【SUPER GT Round 2 / Fuji】
The second round of 2019 Super GT series was held at Fuji Speedway.
The qualifying session was run under near-perfect conditions and Realize Nissan Jidousya Daigakkou GT-R secured the GT300 pole position. The car easily got through Q1 with Sacha Fenestraz’s second fastest time in the session. Then Kazuki Hiramine behind the wheel in Q2 bettered his teammate’s time almost 0.8 seconds and came very close to the course record.
As Hoppy 86 MC and ADVICS Mach Syaken MC 86 Mach-Go finished the session in second and third respectively, Yokohama Tire users swept the top three grids.
In the GT500 class, Hideki Mutoh in Motul Mugen NSX-GT set the eighth fastest time in Q1 which was good enough to make it to Q2 and Daisuke Nakajima’s effort in the second part of the session led to the fourth grid. This was the best starting grid among the cars from the Honda camp.
As the rain started to fall when the race was about to start, all GT500 cars chose the wet tires. The race got underway with the Safety Car start procedure and the proper racing began from Lap 3.
Motul Mugen NSX-GT started the race with Mutoh at the wheel. He managed to overtake a GT-R at the first corner and moved up to third but he ran wide at a corner in the final section of the same lap which saw him losing a few positions. While Mutoh continued to try his best, he found himself running in tenth on Lap 6.
The Safety Car was deployed on Lap 13, as the rain became heavier. Then the race had to be stopped by the red flag two laps later since it was too dangerous to continue because of even heavier rain.
After a 30 minute stoppage, the racing was resumed after a few laps of the Safety Car period. Now the rain ceased and the track surfaces started to dry gradually. At the end of Lap 37, WedsSport ADVAN LC500 made a pit stop to change from Sho Tsuboi to Yuji Kunimoto and to put the slick tires on the car.
On the next lap, the other two Yokohama shoed cars followed the same path. Motul Mugen NSX-GT went back to the track with Nakajima in the driving seat and Realize Corporation ADVAN GT-R did so with Jann Mardenborough at the wheel.
But, partly because of the lower air and track temperatures than expected, all three cars struggled to pick up their pace. Seeking for a better pace, Realize Corporation ADVAN GT-R made the second pit stop on Lap 63 to change to another set of slick tire.
Mardenborough then started to try to catch up but a mechanical problem forced him to come back to the pit for repair work just five laps later. The team eventually sent the car back on the track but now they were seven laps down from the race leader.
When the leading cars completed their 70th lap, it was about time to make the second routine stops for the GT500 class cars. Motul Mugen NSX-GT did it to change to Mutoh on Lap 74. One lap later, Kunimoto handed WedsSport ADVAN LC500 to Tsuboi.
On Lap 93, Realize Corporation ADVAN GT-R came into the pit for the fourth and last time and resumed racing with Mitsunori Takaboshi behind the wheel. He brought the car to the finish line in 14th.
Mutoh in Motul Mugen NSX-GT went up to seventh at a time but gradually lost positions due to tire degradation. Enduring a tough race, he exerted every possible effort to make a point finish but had to settle for finishing 11th, just out of points.
WedsSport ADVAN LC500 made an extra pit stop on Lap 89 to change tires. When it rejoined the race, the car dropped back to 13th where it finished the race.
In the GT300 class, the pole-sitting Realize Nissan Jidousya Daigakkou GT-R with Hiramine at the wheel led the field but it lasted only five laps, as his pace wasn’t very good because of the pouring rain.
Takamitsu Matsui in Hoppy 86 MC also faced the same situation and lost ground during the first laps. On the other hand, Hiroki Ohtsu behind the wheel of Modulo Kenwood NSX GT3 moved up to fourth on Lap 4, after starting the race from the eighth grid.
On Lap 12 for the GT300 race leader, the Safety Car came out because of heavy rain and the race was stopped with the red flag, as described above. After the restart, Ohtsu gained one more position, as the car in front of him ran wide, and it looked promising for the rest of the race. However, the team’s decision to make a stop earlier backfired and then the car had a mechanical problem, which caused slipping down to the bottom of the field.
Manepa Lamborghini GT3 made an early pit stop for driver change and switched to the slick tires on Lap 36 when it was running in eighth. This really paid off and Takashi Kogure, who was handed the car by Yuya Motojima, found himself running in fourth! And he managed to overtake one of his direct rival on Lap 62 and moved up to third.
Meanwhile, Realize Nissan Jidousya Daigakkou GT-R was still in second, even after changing to Fenestraz on Lap 37. The French and Kogure headed to the pit lane on the same lap, Lap 75. While they were undercut by one of their opponents during the stop, the pace of both two cars was still good enough.
Hiramine pushed very hard to regain the second place without any success and he used his tires too much in the process. Motojima in Manepa Lamborghini GT3 didn’t miss out this opportunity. He closed the gap with Hiramine’s GT-R little by little and overtook it at Turn 1 on Lap 100, just five laps to go.
Thus, Hiramine finished the race in third. This meant Kogure, who had been around for years in the GT500 class, got on the podium in his only second race with a GT300 car. Realize Nissan Jidousya Daigakkou GT-R ended the race in fourth and GoodSmile Hatsune Miku AMG in sixth.
—Result : 11th. in the GT500 class—
” It was a tough situation for us, as the race started on the wet surfaces. But I pushed as hard as I could until changing to Daisuke (Nakajima). Then he made a good recovery with the dry tires, so I was highly motivated for the final stint but I struggled from around my eighth lap on because my tires’ grip level dropped. After that, all I could do was to keep the car on the track until the checkered flag was shown. We have to look at what happened today and make use of it for the development work.”
“I feel we were quite unlucky. I am sorry for troubles, particularly for the GT300 users. The situation would have been different, had we had no rain on Sunday, especially considering the conditions during the qualifying session suited very well to our tires. We regret it deeply.
“As for the GT500 tires, our products were out of the working range because the temperatures were much lower than expected. In other words, the range of our tires was too high to work under the actual conditions. When the track was totally wet, our tires performed better than they did in the past, while we weren’t satisfied with the progress. But, under the conditions when the track surfaces were drying, it became clear that our performance wasn’t good enough and there was no progress at all about it.
“For the next round at Suzuka, we are going to make every effort to achieve the best result of the season in the GT500 class. Regarding the GT300, we are quite confident that our user teams will perform well from the qualifying session, as was the case at Fuji”