2016 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round5 FUJI GT 300km RACE
- August 6, 2016 Qualifying：5th
- August 7, 2016 Finals：5th
Persistent driving in wild race in Round 5 at Fuji leads to a 5th place finish
■August 6th (Sat) Even with air intake restricted 5th place claimed!
SUPER GT 2016 Round 5 Fuji Speedway. Back in Round 2 at Fuji Speedway held during Golden Week a burst tire led to a no point finish, so this time they wanted to post a good result.
Also, at this race, due to performance adjustments the 50kg weight from the previous race has been reduced to 5kg, and the weight of the vehicle has been reduced to 1290kg. At the same time, the restrictor on the engine’s air intake has been decreased from 36mm to 34.5mm, limiting its power. This seems to be a recipe for a difficult race at Fuji Speedway, which has particularly long straightaways.
The preliminary day was the 6th. The weather was clear from the morning on, the temperature was 33 degrees, and the road temperature was a scalding 52 degrees. In the first preliminary (Q1) Kataoka was in charge. He locked in the fastest time in Sector 2, recording a “1‘38.662” time. However, during the practice runs the top racers were finishing in the 37 second to low 38 second range, and this stayed the same in Q1. His position kept falling, and with a red flag coming down the time could not be improved, and he ended up in 11th in Q1.
The second preliminary (Q2) saw Taniguchi gripping the steering wheel. In order to try to improve their starting position by even a single spot, he unleashed a furious attack. On the 3rd lap he clocked in with a “1‘38.145” time, improving their spot. After that, just like in Q1 their rivals kept posting times in the 37 second range, yet he was able to remain in 5th place, meaning the final race would be started from the 5th position, which had yielded the best results so far this year.
■August 7th (Sun) Crashes and tires bursting all over!
Persistent driving in wild race leads to a 5th place finish
The finals took place on the 7th. The morning free race started with Kataoka driving. Overall everything was running well, and after handing things over to Taniguchi a time of “1’39.795” was good for third as the race drew to a close.
The final race was 300km. Compared to the 500km in the Round 2 race it could almost be called a sprint distance. When the race was getting ready to begin at around 2:00pm the temperature was 34 degrees and the road temperature was 52 degrees, putting the tires and engine in an undesirable situation. This time the first driver would once again be Kataoka. With his characteristic surprise attacks right at the start, often improving his position on the very first lap, excitement was rising to see just how high of a position Kataoka could achieve starting in 5th place.
With the temperature so high that hot air could be seen rising from the road, the race began. As expected Kataoka passed the #61 (SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT) on the first corner, but he was passed again immediately after. After that he blocked the #31 (TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT) pressing from behind, but on the 3rd lap he was passed and fell into 6th place. He was passed again by the #88 (MANEPA Lamborghini GT3) on the 9th lap and fell into 7th place.
The first three cars began separating from the rest of the pack, but on the 16th lap a hood came loose due to contact and the machine had to be retrieved, so the safety car (SC) came out. The Miku AMG remained in 7th place, and when the safety car was removed on the 22nd lap the race resumed. On the 26th lap the #31 couldn’t start its engine and stopped. With this Kataoka rose into 6th place. The Miku AMG made its pit in on the 30th lap, and just like in the previous SUGO race only the left two tires were exchanged to reduce pit work time, and with a driver change Taniguchi took over and went back on the race course.
In the out lap he had a minimal position loss, putting him in 8th place. On the 32nd lap he fell to 9th, but after all cars had completed their pit in on the 42nd lap he was back up to 6th. At this point the car in front of him was the same machine with the same tires in the #65 (LEON CVSTOS AMG-GT). Of course the two raced at an almost identical pace, making it difficult to pass, but on the 45th lap he succeeding in overtaking it. He improved his position to 5th. After that the passed #65 made a furious attack of its own, but on the 55th lap the #65 began to slow down due to machine trouble and had to withdraw.
The gap to the 4th place #88 was approximately 4 seconds, but the #88 appeared to suffer from tire issues as its pace steadily dropped, and soon the gap had disappeared. However, the driver of the #88 was the expert Orido Manabu. He knew exactly what Taniguchi wanted to do, and he simply would not let him pass. Then, on the final corner of the final lap, he succeeded in overtaking him and moved up to 4th place, but due to wear on his tires he could not pull ahead. The #88 took advantage of its higher top speed and released that power on the straightaway to pull even with the AMG, then just before the finish line it pulled ahead. The gap was a minuscule 0.006 seconds. Unfortunately 4th place could not be secured, and just like in the previous SUGO race he fell short of the #88 needing “just one more lap,” leading to a disappointing finish.
The result of the race was a 5th place finish, but because several of the highly ranked teams had problems, with 25 points they rose into 4th place in the series ranking. The separation to the top place #55 (ARTA BMW M6 GT3) was 12 points, and with four races remaining a come from behind victory was still a very real possibility. The next race at Suzuka Circuit (August 27th and 28th) would be a 1000km long race, meaning more points are at stake than for other races. With this upcoming chance to earn a lot of points, the team will work hard to reach the winner’s podium.
Fuji should be a difficult course for us, but with our drivers’ hard work and our plan of attack we were able to claim 5th place, so I’m happy about that. In the end we lost to a more powerful machine. Maybe this battle reflected the current regulations. Even among the AMG GT3 there are variations in speed, so this needs to be clarified, and there is still work to be done in meetings with AMG. As for the differences in each unit, “Is it this? How about that?” Coming to an understanding about the vehicles will move things forward in a positive direction.
Finishing the final race in the same position as the preliminary leaves you with a feeling that is neither good nor bad. If possible it would have been great to have been able to pass Orido (#88), but that wasn’t the main issue, and the hurdle of closing in on the lead group seems to keep getting higher. This race wasn’t just about Bridgestone and Dunlop dominating the winner’s podium, there were issues of straightaway speed, performance tuning, and other problems at play. Looking at the result you can say that everybody did what they were supposed to so 5th place is fine, but this isn’t a race that can be won by driver ability alone, so in preparation for the next race at Suzuka we need our whole team to come together and work hard on development.
In today’s race we came up just short at the end. However, I believe that we did all that we could, and we didn’t make any mistakes or encounter any trouble. In a way we were helped out as other teams had to withdraw, and I guess you could call it a good race. For the pit in timing there might have been a better choice, but pushing any longer would be difficult on Kataoka, so thinking about how it might have also gone the other way, I feel that in the end it was a good choice.
Once again we just could not compete with the car right in front of us. Fundamentally our car is slow on straightaways, so Fuji is a tough course for us… Also, the feeling that if there were one more lap we’d be able to pass #88 was just like the previous race, so it kind of feels like a disappointment. On the final corner we did all we could to pass him, but we ended up getting overtaken due to the difference in acceleration. We lightened up our car, but with the restrictor tightened, the cornering was good but on a course like Fuji with long straightaways it seems like we were at a disadvantage. We were able to get 5th place, but it was a very hard fought 5th place. It seems like we moved up into 4th in the rankings, but we aren’t really standing out, and seems like we are working hard in a quiet way this season (haha).
It was better than the previous race, but we still don’t have the power to push for first place. With the big gap in ability on the straightaways we ended up getting passed, and if we just blocked and made it into a braking battle the tires would overheat and we’d lose the ability to corner and stop. During the race the SC came out, and the silver lining was that this gave us a chance to cool the tires. In that tough situation getting 5th place is pretty good. At the end, momentarily passing #88 only to get passed again was difficult not just for us, but also for all of the fans watching, so we want to make a strong rally next week at Suzuka.