2018 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 1 OKAYAMA GT 300km RACE
- April 7, 2018 Preliminaries：15th
- April 8, 2018 Finals：8th
A struggle in qualification for the first race at Okayama but a finish of 8th
■Saturday, April 7 Ended preliminaries at 15th place due to unexpected temperatures
“Hatsune Miku GT Project” that participated in the SUPER GT from the middle of the 2008 season, celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Last year it was the GT300 class champion for the third time, and this year it will aim for a consecutive title for its Memorial Year.
This year’s opening stage is the Okayama International Circuit again. Our team and the circuit are relatively compatible, because not only did we win the championship last year and make an auspicious start, but also because we have stood on the podium many times over the past few years. However,, it is also prone to unstable weather and it is not unusual for it to rain on sunny forecasts.
The day of the preliminaries was sunny as expected by the weather forecast, but the temperature was in the single digit and it was extremely cold. The temperature of the road surface also stayed low, so we did not do well even in practice runs.
At the preliminaries, the temperature was 9 degrees and the road surface temperature was 15 degrees. Both were lower temperatures than the tires were meant for and we struggled. While the top players held records in the 1 minute 25 seconds band, the best record time for car number 0 (Good Smile Hatsune Miku AMG) was “1 minute 26 seconds 316.” Still, it managed to make the cut line of the top 14, but just at the end, car number 65 (LEON CVSTOS AMG) made a record of “1 minute 26 seconds 173″ and car number 0 dropped to 15th place. The race ended in disappointment with car number 55 (ARTA BMW M6 GT3), which was just one position ahead, finishing 0.009 seconds faster.
■Sunday, April 8 Raced with no mishaps and gained points at 8th place
We started the final race from 15th place. The temperature was low as with the day of the preliminaries, and the weather was unstable as usual, with some snow during the morning pitwalk and rain just before noon. Still, the weather recovered before the final race and was fine. The temperature was 11 degrees celsius and the road surface temperature was 22 degrees celsius, which resulted in a warmer day than the preliminaries.
Kataoka is the starting driver. Although it has been a while since his last race with 14 cars, Kataoka, who always does well in the beginning skirmish, overtakes one car from the first lap and returns to the home straight at 14th place. He steadily climbs up the ranks, and is up to 13th place on lap 9, 12th on lap 15, and 10th on lap 17. At this point, car number 360 (RUNUP RIVAUX GT – R) crashes, but the safety car is not introduced and the race continues with only a yellow flag. His rank did not change from 10th place, but he made an early pit stop at lap 27.
Driver is replaced by Taniguchi, and the two tires on the left side are also replaced before returning to the course. Although going down to 15th place on the out lap, he recovers when other cars make pit stops and slow down. By lap 40 he had returned to 10th place.
By lap 55 he climbs to 8th place, but from here the race stagnates, aside from the top group. It is a back and forth seesaw game with car number 88 (Maneper Lamborghini GT3), which runs in front, the gap between them unchanging. The checker flag is raised with no change in rank.
The ranking from the preliminaries strongly influenced the finals, but we gained three points at 8th place. The championships have just begun. Aiming for a consecutive win, a feat previously unheard of, we are planning a comeback at the next race in Fuji.
It was tough from the start when we were at 15th place at the preliminaries. I knew that the main battle wasn’t going to be easy, but from a strategic viewpoint, I think we still had a chance to go up the ranks a bit more. Everyone was working beyond their capacities because it was the first game of the season, and we had few weapons at our disposal this time, but there‘s a feeling that it has been taken away. I think that it’s necessary to make a better package, including tire development, because strategies won’t work if you don’t start from a better position in the preliminaries. However, we did get three points. That’s much better than no points at all, and going forward we will continue our preparations to get high scores.
The Q1 was eliminated at the preliminaries and at first, I thought we wouldn’t be able to get any points. However, we had a good pace going at the finals and were able to get three points. There were times when our rivals who didn’t exchange tires overtook us, or when we wasted chances, but it was a blessing in disguise that we still somehow managed to get points. The season has just begun. We will make a comeback from here, so please continue to support us.
The tire we brought in this time was because we expected the temperature to be high, but it was regrettable that the temperature, contrary to our expectations, dropped on the weekend. The Q1 was eliminated at the preliminaries, and since we started the race from 15th place and ended up 8th, I think the only salvation is that we got at least one point. I will do my best to be get a better rank at the next race in Fuji.
The race started from a low rank for the first time in a while, so I was a bit bewildered at first because there were so many cars around me. However, I overtook one car and went up one position at the beginning, and after that I overtook two or three cars. The pace wasn’t bad, and I pitted in earlier, but I didn’t get high a rank as I thought I would. Still we were able to raise our rank from 15th place to 8th place and at least get some points, which was our minimum goal. Of course, I’m not satisfied. Since we’ve found problems, including the speed of the mother chassis, and the compatibility of the tires, we’ll need to make plans before the next race. It’s going to be a tougher season than before.