Under great weather conditions, there were many familiar faces, but also new drivers making their appearance in another ROK season in Thailand.
Mini Rok and Rookie Rok
The Minirok saw a record entry grid of 32 drivers, showing the interest in karting is growing among the younger generation Thais. Sirikhet Sirimongkolkasem, Rookie Rok graduate from the previous year, showed he is one of the main contenders for the Mini Rok title this year with posting fastest lap in qualifying (1.01.956). Behind him it was Panyakorn Aramrassamee and Naruenopath Ratchalesinthon in P2 and P3. Fastest man in Rookie Rok (7-10 years old) was newly crowned Singha Kart Cup champion Nawin Dasse. With a laptime of 1.02.257 he posted the 6th overall time. Peerapong Sutumo and Thanathus Lomwong were respectively 2nd and 3rd fastest rookie.
Aramrassamee took the win in Pre-Final after a tight battle with Sirimongkolkasem, who later spun out after a colission with Yuta Jongprasert. Sutumno took 3rd spot overall and best Rookie. Panu Stienmongkong took the 3rd place in Minirok, showing he is progressing a lot since his Rookie entry last year. Lomwong kept impressing with his pace as the 2nd best Rookie and 5th overall.
As soon as the lights went off in the Final Aramrassamee showed his hunger for yet another ROK title this year. He created a gap and took victory in dominant style. Behind him however there was an exciting battle going on with Sutumno, Toby Gale, Jongprasert. The Rookie Sutumno held the older drivers behind to take his maiden Rookie win and an equally impressive 2nd overall. Gale and Jongprasert completed the Minirok podium. In Rookie Rok Kamolphu Anuchatkul got an impressive 2nnd place ahead of Lomwong in 3rd. Pole-sitter Sirimongkolkasem recovered well from his Pre-Final collision to finish 4th in Minirok (7th overall).
Junior Rok and Rookies Junior
Chanoknan Veeratacha, a series regular, took pole-position with a laptime of 55.091, ahead of Taiyo Vliegen, the Minirok Champion of last year. Reigning Junior champion Aki Jitranuwath was 3rd, realizing the competition is fierce once again. Fastest driver in Rookies Junior class, for inexperienced racers, was Krittach Jirayupa with a lap time of 55.570 ahead of Nathakorn Suksri, another two drivers moving up from Minirok since last year.
In the heat Veeratacha seem to lose pace, which allowed Jitranuwath and Vliegen to move up in the top positions. Behind them lady racer Panalin Touydat continued her strong performance from 2021, to match the front runners pace and taking 3rd.
Pre-Final saw Jitranuwath keeping his lead and showing he is still the man to beat in Junior class. However, his rivals Touydat and Vliegen finished within the same second on the line.
Jirayupa showed he adapting well to the Junior level with some close battles with his more experienced peers, taking the top spot in Rookies Junior ahead of Suksri.
At the start in the Final Jitranuwath kept his lead. Behind him it was Vliegen moving up in 2nd and putting pressure on throughout the race. However, he could not avoid that Jitranuwath scored yet another win. Touydat completing the podium ahead for another strong performance by the other lady racer in the field Chanyanuch Budsaratrakool.
Rookies Junior victory went to Jirayupa, who finished 12th overall. Ahead of his only rival in the class Suksri.
Senior Rok / Novice / Master
Senior class saw several new faces at the first event of 2022. Mainly Junior drivers from the previous years. The class lowered its minimum weight to 155kg, in order to attract more young drivers. Terry O’Connor was on a great form in qualifying practice with a 54.098, ahead of other Junior graduates Chase Parks and Alex Grocott.
From this year the ‘Expert class’ is introduced, a class with drivers from 14 years old with low experienced up till 45 years old. Jiraj Wannalak was the fastest in this class ahead of Spatchanon Rattanachayamorn. In Master class (45+ year old) we saw more familiar faces, with Apaspong Premanond posting fastest lap ahead of Jukka Koivistoinen and Alan Austin.
Right at the start of the Pre-Final it was Grocott taking out O’Connor at the start. He would later get disqualified for it. This left the way for Parks to take the lead and Pre-Final victory, ahead of Phuwapon Thaweekraikun and Rajarat Anathakhan. In Master class it was Premanon again in front, but this time ahead of Austin and Koivistoinen.
With some of the earlier pacesetter starting in the back of the field, the Final was expected to be a thrilling race. Thaweekraikun took the lead and manage for many laps to keep the faster drivers behind him. Both Parks, Grocott and O’Connor needed multiple attempts to overtake him. Eventually Grocott, who started from the back of the field, manage to take the lead and bring home his first ever Senior win. Eventually O’Connor got through in second, but by that time the gap to the leader was too big already. In 3rd it was Parks, but after contact with Thaweekraikun he was handed a penalty. This gave the opportunity for Tre Pramoj to join the youngsters on the final step of the podium.
In Expert Rok it was Wannalak who took a comfortable win, who showed a lot of enjoyment in his participation in the ROK Cup. Rattanachayamorn took home the second position. In Master class it was a familiar battle, like we have seen in 2021. With Premanond and Koivistoinen in a close fight to eventually finishing in that order. Alan Austin completing once again the Master podium.
A great first round in 2022 for ROK Cup Thailand. The interest in the series has been consistent and now Covid restrictions seem to gradually ease in Thailand and around Southeast Asia, the expectation will be that more international drivers will make their way to Thailand to participate in the remainder of the season.
Round 2 will be held on 21-22 May, once again at the Bira Circuit.
On the Facebook page ‘ROK Cup Thailand’ all races can be watched re-live and more information to be found.
Photos and Re-Live Stream: