SUPER GT Round 8 Twin Ring Motegi
- November 15, 2014 Qualifying：3rd
- November 16, 2014 Finals：3rd
3rd place at Motegi in the final race of the year! Success in capturing the ultimate prize!
■November 15th (Sat) Breaking the vicious cycle in the preliminaries
With a 9 point lead over the 2nd place team, “GOODSMILE RACING＆TeamUKYO” heads into the final race as points leader for the first time. Following the previous race in Thailand, the practice run was set for Friday, and there was an additional practice run in the morning on the preliminary day, so every team had ample opportunity for troubleshooting. The “GOODSMILE Hatsune Miku Z4” (Miku Z4) went through numerous laps adjusting their settings. However, it seemed like they couldn’t get the right match with their tires and were unable to push their time, so for a while their rank stayed 10th and below. After that they equipped a set of tires for Taniguchi to make an attack and he took a shot at a time attack. He recorded a “1‘49.226” time, finishing the practice run on the morning of the preliminaries in 8th.
In the practice run the rival #11 (GAINER DIXEL SLS) reached 1st place in the 48 second range, and the other championship contender #7 (Studie BMW Z4) got 7th with a “1‘49.207” time, showing BMW falling behind. Taniguchi said, “The 9 point lead should be an advantage, but it feels like we are the ones playing catch up.” In order to break up this negative course of events before the preliminaries drastic action was needed, so the team held a meeting and made significant changes to their settings with an eye on the preliminaries.
These changing were successful, and with Kataoka driving in the first preliminary he recorded a time of “1‘48.461” to clear it in 3rd place. The top two spots were taken by #11 and #10 (GAINER Rn-SPORTS SLS). Up next it was Taniguchi’s turn to take the wheel in the second preliminary. He recorded a “1’48.500” time to keep control of 2nd place, but with just minutes remaining #31 (OGT Panasonic PRIUS) posted a time in the 47 second range to squeeze into second place.
As a result Miku Z4 finished 3rd and secured the 3rd grid, but the 1st place #11’s “1’47.796” and 2nd place #31’s “1’47.977” hinted at an intense race to come in the finals.
■November 16th (Sun) A finals race that was less about chasing and more about being chased
The temperature was low, but the skies were clear on the day of the finals. During the morning the free run went smoothly, and the Miku Z4 was in the 3rd position with a “1’49.839” time. In 1st was #21 (Audi R8 LMS ultra) and in 2nd was the Love Live Porsche #9 (Otonokizaka Gakuin NAC Porsche with DR).
With sunrise approaching earlier, the race was moved up one hour to a 1:00pm start. The final race was a relatively short 250km, and for the GT300 the number of laps would be around 50, making it essentially a sprint race.
The starting driver was Kataoka. Right after the start of the race, on the opening lap he passed #31 and advanced into 2nd place. However, starting from the pole #11 was building a lead of about 1 second per lap, and it was starting to separate from the pack. With #11 going too fast to be caught, the strategy shifted to holding off the cars in 3rd place and behind. However, the previously passed #31 was pretty fast, and a tight battle with a separation of just a tenth of a second unfolded for more than 10 laps. Deciding that the race was a stalemate, #31 decided to pit in rather than try to pass. It reentered the course without exchanging its tires. You could say that the reason it was held off for over 10 laps was the skill of Kataoka.
The battle with #31 was over, but two other cars were approaching from behind with overwhelming speed. One of these was #10, and the other was #21. Taking advantage of the strength of a two car formation, #10 attacked the Miku Z4 to assist #11. The pattern of gaining separation on the corners then losing it on the straightaways continued, and despite a lot of perseverance, on the 23rd lap he was overtaken. After that #21, which had been running well since the morning, quickly closed in, and on the 26th lap it passed him, and he fell into 4th place. A yellow light was showing in the battle for the championship.
■Persistent driving to defend 3rd place! Success in capturing the ultimate prize!
For GSR to take the championship, with #11 running in 1st they needed to finish no lower than 3rd. At this rate #11 would steal the championship. Originally the plan was for Kataoka to delay until about the 30th lap, but they made a sudden change in strategy. They made a pit in on the 27th lap, exchanged all of the tires, and put Taniguchi behind the wheel to return to the race.
After that, the 1st place #21 made a pit in. It only exchanged two tires to reduce pit time, and it got back on the course in front of the Miku Z4. However, on its out lap Taniguchi easily passed #21, and after having once fallen as low as 8th he was back in 3rd on the 34th lap. If he could hold on to that position he would take the Drivers’ Championship.
With about 15 laps to go #21 once again gave chase. Because they were running at almost the same pace, the 1 second gap between them neither grew nor shrank, and that situation held steady. After that Taniguchi was able to take advantage of the GT500 free for all to extend his lead. However, #21 kept on closing in. It could not, however, find a definitive point to overtake the Miku Z4, and this ebb and flow continued into the final lap. The 2nd place #31 was over 10 seconds ahead and couldn’t be caught, but the Miku Z4 was able to hold off #21 until the very end and finish 3rd at the checkered flag.
Regrettably the team title was taken by #11, but they secured the 2014 Drivers’ Championship. In addition, at the awards ceremony they took home the awards for best performance and best mechanic, making for a wonderful conclusion to the season for GOODSMILE RACING＆TeamUKYO.
For whatever reason the practice run was a mess, so we took a gamble in the preliminaries, and we had absolutely no margin for error. We were being assailed by mental fatigue, but that was all blown away when we secured the championship.
In the finals, on the opening lap Kataoka passed #31, then in the latter half Taniguchi passed #21 and held him off until the end, making for some great highlights. In the race itself we couldn’t put up a fight against #11, but we were somehow able to take 3rd place and secure the championship. I am so grateful for everybody’s support!
This final race really was agonizing, nerve wracking, and exciting. At the practice run on Friday the course of action we aimed for (with our settings) didn’t work out. That continued into Saturday morning, so in the preliminary we switched to a softer tire and were able to get 3rd place. In the free run on the morning of the finals we were once again 3rd and that looked like a good sign, but a good time in the morning doesn’t necessarily translate to a good time in the afternoon. Originally we wanted Kataoka to continue on until about the 35th lap, but soon after the start we realized that wouldn’t work. Both Kataoka and Taniguchi were treading on thin ice as they defended our position, and thanks to them we were somehow able to take the championship. This season was truly full of big ups and downs, but the fact that we were able to buckle down and earn points when times were tough is what produced this result. Of course, the encouragement of our fans cheering for us no matter the situation gave us courage. Thank you for all of your support.
In this race a team that we weren’t initially targeting jumped out into the lead, so it made for a nervous race right until the end. It was a short race and our strategy was simple, but those around us kept going fast, and in the end our brakes and tires were completely worn down as Taniguchi somehow escaped from #21, claiming a superb 3rd place to secure the championship. If I were to wish for anything more, it would be for us to have taken the team title as well.
We entered with a 9 point lead over 2nd place, but it turned out that we were the ones chasing, that’s how this race went. #11 was just too fast, so we thought they would likely take the victory, and we knew that we had to get at least 3rd place, but with the troubles we’d been having since Friday it seemed like a tough situation. In the preliminaries we were finally able to put things in order, so I thought the finals might go well, but rather than chasing and passing those in front it turned into a race where we had to worry about what was going on behind us. We were somehow able to keep 3rd place and just barely won the championship, and I’m so happy! All year long we fought for this day.
In 2011 our car was fast, so it seemed like it was a given that we would win, but this year we truly were right on the edge, and with just a bit of luck we were able to beat out our rivals, that’s how it felt. At any rate, I feel very relieved.
I don’t feel anything other than happiness! In the finals the temperature was higher than expected, so we knew that our choice of tires would make things tough, but despite this our drivers, our mechanics, our whole team banded together and claimed the 3rd place we had set our sights on. More than today, from Friday into Saturday morning was rough. We were able to get back in a good rhythm after going off kilter, and I think our claiming 3rd in the preliminaries was the turning point for the final race.
Since I joined this team in 2012, it’s certainly not that it’s bad but it doesn’t really feel like the BMW Z4 GT3 gives us a distinct advantage, so the tough seasons have continued, but we were able to tie together all of our preparations, and I think that is why we were able to claim the championship this time.