2017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Rd.4 SUGO GT 300km RACE
- July 22, 2017 Qualifying：8th
- July 21, 2017 Finals：4th
The result at the turbulent SUGO was a 4th place finish, which was the best ever for the project at this circuit!
■July 22 (Saturday) We managed to finish 8th in qualifying by not giving up in the midst of the fast speed of those around us
After roughly 2 months, the 4th round was held at Sportsland SUGO to mark the midpoint of SUPER GT. SUGO has not historically been a good circuit for GOODSMILE RACING & TeamUKYO, as our best finish to that point was 5th place. However, the objective here was to hang in there and collect as many points as possible to stay close behind the leaders heading into the latter half of the season.
SUGO usually has stormy weather, but there was baking heat on the Friday before the race. The temperature was also hot on the day of qualifying. Under these circumstances, Kataoka took charge of the 1st qualifying round. Although he recorded a 2nd lap time of “1’20.148” and finished 3rd, this round was suspended by a red flag, as there were cars that veered off track. After the resumption of qualifying, the time ended up being “1’19.512,” which landed us in 10th place due to the fast speed of the rivals.
Taniguchi took over for the 2nd qualifying round. He was provisionally in 2nd place by posting a 2nd lap time of “1’19.658,” but there was a crash immediately after that, causing a red flag suspension. When the race started, all rivals upped their pace, so even though the best time improved to “1’19.411,” the result was 8th place, meaning that the finals would be started from the 8th spot of the grid.
■July 23 (Sunday) A race with turbulent weather and many crashes
We went through the race without any issues and finished in 4th!
The weather completely changed on the day of the finals, as it started raining in the morning. The rain was heavy at times and light at others, and the weather remained unstable throughout the day. There was even a red flag shown in the morning warmups, as some automobiles veered off the course due to the poor conditions of the road surface.
Even though it was raining until the middle of the day, the rain stopped by the time the racers filled up the grid, and some portions of the road were even dry. However, the rain cloud radar indicated that rain clouds would cover SUGO when the race was set to start at 14:30, so nervousness was palpable in the air, as some teams went with slick tires on the grid, and others changed to wet tires. Incidentally, Miku AMG was first equipped with slick tires, which were changed to wet tires right before the end of the grid walk.
Kataoka was the driver at the start. As predicted, rain began to fall immediately after the start of the race, so teams that chose slick tires completely lost their ability to win the race. Kataoka handled the confusion at the start of the race, dodged 2 automobiles during the 1st lap, and returned to the home stretch in 6th place. Although he was passed by during the 2nd lap and dropped to 7th, he went back in front and finished the 3rd lap in 6th place. However, there was already a crash during the 4th lap, and safety cars were brought in.
The race resumed during the 9th lap, and although Kataoka improved to 5th place in the 11th lap, he was passed by the number 65 car of AMG GT3 (LEON CVSTOS AMG) during the 13th lap and fell back down to 6th. Then, the rain began to fall heavily, and there was a nose to tail battle with the number 3 car (B-MAX NDDP GT-R). Kataoka made a move and overtook the number 3 car, but came into contact with it. Although he moved up to 5th, the number 55 car (ARTA BMW M6 GT3), which started in 21st, came very close and eventually pulled ahead during the 31st lap.
Immediately after dodging the number 25 car (VivaC 86 MC), which was losing its pace, and rising to 5th place during the 37th lap, the GT500 automobile crashed, resulting in a safety car run. As soon as the race was restarted during the 43rd lap, the car made a pit stop. As the rain stopped falling, the tires were changed to slick tires. Taniguchi took over as the driver, and as soon as the car reentered the course, there was a crash, and safety cars entered for the 3rd time.
The safety cars left during the 48th lap, and the car fell into 3rd place, a lap behind 1st and 2nd, possibly due to bad timing. With that said, we would finish on the podium if this keeps up. Although we went for our first podium finish at SUGO, the number 25 car, which regained its speed, caught up during the 59th lap and overtook us during the 63rd lap. After falling to 4th place, we raced neck and neck with the number 35 car in front of us, but were unable to pull ahead by a matter of tenths of seconds as the checkered flags came out.
It was unfortunate that we missed the podium, but we finished with the best result at SUGO for the Hatsune Miku GT project and ended up in 3rd place at the time for the series ranking. Next up after the 24 hour Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps was the 5th round at the Fuji Speedway on August 5 and 6. Although we lost out because of 2 bursts after cruising in 1st place at Fuji in the spring, we would like to go back on top at Fuji in the summer.
Although there may be regrets, I think this was a great result. It was said that the Mother Chassis would be fast, and Bridgestone would be good depending on the weather, but we finished better than initially expected. It ended up being exactly the case. When the safety cars entered during the race, we may have been able to go for the win if things went well, but we ended up being left behind due to the rare occurrence of safety cars entering repeatedly. With that in mind, 4th place is not a bad finish at all. We can expect good results, as we did well during the tests at Fuji.
There were some parts that we were wasteful about, but 4th place is not bad. We were expecting a worse finish at SUGO. The rain made things especially tough, but thankfully the rain stopped midway through the race. What was unfortunate was that we fell behind the number 65 car because of the 3rd safety car entry. Because of that, we were lapped. However, the fact that we were able to minimize the damage from this will lead to better results in the future.
The race itself was turbulent, as can be expected at SUGO. We would have been able to go for the win had the puzzle pieces come together well for us, but it was unfortunate that we missed the victory by a second. However, I think the fact that we finished 4th at SUGO, where we usually trip us, was a blessing in disguise. I am very happy that we are in 3rd place in the championship at the end of SUGO.
I can’t tell if the safety cars heled us or harmed us. In the midst of a very complicated race, we had the possibility of winning, and this is not a bad result, considering our position in the championship. Finishing 4th at SUGO, which does not usually bode well for us, is a positive change for the future, so we will carry on this momentum at Fuji next time!