2015 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 7 SUPER GT in KYUSHU 300km
- October 31, 2015 Qualifying：5th
- November 1, 2015 Finals：7th
We finished in 7th place at Autopolis, where we were troubled by tires picking up debris
■October 31 (Saturday) We obtained 5th place by overcoming a rough start in qualifying!
Autopolis, which was held at the end of May last year due to a schedule change, was to be held at the end of October, which is a bit later than usual. In 2013, we got the first victory for the Hatsune Miku GT project, and we finished with no points in 2014. We want to finish in one of the top spots this year, by any means.
However, the times were not very good from the practice runs before qualifying (Saturday). Although Miku SLS recorded a time in the 1 minute 46 second range, the top cars finished in the 43 second range, giving us the idea that this race will be very tough.
Qualifying began at 14:00 after adjusting the settings significantly. Taniguchi took charge of the 1st round and recorded a time of “1’44.937″ before stopping in the pit. Even though the rival cars were also in the 44 second range, this time put us in 9th place, as we made it through the 1st round. Despite the fact that Taniguchi only ran the Circuit Safari this day, he produced this time in just about his first try.
Kataoka took charge of the 2nd round of qualifying. He ran several laps and produced the best time of the day, which was “1‘44.459.” This result put us in 5th place, meaning that we would start the finals at the 5th spot of the grid. As the cars in the 1st to 4th spots were from JAF-GT, we were the best from FIA-GT3.
The team and fans alike had high hopes for the finals, as we were to start near the top for the first time in a while.
■November 1 (Sunday) Even though we were racing in the podium spots early on…
The day of the finals arrived. Kataoka took charge of the free running in the morning and determined the settings for the final race. Although he did not set up any attacks, he got 8th spot with a time of “1’46.599.”
Although the concerns for rain were unfounded, the final race approached with rather low temperatures, with the temperature of the track not increasing. Kataoka took charge for the start. Because #31 TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT had to start in the pit due to machine trouble, we actually started in the 4th spot, already putting us in range of the podium spots.
With a rolling start, we already passed #61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT, which was right ahead, during the 1st lap, bringing us up to 3rd place straight away. However the cars in the 1st and 2nd spots surged ahead, gradually gaining separation from us. Meanwhile, #21 Audi R8 LMS ultra and #61 caught up from behind, setting the stage for a tough race.
Although we dropped all the way to 7th during the 10th lap, we gradually picked up the pace after that, racing in 2nd place during the 26th lap. Speaking about the inconsistent form, Kataoka said, “There was a phenomenon in which the debris picked up by the tires did not come off. When it began to rain, I waved to the left and right, which took the debris off and brought back the true potential of the tires.”
As the rain came and went from the middle part of the race, the pit spot was delayed as much as possible until the 34th lap. Although we had dropped to 11th place during the out lap, we gradually fought back and recovered to the podium spot of 3rd place.
However, something strange happened after the 40th lap. We could no longer pick up the pace, and our standing dropped continuously after we fell to 4th place during the 45th lap. The issue of picking up debris, which Kataoka experienced, had reoccurred here. Its effect was so significant that the lap time fell a maximum of 7 seconds, and Taniguchi said, “The car wouldn’t turn, and I was doing my best just to stay on the course.”
Our standing had dropped to 8th place, but because a rival in front of us suddenly went in the pit, we rose to 7th place. We were regaining our pace after that, but since the race was already near its end, we could not pass the cars in front of us, so we were in 7th place as we passed the checkered flags.
The next race at Twin Ring Motegi would be the last of the season. Even though things have not gone well this season, our drivers and mechanics have high motivation to finish with a win.
There were extremely sharp swings during this race, as the mood of the team was bad during the practice run, good during qualifying, and bad during the finals, when things were positive during the 1st sting and negative during the latter half. Regarding the tires picking up debris, which was a concern during the finals, the rain during the early half took away the debris, and the debris caused issues during the second half, before our pace picked up when it started to rain. However, it was already too late by then.
I think that Taniguchi was battling with a car that would hardly turn, so his stress levels must be too high to measure. We can say that this was a race where the strengths of both drivers were on display.
As I believe that we are prepared for the final race, we can aim for our first win this season.
I feel very apologetic toward the drivers. As the conditions changed during the race, the balance of the car would fluctuate between good and bad. Although there were exciting parts where we improved our standing steadily, it was tough that our trouble did not go away throughout the race as a whole.
I believe that this was a learning experience for our team and we were able to get some data, so we are making progress. Instead of just having bad luck, the reasons for what happened are clear, so now we just need to fix these issues.
We learned during the race that we can reach 2nd place or even 1st place if things go our way.
Kataoka handed things over to me in a good position (2nd place), and I was able to reach 3rd place and aim higher, but the tires picking up debris caused my times to worsen significantly. My pace dropped further than ever before.
Understeering would be an understatement for how little the car would turn. The conditions were so poor that I was doing my best just to stay on the course, let alone maintain our standing. As a result, we fell all the way to 8th place.
I feel very apologetic toward everybody who cheered us on. I never want to feel this way again.
I gradually improved our standing after starting in 5th place, but the tires started to pick up debris during the race, giving us no option other than for us to slowly and steadily fall behind. However, this issue was resolved for some reason, and we were able to catch up to the leading pack and go into the pit at 2nd place.
The issue of the tires picking up debris reoccurring during the latter half was extremely disappointing, more so because we had a bright outlook for a while. Since I feel like this is a troublesome issue, we will work to resolve this issue thoroughly. As we plan to use this disappointment as fuel for the last race, we ask that everybody please support us.