2021 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 3
2021 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round3 FUJIMAKI GROUP SUZUKA GT 300km RACE
Dates: August 21st-22nd, 2021
Location: Suzuka Circuit(Mie Prefecture)
Series rank: 9th（20pt）
With round 4 delayed for about a month, the 2021 Super GT race round 3 was held at the Suzuka circuit from August 21-22, becoming the 4th race of the year after schedule changes.
Covid-19 still shows no signs of abating, with the race week taking place when the semi-state of emergency went into effect for Mie prefecture. Strict infection prevention measures were in place not just for the teams but also for the spectators.
The Suzuka 10 Hours (known as the “10H”) was originally supposed to be held on this weekend. Good Smile Racing & Team Ukyo have prepared their annual mascot character just for the 10H, bringing out “Racing Miku formal kimono version” for this season. However, since both events were unfortunately canceled, a car hood featuring the “Racing Miku formal kimono version” will be showcased at the Super GT round 3, which was supposed to be held on the same weekend and on the same circuit.
At this event, the Balance of Performance (BoP) set for the Mercedes-AMG GT3 will have a weight of +55kg, which is 10kg heavier than previous races, making the total weight of the car 1340kg, the heaviest in its class, as usual. Furthermore, based on the results, car no.4 ( GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU AMG) faces a 27kg added to its loaded Success Weight (SW/previously, Weight Handicap).
(8/21) Official practice, knockout prelims
Air/road temperature: GT300 Q1 start: 27℃／31℃
GT300 Q2 start: 27℃／32℃
GT300 Q2 finish: 27℃／32℃
Official free practice began at 9 a.m. at a temperature of 26°C and 28°C on the track, under conditions of occasional light rainfall. A “Wet” declaration was issued from the session’s start but somehow the racetrack appeared “nearly dry” and there were no teams in charge of swapping out rain tires in sight.
Driver Kataoka was in charge of being the first to set out, and he repeated the short run while clocking in a great time of under 2 minutes from the start of his run. He continues to test the setup he brought on board as well as the feel of the new specs of his Yokohama tires. Kataoka always advances in the session with a time in the top 5, and he clocked in at 1 minute and 59.173 seconds for his 9th lap. “My tires and the balance of the car itself isn’t so bad. I think I can get by in the qualifiers” he says, as we let Taniguchi take the wheel.
Driver Taniguchi completed a large number of laps, going for a long-run simulation while under the difficult weather conditions of passing rain showers. His personal best during the session was 2 minutes and 0.102 seconds in lap 9. “I don’t have a great feel for the vehicle. But it looks like other teams (and their times) aren’t doing so well either,” he says—a standard response—before returning to the pit. Overall, Kataoka’s time puts him in the 12th position at the end of this session.
The official Q1 qualifiers were at 2:30 p.m. The sky was covered in clouds with no sun in sight with a dry track. The temperature was 27°C, 31°C on the track, and the 10-minute session began with lower conditions than those previously set.
Car no.4, the Good Smile Hatsune Miku AMG, would be racing in the Q1A group since this race would also be using the grouping system. Kataoka is the driver in charge for Q1. At first, he carefully puts his all into his tires and clocks in at 1 minute 59.051 seconds in the 4th lap. He crossed the finish line in 5th place. He continues right into the time attack, but unfortunately, at 1 minute and 59.399 seconds, his time doesn’t change. However, at this point there was no sign of any vehicle that could overtake car no.4 in 7th place. Kataoka was set to successfully advance to Q2.
The official Q2 qualifiers began under unstable weather. For some reason, it didn’t rain so the race would continue with slick tires. Taniguchi brought out the potential of his tires during a flawless warmup, changing the team’s best so far in his first time attack to 1 minute 58.722 seconds and coming in at 5th place.
Despite losing one place after falling behind car no.9 (PACIFIC NAC CARGUY Ferrari) just as the session was about to end, he acquired a great position on the grid that exceeded expectations following his no.5 grid position in the previous Motegi round.
Air/road temperature: Start: 31℃／43℃
Continuing from the previous day, despite the high probability of rain on the forecast, there was no sign of it and the track was dry even at 1:10 p.m. when the warmup races began. During this warmup session, car no.18 (UPGARAGE NSX GT3) experienced some trouble, losing a tire right before the 130R high-speed corner. The car didn’t stop and caused a huge accident when it plunged straight into the safety barriers. The driver was safe but the overall event was running 10 minutes behind schedule due to repair work on the barriers, among other things.
The formation lap kicked off at 2:40 p.m. The final 300km race began amid the hottest temperatures of the weekend: 31°C with a track temperature of 43°C.
In charge in the first stint, Kataoka, whose specialty is the opening lap, began to aggressively challenge other cars and tried to overtake them right from the start, but, unable to do so, he kept his 6th place position when returning to the finish line.
In the 5th lap, a large accident occurred in the GT500 class, declaring the first FCY of the day. Because the sponge barriers had to be repaired, a Safety Car (SC) immediately entered.
The cars started to take formation at the home straight and the SC left on the 12th lap. After the race restarted, car no.88 (JLOC LAMBORGHINI GT3) which fell to 5th place, maintained a consistent defense strategy that made car no.4 unable to increase its pace and had to go on as is.
To break the deadlocked situation, the team decided to enter the pit at lap 20, the absolute “minimum” point for completing the required mileage for the driver. Like the previous round, they adopted the strategy of “undercutting”: leaving a situation where you are unable to move forward and coming out with a good lap time in a clean position on the course. Furthermore, a number of cars in the rear proceeded to change their tires, refuel, and the like while the SC was present, which made pit work change the outcome of the race and drivers began to adopt tactics to reduce time at their routine pit stops.
“I got advice from Kataoka (via radio) saying ‘The rear we fall out, so it might be a good idea to change the 2 in the rear’. It was a gamble because there was no data or anything on whether they (the tires we used this time) would work or not, but I felt like, well, either way, I’ve just gotta do it!” Showing off his fighting spirit, everything was left to driver Taniguchi and the team’s planned four tire change was canceled and just the two rear tires were changed to reduce working time in the pit. They were able to successfully send out Taniguchi in a position that would allow him not to get swallowed up in the group at the rear.
On the track, car no.2 (muta Racing Lotus MC) which was 7th in the qualifiers, had the same idea but despite getting ahead after completing pit work before them, they returned to the same place after a reversal during the S-shaped corner on lap 25. Then, there was an overtake during lap 27 by car no.61 (SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT) which lost its position from its pole position start. Finally, rising up to 2nd place from the 5th place grid position, car no.9 (PACIFIC NAC CARGUY Ferrari) conquered the degner at lap 31, among other things, and continued to up their position, temporarily advancing 9 places. All the vehicles going in front had gone up 4 positions after finishing pit work.
In lap 35, rain began to fall on the west course and the track’s μ (frixion coefficient) decreased, leading Taniguchi, who excelled at “slightly wet” conditions, to show off his true abilities.
In lap 39, Taniguchi had a time of 2.581 seconds, in lap 40 and 1.595 seconds in, and 0.980 in lap 41, going tale-to-nose at an abnormally fast pace and putting pressure on car no.5 (MACHSYAKEN GTNET MC86 MACH GO) who dropped 3 positions in lap 38.
In lap 42, car no.5 suffered a solo spinout upon entering the degner, and car no.4 finally came in range of the winner’s podium by moving up to 3rd place.
He continued in this position until lap 49 when he came to a stop after the checkered flag was waved, taking home 3rd place, their highest position this season. Both Taniguchi and Kataoka successfully took to the podium for the first time during the 2021 season.
These results yielded 11 points raising their rank in the series to 9th place. It’s been a close race all season, with 14 points left to get to the top, and they will look on to the Sugo race, which hasn’t been held in 2 years.
“Looking back (on SUGO) I was 3rd or 2nd place, so personally I am well suited for it”, driver Taniguchi says. We look forward to seeing how he proceeds in September’s SUGO and October’s Autopolis.
■Comments from the Team
I had the impression that our rivals “missed” for us when selecting tires. We attended the qualifiers, anticipating the need for harder tires during the race, but even then, 6th position was a result that was unexpected. I think this may have been the primary factor during this race.
At the start, car no.88 hampered our pace with his defense and even after getting beside them we couldn’t match their speed at all and in no way could we pass them. Then we made the decision to call on the pit crew early while not worrying about the rain. The “restrained yet impressive” Taniguchi, really did his best during the end game (when it began to rain). He said on the radio, “I’ll go on turning as many times as needed so just give me more (steering) angle” (lol).
Furthermore, I also thought that it was great to see real-time cooperation during the race with the AMG engineer, who complimented Taniguchi’s abilities when he fine-tuned the car’s setup. I think all of these made up the total results for this race.
Originally, I intended a 4-tire change but once the safety car arrived, the vehicles at the rear all made pit stops simultaneously, so there were a lot of drivers who wanted to shorten the time for their 2nd pit stop. I didn’t want to get overtaken by any number of those cars so i hurriedly changed my strategy to the 2 rear tires. When I returned, (to the course) a few cars had passed ahead but I somehow gained on them and was able to catch up to about 4 cars, which was fun for me personally. I was always racing in a position where I couldn’t be overtaken or overtake anyone but by doing just that during this race, I’ve made it to the podium for the first time in a while. Going up to 3rd place, within range of the podium, I kept thinking stuff like “I sure hope it rains” although usually I wouldn’t wish for that. The situation didn’t require installing rain tires so I figured “let’s have a dirty race with just these slick tires” (lol). In the end, I think it was a good idea to change the 2 rear tires.
I had the feeling that I would only be able to use the harder tires out of those I brought, so I didn’t hesitate. I was in the 6th position in the qualifiers, and I was thinking, “How can I tackle this race?” Then I went on the track and it turned out that for my stint, it all ended just with everything just resting on that.
It can be difficult if your opponent thinks “I won’t let him pass”, since my straight speed is slow. No matter how well you are matched, you can’t pass them. But it was only fair so all I could do was be patient.
The tires with new specs I had been using since Motegi stopped losing their grip overall and I was able to confirm things, like their strength in their current state, during the races of these two rounds.
This completes the first half of the races and I think it will in some way be connected to the upcoming latter half. If the cars that are expected to be fast legitimately race fast I think it will be difficult to compete with them but I hope to accumulate experience little by little.