2020 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round2
Takanokono Hotel FUJI GT 300km RACE
Date: August 8th-9th, 2020
Location: Fuji Speedway (Shizuoka Prefecture)
Driver Points: 0P
Driver Points Ranking: 13th (2P)
The second round of the SUPER GT 2020 season was held at Fuji Speedway on August 8-9. Although the circuit was the same as the first round, the conditions were different due to higher temperatures. Drivers Nobuteru Taniguchi and Tatsuya Kataoka of GOODSMILE RACING & TeamUKYO were expected to produce better results compared to the last outing.
They take on this season with the Mercedes-AMG GT3, which now has improved performance in all parts, including better aerodynamic performance. However, Balance of Performance (BoP) posed by vehicle type on a Mercedes is still challenging. On the base vehicle weight of 1285 kg, as heavy weight as 65 kg was added to make a total of 1350 kg. In this season also, it is the heaviest machine in GT3.Given that the weight handicap system was revised this season, as the success ballast has been increased to 3kg for each championship point, the 9th place finish in the first round, which was worth 2 points, results in a 6kg weight penalty for this round.
Driver Taniguchi started off as the driver for the official practice session. The weather was sunny. As of the session start time of 9:45 AM, the air temperature was 28°C, while the road surface temperature was 39°C.
Driver Taniguchi entered the track with different timing as the other teams. In between red flag stoppages by other cars, he evaluated the tires and worked on the setup. He recorded his personal best of 1:38.383 seconds during the second set 30 minutes after the start and handed the wheel to Driver Kataoka.
After checking all parts and getting a feeling during a short run of 4 laps, Driver Kataoka went on to a long run. He demonstrated his high-precision driving as usual, completing each of his 10 laps in the 1:39 range.
Driver Kataoka took charge of the mixed run period with the GT500, as well as the 10-minute exclusive fun for the GT300 class that followed. Driver Kataoka took on a simulation of the qualifying session and recorded a time of 1:38.305, which outperformed the previous best by 0.08 seconds. He also recorded times in the 1:38 range before and after this lap, resulting in a starting position of 14th for the official qualifying session.
The team decided to have Driver Taniguchi drive for the Q1 session. The teams were grouped again for this Q1 session, as the 30 machines were sorted into groups based on their results from the previous round. Car No. 4 (Good Smile Hatsune Miku AMG) would again be in group A as it was during the previous round.
The road surface temperature and air temperature at 2:30 PM were practically the same as they were at the start of the official practice session. Car No. 4 recorded a time of 1:38.017 during the first measurement and rose to 4th position. From there, Driver Taniguchi demonstrated a series of skillful offensive maneuvers to continuously improve his personal best, recording a time in the 1:37 range during the second lap of measurement. He improved his time to 1:37.641 during the lap with the checkered flag. The result was advancement to the Q2 qualifying session. Revenge was won for dropping out after the Q1 qualifying session during the previous round.
The Q2 qualifying session was a race between the top 8 from groups A and B, resulting in a total of 16 cars. Driver Kataoka recorded his best time of the day of 1:37.387 during the first measurement, before continuing with astonishing precision by recording times of 1:37.4 and 1:37.6 in the following laps. He brought the best out of the current machine functionality and tire performance to secure 10th position on the fifth row of the grid.
The weather was scorching hot on Sunday, as you would expect at Fuji Speedway in August. Driver Kataoka did a final check on the machine balance and confirmed the pace of the race during the warmup run that started at 11:40 AM. The air temperature was similar to the day before, while the road surface temperature rose to 42°C due to the sunlight. Amid these conditions, the final race of 300km and 66 laps started at 1 PM.
Because an official notification was given in late July that “All cars in the GT300 class must start the final race with dry tires and replace all 4 tires when changing drivers” for this second round, the strategy of not changing the tires, which the JAF-GT and MOTHER CHASSIS (MC) teams excel at, could not be used. Therefore, the GSR team took the strategy of fighting the competition head-on, as they did not have to take the risk of “assuming that no changes will be made” and “ending up just changing 2 tires on one side.”
Driver Kataoka, who has absolute confidence in his starts, fulfilled expectations with his driving. He caught car No. 52 (Saitama Toyopet GB GR Supra GT), which won the first round and started in 9th position, and car No. 5 (Team Mach GNET MC86 Mach), which finished in the podium places for the first round and started in 7th position, to rise to 8th position in the beginning.
Driver Kataoka, who continued to run at a pace of 1:39 – 1:40 as expected, also overtook the car No. 360 (RUNUP RIVAUX GT-R) during the 10th lap. By the 21st lap, which is the minimum number of laps required before changing drivers, he had improved to 6th position before switching with Driver Taniguchi.
Thanks to rapid pit stop work and great driving by Driver Taniguchi with repeated times in the 1:38 range, car No. 52, which raced in front during the first half of the stint, was successfully overtaken. Driver Taniguchi continued to pursue car No. 56 (Realize Nissan Automotive Technical College GT-R).
However, an unexpected incident occurred during the 44th lap. The front left tire, which had shown slight signs of trouble during the official practice session the day before, had a slow puncture all of a sudden. During this emergency pit stop, their position fell from 7th to 22nd.
When car No. 4 (Goodsmile Hatsune Miku AMG) returned to the track, it overtook car No. 25 (HOPPY Porsche), which was just ahead, right away. It went on a furious charge from the 47th lap, as it posted times of 1:38.675 and 1:38.322, before punching out its personal best time of the day of 1:38.215. By recording the fastest lap in the GT300 class, it showed its attitude of never giving up.
However, the front left tire experienced issues again during the 53rd lap. It completely lost its air. By the time it managed to make an emergency pit stop for a second time and returned to the course, it had fallen to 27th position. It was not possible to catch up during the remaining laps and passed the checkered flags in a regretful manner.
Prior to the race, the goal had been to finish 6th and gain 5 points, but not championship points were obtained after all.
The next round will be held at Suzuka Circuit. GSR will aim for a result of 4th place or higher, which would be its best result at Suzuka Circuit, since it will only have a light weight handicap of 6kg.
■Comments from the Team
Considering the weight handicaps, although we did not necessarily become faster, I thought that we could have finished in 6th, as we had measures in place for Fuji Speedway during this short interval. Nobody made any mistakes through the middle of the second stint. We had also revised our pit stop strategy, such as by changing the process of replacing tires, and greatly increased our work speed. Taking all of this into account… it is unfortunate. Although we missed a great chance, we would like to aim for a large number of points during round 5 at Fuji Speedway. We must always keep an eye out for the front left tire at Fuji Speedway. However, we cannot worry about punctures, since that would prevent us from setting our strategy. We must continue to carry on.
Although the interval from the first round was short, the increasing air temperature should have helped with tire functionality. Our pace was not bad, as it was just as we had been aiming for, and our pit stop work was also smooth. Regarding the tire, although it was showing signs, we were not worried during the race. We were aiming to close the gap while the tires were in good condition to improve our position so that we could aim for a come-from-behind victory. Considering the rule changes, we did not have to run the risk of “assuming that no changes will be made but just changing 2 tires.” Given that, we thought we would have some leeway about the tires and “would have no issues,” but…… However, we do have the difficulty of only being able to aim for about 6th anyway. Since everybody will have additional weight next time, we should aim to take our chances.
Although the fact that getting by the Q1 qualifying session and getting “10th position” is a normal result is not a position to be happy about, but that is the best we can do, considering our current situation. During the first half, Kataoka did his best as always to improve our position from the beginning. Our strategy was to have our pit stop, including the changing of all 4 tires, at the minimum requirement, get ahead early, and try to hang on, even though it would get tough. However, it was unfortunate that we had a bust tire…… My hips hurt because I had to fix the steering many times during turns. Although we now have a low goal of just getting points, we need to hang in there.
Even if we had been able to complete the race without any issues, the ranking only follows the current balance of power. Even if we do our absolute best, we finish between 7th and 9th. We finished in 10th position for the qualifying session, and that is about the best we can do. Although we had been taking part in the race as best as we could, there had been problems on and off with the front left tire since the previous round, and we ended up having problems twice during the final race. Even though we can only try to stay steady and finish out races at the moment… we could not even be steady this time, so I owe our fans an apology… However, Suzuka is a circuit with completely different traits, and the gap between the turbo teams, which are fast at Fuji, should not be as wide. We would like to be prepared to take any opportunities that may present themselves.