2015 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 3 BURIRAM SUPER GT RACE
- June 20, 2015 Qualifying: 10th
- June 21, 2015 Finals: 13th
The second Thai race, ending with only regrets and no points!
■June 20 (Sat) Preliminaries dogged with machine trouble
The 3rd round of SUPER GT 2015 at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand, about a month and a half after the previous race at the Fuji course. The previous year, this circuit hosted the 7th race, which meant it was used in October, but this year it was chosen for the first half of the season on June 20~21. Back again 8 months later, this race week found itself with perfect weather, uninterrupted by even a single squall in spite of the rainy season.
The biggest difference from the previous year’s Thai race was the doing away of the practice run on Friday. As the circuit was newly opened the previous time, an extra day for practice runs was specially provided. However, having reached the second time on this track, the arrangement was reverted to the more normal schedule of preliminaries on Saturday followed by finals on Sunday.
During the practice run on the morning of the 20th, the tires and settings seemed to have trouble falling into place, and both drivers Taniguchi and Kataoka remained unable to improve on their times. While the higher ranks recorded times in the 1 minute and 34 seconds to early 35 seconds range, the #0 car Good Smile Hatsune Miku SLS remained within the latter 35 seconds range. Ultimately, the best time managed was Taniguchi’s 1‘35.775, and this session ended with them at 15th place.
During the afternoon preliminaries, the air temperature was 34°C, with the road temperature starting off at 45°C and ultimately rising as high as 60°C. Q1 (1st round of the preliminaries) was entrusted to Taniguchi, who managed a better time than Kataoka during the practice run, and he lived up to it by beating out 1‘35.675 to surpass his own best record. To proceed onto Q2 (the 2nd round), placing 13th or better was needed, which Taniguchi clinched by remaining in 12th place.
Upon being entrusted with Q2, Kataoka recorded 1‘35.566, a time better than even Taniguchi’s in Q1, in spite of the car’s setting being in a worrying condition all throughout. However, in concert with the rising road temperature, the other cars also continued refreshing their times, with the top machine clinching a lap time within the 33 second range, to the astonishment of everyone watching. In the midst of all this, Kataoka’s time secured 10th place, which meant the team would be starting at the 10th grid at the finals race.
■June 21 (Sun) A heartbreaking burst at the latter half of the finals
The 21st, Sunday. On the morning of this day of the finals, both air temperature and road temperature was low, with the free runs before noon producing rather lackluster times. The best time was Kataoka’s 1‘36.439. The session ended with them at 17th place and ultimately short of the 35 second mark.
The team that actually managed the best time during this session was a wild card non-championship local Thai team, the #28 car REITER GALLARDO. Their shocking time of 1’32.960 was actually more than 1.5 seconds faster than the time in the 2nd place.
After the usual events, such as circuit safari and pet walk, the clock finally struck 3pm, signaling the much awaited start of the final race. The first person at the steering wheel was Kataoka. The curtains rose with a rolling start on a race on both figurative fire and also a road with a temperature of 65°C.
Kataoka, who is great with handling the chaos at the start of races, managed to overtake 2 cars in the 1st lap to reach 8th place by the time he returned to the home straight. From there on, the race gradually developed with the 1~3 places grouped together, and the 4~9 places in another group. The situation continued so for a while.
The first indication of changed was in the 19th lap. During this lap, Kataoka managed to dodge #7 car Studie BMW Z4 to usurp its place in 7th, going on to overtake #31 car TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT in the 22nd lap to further rise to 6th place. Afterwards, thanks to other teams having to make pit stops, he kept rising up the ranks until he reached 4th place.
After a showing that made it seem the morning’s struggles were nothing but a lie, Kataoka was overtaken by #61 car SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT in the 26th lap, then had to make a pit stop in his 27th lap.
Having actually decided on a no tire change strategy from the very start, the team decided based on Kataoka’s performance as well as the condition of the tires during the pit stop that the strategy was indeed possible to carry out, so the baton was passed to Taniguchi and he was sent out to the course.
Despite falling to 10th place during the out lap, Taniguchi seemingly inherited Kataoka’s streak and gradually began recovering his rank.
Then the great incident that decided the fate of this race happened in the 40th lap, when Taniguchi seemed to have been doing just fine. His right rear tire suddenly burst, which forced him to make an emergency pit stop.
Despite Taniguchi’s desperate efforts in returning to pit while dragging the burst tire along, his team had already dropped to 18th place by the time the tire change was done. By then, the number of laps left was less than 20, and recovering was nigh impossible. With all four tires changed, Taniguchi beat out a pace faster than what he had achieved during any of the practice and preliminary runs, but he only managed to climb back up to 13th place before the race was over.
After two consecutive 5th places, GOODSMILE RACING & TeamUKYO had no points to bring home this time, to their deep chagrin. Their next race will be back inside Japan, at Fuji Speedway on August 8~9. This time, they will not let even a single point slip through their fingers.
■Comments from the People Involved
Even though we never did manage to get the tire settings to fit perfectly from the preliminaries to the morning of the finals even in spite of all our efforts, we sure made a great showing in the 1st stand of the finals. I still think that we were not wrong in choosing the no tire change strategy in our pursuit of the winner’s podium. Although the end result turned out disappointing, we really have to give a hand to the mechanics who got together to work on the car before the finals, as well as the drivers who handled it so perfectly. In that way, it was actually a pretty satisfying race, I guess you can say, but what with the continued struggle with the tire making, I guess the end result doesn’t really live up to that. This time, we’ve finally gathered everything we need on the machine setting and brakes and everything else, so we’ll definitely be making a comeback at the Fuji race. Please continue to support us!
Sometimes in racing, really unreasonable things just happen, and this time was exactly an illustration of that. It really is regrettable. We went from struggling so much with the setting and the lackluster times during the preliminary, to that amazing showing during the finals no less, but just when victory seemed within our grasp, to have it all escape our fingers. If that burst hadn’t happened, I believe we would have been in 4th or 5th place. But then again, this kind of thing happening is also part and parcel of car racing, isn’t it.
Normally, if this kind of thing happens, team morale would plunge to rock bottom. But not us, our team is always positive. We immediately change gears and do everything within our power. Several of our individual sponsors made the long trip over, and we also received so much support from those watching through the live broadcast back in Japan. I think that this is the kind of team that truly gathers good luck, so keep your expectations high for Fuji!
This time, we had prolonged problems with the tire setting, and it felt like we were being forestalled most of the time. That’s why we went into the finals with a rather worried outlook, but Kataoka’s efforts overturned all that. I was also chased from the back, but just when I was all pumped up and felt like I was breaking free, tough luck struck and the burst tire sent us beyond range of the prize.
Our gears may not have been perfectly meshed together this time, but I strongly believe that they will be by next time, so please continue giving us your support.
This time, the tires weren’t doing well at the very start, so all of us already kind of knew that this time would be an uphill battle for us. But despite that, everyone in the team cooperated together and gave it their all. As a result, though I can’t really say that we reached a level that we are satisfied with, in the finals we definitely did reach a level where we were finally giving our rivals a run for their money. We started out in 10th place and brought that all the way up to 4th. We did have a tire lose a bit of grip, but performance in the long run was extremely stable, so we decided that the no change strategy would work.
After Taniguchi switched in, we effectively made it up to 5th place, but then lost the right to compete because of that burst. We are very much still aiming for the championship, so the race this time will the last of its kind, and everything from here on will be our comeback.