2018 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round4 Chang SUPER GT RACE
- June 30, 2018 Qualifying: 7th
- July 1, 2018 Finals: 7th
Fourth Race in Thailand with Troubles and No Tire Change that Ended in 7th Place
■June 30 (Sat) Drawn up in the preliminary rankings thanks to other competitors’ troubles
This year was now the fifth SUPER GT race at Buriram in Thailand. This track was used for the 7th round last year in October, but this year it was chosen for for the 4th round on June 30 to July 1.
This time in the year is Thailand’s rainy season, and there were squalls everyday. After the teams arrived at the site, the empty skies during the daytime always gave way to downpours around twilight. However, the squall this day did not come in the evening, but in the afternoon. Although the rain did stop before the start of the preliminaries, the road did not dry in time, so the attack began amid the wet conditions.
First round of the preliminaries saw Kataoka at the wheels, hitting the course with wet tires. As the upper places began recording times in the 1’42 range, Kataoka managed 1’42.899 in his 8th lap, which allowed the team to pass through with room to spare.
Second round of the preliminaries was handled by Taniguchi. By then, the lanes had dried up thanks to the 1st round of preliminaries of GT500, so he was able to course in with dry tires. Taniguchi managed a 1’33.236 that placed quite high, but other cars continuing to record times in the 32 second range caused his placing to gradually fall, until it finally settled at 9th place.
As things stood, this would have meant starting the finals from the 9th stand, but the cars in 1st and 3rd place both got disqualified during the car inspection, which brought up the team’s placing to confirm a start at the 7th grid the following day.
■July 1 (Sun) Trouble during the formation lap
No tire change to the very end, 7th to pass the checkered flag
The day of the finals was clear, air temperature was 37°C, road temperature was 55°C, and the heat was very much that of a southern country. The starting driver was Kataoka. His usual overtaking show right after the start was highly anticipated, but he was nowhere to be seen in the home straight lineup at the end of the formation lap. Car trouble had occurred during that formation lap, and his engine became unable to increase its speed.
Forced to stop, Kataoka then turned the engine back on, after which it worked fine as if there was no issue whatsoever. However, there is a rule that all cars that stop during the formation lap must return to pit, so that meant an emergency pit stop. Kataoka confirmed over the wireless that the issue had been resolved and thus was allowed to continue on course after passing pit without an actual pit in, but by then he was already in dead last, more than 30 seconds behind the car in front.
After that, Kataoka managed repeated overtakes at the fastest pace of his class, recovering enough by the middle stage of the race to a ranking that awarded points. Thanks to having chosen long lasting tires, Kataoka continued to bring #0 car steadily up the ranks as other cars had to make pit stops one by one. He was running in second place after the latter half of the 30th lap, and even refreshed the best time with 1’33.787 in the 36th lap.
Then came the pit in and driver change with Taniguchi in the 41st lap. The team was going with the no tire change strategy for the second race in a row, performing only refueling before sending Taniguchi back out to the track at 9th place. The previous time, this resulted in their ranking continuing to drop afterwards, but their pace this time proved an equal match to that of the higher placing teams. Thanks to some of the higher placing teams being struck with troubles, Taniguchi managed to return to the same placing they got in the preliminaries, 7th place. Then he was able to maintain that all the way to the very end to pass the checkered flag at 7th place.
The generally great showing overall served only to illuminate the trouble at the start in an even more regretful light, but it should probably be seen as a silver lining that there were no major troubles after what happened during the formation lap.
The team currently has 16 points at 11th place, with a difference of 21 points from the top. Up to now they did not lose a race, but the inability to earn a great many points leaves them with a gradually sinking ranking. The next race at Fuji is a long distance one at 800m, which means more points than usual will be awarded. This would definitely be the place where the team would want to climb onto the victor’s podium to raise their ranking to the upper range all in one go.
■Comments from the People Involved
We had a good pace going, and it was a pretty good race overall, which made the results quite regretful. But we were able to recover from the error in the formation lap with quite a bit of luck. To be honest, I didn’t actually expect us to recover that well. I guess races with unexpected happenings really are entertaining to watch in their own way. As trouble befell several of our rivals, be it due to the temperature or whatever else, I think all in all we managed a rather solid race. But we really are feeling the growing pinch for points, so we have the next race at Fuji square in our sights.
Speaking from the result, it really was a huge pity. Just looking at the difference in times, we had managed a pace faster than anyone else and was overtaking cars again and again, so I really think we had a shot at victory. It was an amazing race, truly. The problem was in an entirely new genre so we are still in the middle of looking into it, but we definitely want to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. At first, we suspected it to be percolation, but there was no indication on the internal pressure, so maybe we happened upon some weird mode or something. But our car has definitely gotten faster, and some higher ranking teams dropped out this time, so I believe we still have a very solid chance. We will continue to fight on without giving up, so please continue supporting us.
I don’t whether to call it a stroke of fortune within misfortune or a stroke of misfortune within fortune, Kataoka brilliantly managed to recover from the hopeless start we had, and we had the driver exchange within the placing range that awarded points. We stuck with the no tire change strategy once again, and this time it proved itself, allowing us to end in 7th place. It’s really such a relief that we were able to earn points this race in spite of what happened. Of course, we might have earned more points if we didn’t have that situation at the start, but this too is a part of racing. I look forward to more enjoyable experiences at the next race!
I felt really good about the practice we did for this time, so I was actually really filled with expectation for how we’ll do when I started the race, but…… the engine suddenly stopped blowing during the formation lap. I didn’t have any other choice but to stop the engine and restart it, after which it worked just fine, but the rules restricted me from returning to the line and I had to restart from pit. The car proved to be in good condition and we ultimately avoided the worst case scenario and ended up in 7th place, but I really wonder what place we might have gotten if we had a proper start…… We’ll be challenging the next race at Fuji with a lighter weight, so I think it’s about high time we get a spot on that victor’s podium.