In 2023, the Lanotec-backed Corliss Race Engineering Ford squad in this year’s Thailand Super Series has a distinctly Aussie flavour, with the team recruiting Aussie young gun Jay Robotham for its tilt at the Super Pickup title aboard the outfit’s Ranger.
The 20-year-old from the small Victorian town of Lancefield has rapidly scaled the motorsport ladder, with success coming in his stride; from humble competitive beginnings that started in BMX at the age of five, he then stepped over into an old go kart his grandfather had lying around at the relatively old age of 11.
Motorsport however was in his veins – his father and uncle were both former speedway competitors, with that family support assisting his climb up the ranks, which continued in the Hyundai Excel category at age 14, a grassroots series that enabled Robotham to learn circuits across the country, on a budget.
With numerous wins under his belt, Robotham moved up to the hyper-competitive Toyota 86 Series, where he finished on the podium in his debut.
Relatively similar price-wise to the Excels, the 86s allowed the teen to experience racing on the Supercars undercard at all of the key events during the season, including at Bathurst and the various street circuits.
It also paved the way to compete in New Zealand, where he finished a pandemic-shortened season in second place, only two points shy of the title.
Back on the Supercars path in 2020, Robotham made a last-minute border dash in committing to the Super3 championship, from which he was ultimately undefeated, although with an abbreviated schedule.
The following year he stepped up again to the Super2 title, with a highlight being a race victory from the opening race of the 2022 season at Sydney Motorsport Park, escaping the carnage in the slick conditions to shock the establishment.
By October last year, Robotham climbed his personal Everest, by earning a start in the Bathurst 1000 as a Wildcard entry under the Caltex Young Stars banner alongside fellow debutant Matt Chahda.
The duo impressed, with the privateer combination in the mix throughout the day, finishing on the lead lap in 14th position.
For the current season, in Australia, Robotham has stepped across to the highly popular Trans Am National Series with the Racing Academy, with the category boasting a roster containing many highly credentialled racers.
Dovetailed with those commitments is the full season aboard the Lanotec Ranger in Thailand.
For 2023, the title concentrates on the Buriram circuit, Thailand’s home for MotoGP competition since 2018, and the wild Bangsaen Grand Prix, held on a wicked seaside street circuit, with the resort city heaving with hundreds of thousands of race fans during the racing festival.
For Robotham, returning to the Thailand Super Series is a homecoming of sorts, having previously claimed the Asian TA2 title for Kiwi ex-pat Craig Corliss.
Corliss himself has an impressive racing resume, with much experience gained behind the wheel of an ex-Brad Jones Racing AU Falcon and a Triple Eight Race Engineering-built VE Commodore.
At the series opening event for 2023, Robotham received a late call-up to run double duty for the event, with his Ranger races paired with an outing in the team’s Lanotec Ford Mustang, with success coming in their stride – the combination picked up the victory in the final race for the weekend.
Robotham claims that the move to racing in Asia has been a crucial step in his career, as it has opened doors for him that he couldn’t imagine.
“It’s a heap different over there, it’s so hot, and you’re forever battling to stay cool and stay hydrated,” said Robotham.
“The racing is very similar to what you experience in Australia, although the atmosphere at the track is different, it’s hard to describe, you really have to experience it firsthand.”
The foray aboard the Ford comes with factory involvement, something that is prevalent in the Thai Superseries thanks to the various manufacturing bases for multiple marques, with brands such as Isuzu and Toyota also putting a big effort behind their programs.
The Ranger is simply a different beast from anything seen in Australia.
Wild body styling is matched to a five-cylinder diesel powerplant – it’s a successful recipe, with the meets attracting upwards of 60 entries, with the field split over three divisions in two fields.
With high ambient temperatures and oppressive humidity, the biggest tuning tool with the utes is playing with turbo boost, which leads to a balancing act – not enough boost and you’re not in the game, too much boost, and you blow a motor.
“We sort of keep it a bit conservative (regarding engine boost), we might not be the quickest, but we have a lot better chance of finishing the races,” said Robotham.
“Some of the cars are 30km/h faster on the straights, it’s crazy how quick some of them are.
“When I was racing the TA2 car there, and these utes were nearly getting the same speed as the Mustang, it’s just crazy.
“In testing, we wound the boost up by three or four pounds, and the car was four seconds a lap quicker.
“I think at Bangsaen right in the mix, it’s a much tighter track, and hopefully it will be more dependent on the drivers.
“The car handles great, and the racing is awesome, I can’t wait for the season to continue.”