienced hand. "This is the first time I've seen the car,” he said. “The shakedown will ensure everything is in order. This is a good reconnaissance to see what we need to go forward." Calm and at one with the sleek new machine he isn't going to be tripped up. "A vast range of setups work with this car, but,” he notes, “but [bira] doesn't really stretch its legs.

Joining Barry in the black and yellow B-Quik colours will be Duarte Alves from Macau who will be responsible for software, data and electronics, and Idris from Malaysia, who will be hands on with the car, and importantly, dishing out his experience to the B-Quik crew who are enthusiastically embracing the learning curve that everyone from Henk downwards will be put through this year.

Porsche driving is an art, there are no shortcuts, it has to be learnt, tamed and mastered. And with this in mind, completing the picture for the three day long test was Danny Watts, one of the quickest professional sports car drivers in the world today; he was there to benchmark the car and to work with Henk to get him up to speed. It's not often professional drivers who are at the top of their sport drive at Bira these days, and not only that, Danny came in directly from competing and finishing the 24 Hours of Le Mans the weekend before.

Being part of the B-Quik empire has its uses for the satellite B-Quik Racing operation as the familiar bright yellow clad workshops are to be everywhere in Thailand and first stop for the new machine was the Pattaya branch where the 911 was given once over, checking basic alignment and component condition.

Danny gave his first impressions of Thailand’s main circuit. "The layout is good, lots of slow and high speed [sections], chicanes. In terms of driving it's good fun, bumpy, but no run off so any mistake will be massively punished." Danny points especially to the 130R curve as being fast but with only minimal run off.

He is satisfied with day one’s shakedown laps. "It felt as it should be, balance is good, little bit of understeer [but] I like that,” he says while reiterating that the full strengths of the 997 simply can’t be be fully explored here. "The short straights don't get to use its potential,” he adds, "you get into fifth on the straight and immediately you are braking." And there have been a few puffs of tyre smoke over the afternoon as Danny has optimized the braking windows. The car though looks stunning in its new colour scheme and the weather at the circuit has been perfect.

Barry was also happy with the opening session as no major problems had reared their head. “The day’s objectives were to get some laps completed,” he said. "The car hasn't been used for a bit, we want to get Henk up to speed, get him used to the office." With decades of experience under his belt with Weissach built machines, Barry notes that: "Porsches are easy to drive up to a level, the next bit puts you above the rest."

Henk and Danny have hit it off instantly and they are working seamlessly together, which means the maximum can be gained from the three days. “Danny Watts is just fantastic, not all good drivers are good coaches and not all good coaches are good drivers, but Danny blends the two perfectly,” says Henk, who always exposes a calm and methodical approach and a clear understanding of what is needed to succeed in racing. He sets out objectives, last year they never settled with just Super Retro victories, and this year he’s moving on and setting the bar high once more. “Danny’s insight in the data and the car and the pupil allow for quick precise adjustments with immediate results,” adds Henk. “On top of that he's simply a great guy.”

Barry, meanwhile, is in the swing of things in his second day in the job, the management of the car now automatically revolves around his direction. He also knows this track like the back of his hand. "In fact I first came to Bira in 1990,” he says. "It used to be qualifying for Macau, a lot of people came for that reason, and it used to be on the calendar for AFOS, I've also been here with Asian F2000 and Formula BMW Asia. I like the track."

Over Sunday lunch at “Khun John’s”, an Australian restaurant which remains a well hidden gem just a couple of kilometres from the track, Danny recalls last weekend’s exploits at Le Mans. This was his fifth shot at the world’s toughest endurance race, and he still looks visibly tired. For the last three appearances he has shared the cockpit of an HPD with fellow Brits Nick Leventis and Johnny Kane, the trio claiming LMP2 victory in 2010.

This time though there was to be no champagne waiting at the chequered flag, the race was a real battle against adversity, as is so often the case at Le Mans. Danny got the less than popular very early morning shift. On driving at night at Le Mans he says: "200 mph four times a lap takes adjustment and getting reference points sorted." Further problems though set the car back, but they recovered to finish eighth. “Very useful,” says Danny, “as double points are on offer this year.”

Henk’s also happy with his first taste of the 911 GT3 Cup. “It’s amazing to see and feel the difference between a home built race car like the 944 and a factory built race car like the 997,” he says. “It’s not just related to power, but it's the whole experience of the drive, the feeling with the car, the responsiveness and the adjustability. It all just works hand in glove and although you might feel comfortable in it quickly, it still has a lot of bite if it’s not controlled.”

“All in all, a great shakedown, fantastic coaching and an incredible knowledgeable crew working on the car,” says Henk. “We have to get used to the discipline, procedures and seriousness, but that goes very automatically and very quick because it all makes so much sense. Now we're ready for Sepang, and we can’t wait to find out how the 911 will cope with the others.”

By Edd Ellison / Mob: 083 800 5 800 / E-Mail: [email protected]

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