SUPER GT Round 2 Fuji Speedway
-May 3, 2014 Qualifying：9th
- May 4, 2014 Finals：1st
Good Smile Hatsune Miku Z4, Victorious at SUPER GT Round 2!
■With one problem after another they were unable to capitalize in the preliminaries, finishing 9th. It seemed like trouble ahead…
The SUPER GT Round 2 was held at Fuji Speedway right in the middle of Golden Week on May 3rd and 4th.
At the preliminaries on the 3rd it was a clear day with blue skies. The temperature was warm, and it was perfect weather for both drivers and fans. They had machine trouble starting with the morning practice run, and with the machine not running optimally the preliminaries began.
The first preliminary was Kataoka’s to attack. He recorded a “1‘38.778” time, and in 7th place he easily cleared the preliminary.
For the second the steering was entrusted to Taniguchi. Because this would decide the preliminary grid, it was important to try to improve the position even a little. Despite the machine not feeling as it usually does, Taniguchi made a bolt attack. He locked in a “1‘38.635” time, but his rivals also put up good times. The best times were concentrated in the low 38 second rage (the pole was 37 seconds), so in the end he finished in 9th, securing the 9th place grid for the finals.
■As rivals dropped out due to troubles, they continued racing without mistakes
The day of the finals had arrived. Due to the diligent work of the mechanics the troubles from the preliminaries had been corrected, but in the free run in the morning trouble once again emerged in the form of a wiring problem. They sat out the Circuit Safari and aimed for a repair to full power. During the morning the two drivers could hardly race at all, so they had to take on the finals with almost no warmup.
Approximately 90,000 people came out to Fuji Speedway, and both the pit walk and grid walk had long lines, in a totally packed house. The weather was also stable and clear, which is rare for Fuji. The temperature of the road surface was over 30 degrees, so not just for the GTR, but also for the rival teams the timing of the pit in was of paramount importance.
Kataoka took on the role of the start driver. After a rolling start from 9th place he was immediately passed, then he remained in 10th place for a few laps. However, on the 4th lap the #88 Lamborghini had a big crash on the straight end, so a safety flag was raised. This time the race was a long distance at 500km, so two pit in and driver changes were required. The standard procedure is to pit in during the safety flag, but because the race had just started everybody stayed (did not pit in).
After the safety flag was lifted, Kataoka reclaimed 9th place, but he was then caught in a stalemate, unable to improve the position further. However, there was then another big change in the race. On the 17th lap the GT500 burst into flame and stopped, bringing about another safety flag. Of course at this point many teams decided to pit in. This decision would prove to be crucial. Of course, the Miku Z4 decided to pit in. After exchanging four tires and the driver, Taniguchi took off. At his point they were in 18th place, but he kept on moving up, and on the 33rd lap he returned to the top 10. Then, at about the time when every car had completed their first pit in, he was all the way up to 3rd. On the 56th lap he passed the Gainer SLS to move into 2nd, and when the 1st place #3 NDDP GT-R made a pit in on the 60th lap he jumped into 1st place.
■Seizing a miracle for victory!
After that, on the 62nd lap the Miku Z4 made a routine pit in and Kataoka took over. After exchanging four tires he was on his way. At this time, the #0 Mugen CR-Z completed an astoundingly fast second pit time by abbreviating its pit work, moving into 1st place. There was about a 5 second gap, and it and the Miku Z4 were proceeding at a very similar pace, so the gap did not lessen. The #11 was pressing in from behind.
After all cars completed their pit in he was in 2nd place, but with the #11 trailing by just a fraction of a second a fierce battle was unfolding, and he was unable to gain any ground on the #0 ahead. With deft braking, the #11 kept trying to make its move entering the corners. However, Kataoka skillfully blocked him, and held on to 2nd place.
With 10 laps to go it seemed like the final standings would be the #0, Miku Z4, then the #11, but the race isn’t finished until the very end. Having come this far, the second race was underway. For some reason the pace of the 1st place #0 was decreasing before everyone’s eyes. It had been holding a 5 second lead, but each lap that gap was decreasing, and now it was only 3 seconds.
On the 96th lap, the battle with the #0 was reaching its conclusion. On Dunlop Corner the #0 had a spin, and the Miku Z4 and #11 passed it. The final few laps would be another fierce battle with the #11.
The #11 kept on the pressure, trying to pass by any means possible, but Kataoka urged on the Miku Z4 showing off his technique as he kept brushing the #11 aside. In the end he was able to hold on to 1st place as he crossed the finish line.
The problems of their rivals and being helped by luck were important factors, but being able to seize such an opportunity was only possible due to the mistake free work of the drivers and mechanics. This marked the 2nd victory in the 2014 season. It was the first time in the history of the SUPER GT that a team had won the opening two races.
The next race would be held May 31st and July 1 at the Autopolis in Oita. The weight handicap would be 80kg, and the team would approach it together aiming for their third straight victory.
At first I wondered whether this good result could have occurred with me in charge. We couldn’t decide on the tires, there was trouble with the driveline, and leading up to the finals we were basically unable to make any practice runs. However, while luck smiled on us during the finals, we were only able to seize that luck because we ran at a good pace from start to finish. This team really is strong! You can’t ignore the fact that some of our rivals had troubles, but throughout all of that being able to race mistake free is extremely important. With this result we can really start to see how this season might unfold. In the midst of this acquiring as many points as possible should put us in a strong position to contend for the championship. I would like to dedicate this victory to Ukyo.
Today’s result was unexpected. The rival teams are all at the level where if they can avoid trouble they can make a run at victory. There were in particular many troubles in the pit, and conversely we made it through without a mistake. This ended up being the deciding factor. Of course there was some luck involved, and even though we faced machine trouble before the race we were able to completely repair it. This was one of the causes of our victory. After repairing the problem of being unable to downshift that occured on the preliminary day, on the day of the finals getting ready for the practice run we suddenly encountered ABS trouble… it was one issue after another. Despite all this we raced in the lead position, and we were able to claim victory, we really are blessed. If we had made any mistakes during the race, all of this luck would have slipped through our fingers and resulted in a loss. Not making mistakes is an important factor in winning.
I do not think we won this race due to speed. After all, in the preliminaries we were 9th place. This was a race impacted by safety flags, and our team’s precise judgements, combined with the fact that some cars did not pit at that time, lead to us being victorious. Also, our rival teams encountered quite a bit of trouble. To be honest, there were many cars that were faster and could have won, but Kataoka and I didn’t give up and kept racing with all we had, and the safety flag judging and luck were on our side. I think these three reasons are why we won. Whatever the case, I was just so happy when we finished in 1st place! However, next time the weight handicap is 80kg, so it will be difficult moving forward. But I’m glad we got as many points as possible while we had the chance!
I hope that all of our fans keep in mind that, while it may look like we have been winning a lot since last year, winning at the SUPER GT is not that easy. Our entire team was firing on all cylinders in today’s win, but I hope they don’t take these wins for granted. Winning the first two races of the year is truly a great achievement!
I am so happy we were able to win in those circumstances at the end. I was just focusing on holding him off, and I had to fight to keep him from hitting my rear tire. It is difficult when you have to move forward while thinking about risk, and that was truly a tough situation. At the start of the final race the feeling of the machine was off, and while I didn’t think it impossible, it didn’t feel like a race we could win. With the first safety flag our team entered the pit at the best possible time, and during the next stint Taniguchi passed cars one after another, and finally I began to think, “Hmm, maybe?” When it was my turn I couldn’t reach the pace I wanted. To be precise, compared to the image in my mind I was about 0.3 seconds slower. However, the #0 car ahead didn’t have the pace I expected either, so I thought that the second half of the race might be close. I thought I’d probably be able to pass him in the end. Then it was a matter of holding off the #11 coming up behind, then feeling confident that if I could pass the #0 I’d have a chance. It isn’t that we won a winnable race, but rather that we turned a likely unwinnable race into a winnable race due to everybody’s hard work and support. That’s the kind of race it was.