2018 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 2 FUJI GT 500km RACE
- May 3, 2018 Qualifying：4th
- May 4, 2018 Finals：5th
Line 2 Fuji forced a hard battle and won 5th place with a clever scheme.
■- Thursday, May 3rd Qualifying method changed due to the influence of fog.
The SUPER GT 2nd Match was held in the midst of Golden Week (Fuji Speedway). Although the forecast for heavy rain disappeared on the day of the qualifier, the circuit was covered in a thick fog from the morning and not in a state for safe driving, which led to the practice run being postponed to the afternoon, and the circuit safari event being cancelled.
In the past, the knockout method was used (rules that allow the top 14 to advance to the second round and determine the qualifying order), but this time the system was changed to special rules. It’s now a one shot contest where either of the drivers runs for 20 minutes, and the qualifying rank is determined by the best times among them.
In a practice run that started at 12:50, Kataoka drove a “1’37.884” for a 2nd place ranking and an excellent start. Kataoka was also in charge of the qualifying run that started at 14:45, where he was delayed by about 5 minutes from the other cars with a pit out. He aimed for a clear course, but in a stroke of bad luck came out in a position that was unfortunately crowded. Even so, in the attack on the 5th lap he ran a “1’36.850” for a temporary record. However, rivals gradually picked up their pace, eventually leading to a final ranking with No. 55 (ARTA BMW M6 GT3) in the top position, followed by No. 61 (SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT), No. 65 (LEON CVSTOS AMG), and No. 0 (Good Smile Hatsune Miku AMG) in 4th place.
We will start the final race from the 4th grid in the 2nd row. It is a bad location considering the presence of a 500 km long bridge.
■- Friday, May 4 A 5th place finish with one-sided exchanges
Fuji’s 2nd race is a long distance of 500 km, with 2 mandatory pit-ins. Unlike the sprint race, the timing of these 2 pit-ins has a huge influence on ranking, so this is a race where strategy is extremely important.
The weather changed suddenly from that of the qualifying day, and it was clear from the morning. However, the temperature was low and the road surface temperature was slightly low. Before the start of the race the temperature was 18 degrees with a road temperature of 36 degrees. Kataoka was the starting driver. The 500 km race began with a pass through the grandstand where a large number of fans were packed in.
From the 1st lap we immediately passed the No.65 car ahead of us to take 3rd place. However, the leading No. 55 car and 2nd place No. 61 managed to widen the gap within a few laps. Also, the No. 31 car (TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT) was approaching from behind. The No. 31 car is faster than the No. 0 car at top speed, and by the 5th lap had caught up to within a few fractions of a second. He somehow managed to hold him back, but was finally passed in lap 17. After that, No. 65 approached until it was directly behind. The pace of the race was about the same, so we kept the same rank for a number of laps.
Although the race was at a stalemate, from around lap 30 our rivals took pit stops one after another. The No. 0 car ran longer than the formation ahead of it, and carried out its first pit stop at lap 40. The two left tires were changed and Taniguchi was put in as driver. We were in 8th place on the out lap and managed to get out before No. 65, but No. 61 and No. 31 got out before us. On lap 44 we rose to 5th place, and on lap 54 No. 61 had trouble and was forced to retire, putting us in 3rd place.
No. 0 ran with no trouble and managed to widen the gap behind. The top 2 cars (No. 55 and No. 31) took their second pit-in, and on lap 73 we were in 1st place. Our strategy was to have Taniguchi pull a bit longer, so we didn’t take our pit-in yet. Thanks to that the gap between us and 2nd place No. 55 widened to more than 40 seconds. However, No. 55 was keeping a fast pace, and the time difference gradually shrank. We pitted on lap 83, and carried out our strategy’s decisive move to again replace the two left tires. In other words we were running on a clever plan not to replace the right tires for 500 km. It is a strategy that can never work without the driver’s tire management ability and reliable tires. However, although we were able to return to the course with a minimal loss, No. 55 and No. 31 were able to get out ahead of us.
In the out lap we were overtaken by No. 11 (GAINER TANAX GT-R), which had been gaining since the middle of the race, and dropped to 4th place. After that, we entered the last leg of the race still in 4th place. On lap 100, with the checker in sight, we were directly behind No. 65, with whom we’d managed to close our gap, but the timing was bad and the GT500 machine also came, we were unable to hold them back, and dropped to 5th place. Sometimes it all comes down to the final 3 laps, but the reversal wasn’t meant to be, and we passed the checker in 5th place.
The difficult battle has continued from the 1st race, but for now we’ve managed to earn points without being undone. In the 3rd race in Suzuka, we want to give momentum to the season with a large number of points.
■Comments from the Team
This time we attacked quite a bit, and I feel like we did what we could do. Although the tires seemed to be suffering at the very end, it handled very well with exchanges only on one side. Thanks to that, I think we were able to carry out our strategy as planned. However, we were overwhelemed by the other tire manufacturers. The strength of the GT3, with no. 55, no. 11, etc., really stood out, and matched Fuji. It was really regrettable when we were passed by No. 65, the same machine, at the very end. We didn’t want to be pulled out, but here sector 3 is pretty strict. It looks like this year is going to be a really tough struggle, so I’d like to find a breakthrough solution early.
We did pretty well out of the gate in the qualifier, but the finals didn’t go so well. Although it can be said that really results are what matters, our strategy wasn’t mistaken, and I don’t think that the machine was in bad condition, either. I think that the time will certainly come when it is good like that, because we’ve only just finished the 2nd race. We have a long road ahead. We have to think about what lies ahead and do do what we can together as a team.
We came in 5th place this time, but as far as we’re concerned we think it’s for the best. Our speed didn’t come close to reaching that of the machines ahead of us, and we all became keenly aware of the current lack of power. However, it was the top for the Yokohama campaign, and we were able to execute our strategy properly. We need to combine our strength with Yokohama, develop some good tires, and counterattack our rivals. We’ll do our best next time at Suzuka!
Looking at the results, it feels like we lost the tire manufacturer competition. The car’s balance wasn’t bad, and we did everything we could. Strategically I think it was the best we could do with the power we’re able to handle. And it’s the top in the Yokohama campaign. Our lap pace dropped from 5 milliseconds to 1 second from the middle to the latter half of the race, so we have a lot of challenges. Lastly, there was also an entanglement with the GT500, and I couldn’t hold No. 65 back, which as a Mercedes showdown is a regrettable result. I did my best, but I guess it wasn’t enough.