【SUPER GT Round 4 / Chang】
Once in a season, the Super GT teams cross the waters. And this was the fourth time for the series to have a race at Chang International Circuit in Thailand. While in the past, the Southeast Asian event had been held as the seventh round, in the closing stage of each season, this time it was the fourth round in the middle of the season.
This time of year, in Thailand was just at the beginning of rainy season. Therefore, a chance for rain had to be higher than the last year’s event. And sure enough, a thundersquall came just before the qualifying session on Saturday and the track was totally soaked, despite the official practice session having been run under strong sunshine.
The squall stopped very soon but it wasn’t possible for the GT300 drivers to drive with the dry tires in Q1. However, in the second half of Q1 for the GT500 class, the track become drier and the dry tires started to work and then all drivers in both classes could went out with the dry tires for Q2.
All three Yokohama shoed GT500 cars went through to Q2. Among them, Hideki Muto at the wheel of Motul Mugen NSX-GT performed particularly well in Q2, as he secured the first ever pole position with the NSX-GT / Yokohama Tire package by setting the fastest and track record time one minute before the session ended.
Forum Engineering ADVAN GT-R was fourth and WedsSport ADVAN LC500 sixth in the session. In the GT300 class, GoodSmile Hatsune Miku AMG with Nobuteru Taniguchi behind the wheel got the seventh grid which was the highest among the Yokohama Tire users.
The race day, Sunday, was favored by good weather. Muto in Motul Mugen NSX-GT started from the pole position and was immediately involved in close fight with his nearest rivals. On Lap 28, he made their only pit stop when he was running in third to change to Daisuke Nakajima.
Unfortunately, they had a problem with the car’s door which didn’t close firmly during the stop. This cost them a lot of time and they dropped out from the leading pack. Nakajima tried his best to make up the deficit but all he could do was finishing the race in fifth. Although this was still their best result of the season so far, it was really disappointing for them, given that the car was fastest on Saturday.
On the other hand, WedsSport ADVAN LC500 finished the race in a better position than where it was qualified. Driving aggressively from the early stage, Kenta Yamashita at the wheel of the car moved up to third at one time. He lost a position on Lap 21 but he was still able to keep a respectable pace, so he could follow the leaders closely.
Yamashita handed the car to Yuji Kunimoto on Lap 31. After rejoining the race in third, Kunimoto had to give way to an opponent on Lap 49. But the car that had just passed him halted on the final lap due to a mechanical problem, giving back WedsSport ADVAN LC500 the third place at the end of the day.
This was the team’s first podium since the final round in 2016. It was also the first podium in the GT500 class for Yamashita who is in his first full season in the class.
In the GT 300 class, there was something unexpected even before the race started. GoodSmile Hatsune Miku AMG’s engine suddenly stalled during the formation lap. The starting driver of the car, Tatsuya Kataoka, managed to fire it up again, using his tact and rebooting the system, but the rule stipulated he had to go to the pit, instead of his original grid.
So, he started the race from the pit lane and joined the back end of the field. However, he and his partner, Taniguchi, drove in a really good pace throughout the race which they eventually finished in seventh.
Being tossed by the change of track conditions during the qualifying session, Syntium LMcorsa RC F GT3 was classified in lowly 16th in the session. But Hiroki Yoshimoto quickly moved up through the field and was already running in third when he came in to the pit on Lap 22.
The team decided to change only two left hand side tires at the stop before sending out Ritomo Miyata for the second half of the race. This tactic worked well and Miyata managed to keep the position until the checkered flag fell, so they celebrated the car’s first podium finish.
—Result : 3rd. in the GT500 class—
“Because of a squall just before the qualifying session, the track conditions were difficult in Q1. But I had made up my mind to go with the dry tires for the qualifying attempt and the determination worked. During the race, there were a few occasions when I allowed my opponents to pass me, which I regretted. But the team did a great job during the pit stop, which was so quick, and Kunimoto-san drove in a very good pace. Nevertheless, we couldn’t match the leading cars… But it was good to finish in third under given circumstances and I felt now we had some luck as well. I am not fully satisfied but I am still happy with the result, as I feel the things are getting better for us.”
“Regarding the GT500 tires, we had a testing session at Motegi, after the Suzuka round, and we had sent the tires that looked promising from the testing data to Thailand by air freight. And those tires worked very well. As a result, Motul Mugen NSX-GT won the pole position and other two cars also made their way to Q2. In the race, WedsSport ADVAN LC500 got on the podium by finishing in third but the performance during the race in general, including that of Forum Engineering ADVAN GT-R, wasn’t perfect. So, we think there is still a room for improvement about it.
“We have had a good track record at Chang International Circuit. The conditions of track surface might change a lot for the last five years, but its basic characteristics and layout suits to our tires. We had a slump last year in terms of the results here, but we were able to recover it this time, which was really good.
“As for the GT300, it was shame that not a few strong teams had lost out in Q1 because of the rain before the qualifying session. But, despite facing such a tough situation, Syntium LMcorsa RC F GT3 did a good race and finished in third. Although we are so happy about the result but overall, we have to say we are a little disappointed that we couldn’t do a podium sweep to get much more points, considering the fight for championship.
“We now head to the Fuji round without any testing before that. But, as we will have testing sessions prior to the Sugo, Autopolis, and Motegi rounds, we are aiming to play catch-up at those later events. Our strategy for the championship is that earning as many points as possible by solid progress in the rounds in which we can do pre-event testing.”