2015 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 2 FUJI GT 500km Race
- May 2, 2015 Qualifying：8th
- May 3, 2015 Finals：5th
We finished in 5th place at Fuji Speedway for Round 2, which was a race of perseverance!
■May 2 (Saturday) We went through qualifying, for which the surface was dry, in 8th place
Super GT Round 2 at Fuji Speedway was held in the middle of Golden Week. There was good weather at this circuit for the first time in a long time, and it was sunny from the day of qualifying, causing the temperature of the track to increase. As the previous race in Okayama took place in the rain, this would be the first race on a dry surface this season.
The 1st round of official qualifying began after the pit walk, which many members of the audience participated in. Kataoka gripped the steering wheel. In the midst of a very heated race where many cars finished in the 37 second range, Kataoka recorded a time of “1’37.870″ that allowed us to scrape through the 1st round of qualifying in 7th place.
Taniguchi took charge of the 2nd round of qualifying, which determines the order on the grid. Even though he clocked in at “1’37.851″ for the 4th lap and “1’37.752″ for the 5th lap, the fast speed of our rivals meant that we would complete qualifying in 8th place. We will begin the finals at the 8th spot of the grid.
■May 3 (Sunday) The finals, where we held off our rivals over many laps
It was also clear and sunny from the morning on the day of the finals. Many people from the individual sponsors of the teams came to the venue, and a section for cheering supporters formed naturally. We entered the finals while feeling the warmth of this support with our senses.
Kataoka started the free run, which began at 9 in the morning. Kataoka’s best time was “1‘39.014″ as we finished the free run in 7th place.
Following from the example set the year before, a huge number of fans gathered at the pit walk as the finals began. Due to the results of qualifying, Goodsmile Hatsune Miku SLS would start from the 8th spot of the grid. Kataoka took charge at the start. After the formation lap, the 500km race, the second longest race of the season, began with a rolling start.
In the early stages, we passed 2 cars and jumped to 6th place. Although we were getting separated from the 3 cars in the front, there was a car that had a burst tire and fell off the course during the 8th lap, causing a safety car run. As a result, the time differences were reset. We aimed even higher. After the safety cars cleared out, Kataoka passed another car and rose to 5th place.
However, the race was deadlocked from here. We went into the pit in 5th place during the 24th lap. All tires were replaced, and Taniguchi became the driver. As there are 2 pit stops mandated for this race, Kataoka would drive again later.
After leaving the pit, we returned to the course in 19th place. However, we gradually improved our standing and returned to 5th place during the 49th lap. However, the gap from the car in 4th place was wide, so it was quite tough to improve from here. We went in the pit during the 63rd lap while still in 5th place. The steering wheel became Kataoka’s again.
Although we returned from the out lap in 13th place, the number 7 car (Studie BMW Z4) was right behind us. We went on to return our standing to 5th place, but we would go on to focus simply on defending our position from the number 7 car. SLS, which has better straight away speed, would not allow the other cars to overtake it. In the end, Goodsmile Hatsune Miku SLS passed the checkered flag in 5th place after nearly 20 laps of defending.
We were able to hang on and finish in 5th place without any issues, even though trouble was found right before the race, and the settings had to be changed on the grid. At the moment, our season ranking is also 5th. We aim to turn things around during Round 3, which takes place at Buriram, Thailand on June 20 – 21.
I think this was a good race in which both Taniguchi and Kataoka defended our position while watching the wear of the tires. We were able to see how good SLS is at defending. Normally, we would prefer to see strength in attacking, but there are still issues with the set up and tires.
Although this was a race with high hopes for us, unexpected bad luck prevented us from finishing in one of the top places. However, we were able to find points of improvement and will turn things around in Thailand during the next race.
I am extremely disappointed. We had to change the settings because of an issue that was found right before the start. For this reason, the handling was completely different from how it was during qualifying.
At first, I was expecting to be able to compete with the leading pack with a lap time in the 39 second range, but we were unable to keep up with a car with changed settings, as the top 4 cars had lap times that were faster than expected. We will continue to redeem ourselves, as there are still some issues we will work out before the race in Thailand.
Today’s race had us on edge until the end. It is unfortunate that we were unable to go ahead of Audi, but I feel like this was the best result. The cars that finished top had clear reasons why they were fast, such as good traction and the qualities of the tires being used.
As there are many teams with complete packages this year, it is important for us to avoid getting tripped up and leaving points on the table.
We couldn’t be the protagonists again this time. There were many issues that popped up right before the race, so it didn’t feel like we can compete for one of the top spots. However, I think it is good that we were able to maintain our spot and finish in 5th place to earn points.
There are points that we must reflect on, and it is clear that there are things we need to be prepared for in future races. Going forward, we want to make sure we don’t drop any points.
Things were going well through qualifying, but the wear of the tires and the changed settings before the finals caused our performance to drop. As a result, our poor balance meant that our average speed wouldn’t go up. Instead of pulling ahead of those in front of us, this was a defensive race where we used the brakes and tires to stay in front of the rivals behind us.
We tried out different tires for Taniguchi’s stint, but things were still difficult… I don’t think being in 5th place following from Round 1 is not bad at all, but we will aim to finish higher from the next race on.