GOODSMILE RACING & TeamUKYO RACE REPORT 4
2020 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round4 FUJIMAKI GROUP MOTEGI GT 300km RACE
Dates: September 12th-13th, 2020
Location: Twin Ring Motegi (Tochigi Prefecture)
Driver Points Ranking: 15th（7P）
The 4th round that marks the halfway point of the 2020 season, for which the start was delayed until July due to COVID-19, has already arrived. The venues for this season have been limited to the 3 circuits of Fuji Speedway, Suzuka Circuit, and Twin Ring Motegi to ensure that everybody involved with the races can travel by car. Following races at Fuji Speedway and Suzuka Circuit, the 4th round was held at the last remaining venue of Twin Ring Motegi on September 12-13.
Usually, the race at Twin Ring Motegi is the final round of the series and held in November, when the temperatures are low. Although this race is normally a decisive battle with no weight handicaps (WH), not only will it be held in September for the first time in 12 years this season, each car will be carrying a WH according to their performance. The distance of the race has also been extended from 250km to 300km, resulting in an unprecedented battle that nobody has reference data for.
GOODSMILE RACING & Team UKYO has continued to fight persistently, finishing in single-digit places for the opening and 3rd rounds despite tough starting positions as a result of failing to pass the Q1 qualifying session. Driver Kataoka is known as Moteoka for how good he is at Twin Ring Motegi, which stands out for its stop-start style, and the Mercedes-AMG GT3 is also well-suited for this circuit.
Due to its struggles to date, car No. 4 (Goodsmile Hatsune Miku AMG) would be equipped with a WH of 15kg, which is relatively light compared to its rivals. Compared to the previous round, the Balance of Performance (BoP) weight for the 2020 model of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 has been reduced by 15kg from +55kg to +40kg.
The team faced the official practice on 10 AM on Saturday under these conditions that suggested a comeback.
Driver Kataoka took to the course with slick tires due to the unstable weather conditions, with drizzle as the forecast called for. However, because the rainfall on the track increased as soon as he entered the course, there was an immediate change to wet tires. Under damp conditions with an air temperature of 27°C, a road surface temperature of 30°C, and 86% humidity, the team would evaluate the tires and work on the setup.
The practice resumed after a red flag due to a GT500 car going off the course. Having determined that the rainfall decreased, the team switched back to slick tires and sent Driver Kataoka back on the course, and he repeated lap times in the 1:50 range after about 45 minutes from the start of the session. He rose to 2nd position at one point and kept running laps inside the top 5.
Furthermore, he recorded the best time of 1:49.123 when the record line had dried up around 11 AM. He displayed precise driving, recording a time of 1:49.124 that was only 0.001 longer on the next set, before handing the wheel to Driver Taniguchi.
Driver Taniguchi headed onto the track for the exclusive run for the GT300 class in car No. 4. With continuous lap times of 1:50 flat, he checked the setup and the road surface conditions. He ultimately recorded a time of 1:49.807 and ran a total of 35 laps. Despite the difficult conditions, the team finished the official practice in 8th position, 0.614 seconds off from the leader.
For the Q1 qualifying session that started at 2:30 PM, the grouping system based on results was put in place again, and GSR would join Q1 group B for the first time this season. The dry road surface had barely hung on for group A, but by the time group B entered the course at 2:48 PM, the rainfall had increased again. Driver Kataoka, who took charge of car No. 4 for Q1 with slick tires, faced a difficult decision under these circumstances.
At this time, car No. 2 (SYNTIUM Apple Lotus), which was on its out lap, went off the course at the 130R ahead of the 5 corner tunnel, resulting in a red flag stoppage. Driver Kataoka switched to rain tires before the restart and hurried back on the course. He managed to warm up the tires during the shortened session with only 8 minutes remaining and recorded a time of 1:56.030 that put the team in 3rd position at the time.
Although car No. 4 (Goodsmile Hatsune Miku AMG) eased off after this, the remaining cars improved their times in the last 2 minutes of the session. Car No. 4 fell from the cut-off line of 8th position to 9th position as it passed the checkered flags marking the end of the session, meaning that the team failed to pass the Q1 qualifying session for the 3rd time this season. Based on the overall results with Q1 group A, the team would begin the final race on the following day from the 18th position of the grid.
Although there was rainfall overnight, the weather was fine from Sunday morning. By the time that the warm-up run before the final race began at 11:40 AM, the track that had been wet had turned to dry conditions. Driver Kataoka was busy checking the final setup ahead of the race and ran 10 laps during the 20-minute warm-up session. Having found the optimal balance for the current conditions during this session, team GSR and Driver Kataoka got a good feeling from the 3rd best time of 1:50.358 before heading into the final race of 63 laps and 300km starting at 1 PM.
Although clouds appeared during the afternoon, there was no rain. The final race started under dry conditions with an air temperature of 27°C and a road surface temperature of 34°C.
During the opening lap, Driver Kataoka, who took charge of the first-half stint, dodged a car that went off the course and car No. 18 (UPGARAGE NSX GT3) that was right ahead. During the 2nd lap that followed, he dodged car No. 60 (SYNTIUM LMcorsa RC F GT3) at the start of the final corner after staying neck and neck throughout the entire course and rose to 15th position.
During the 8th lap, he also overtook car No. 35 (arto RC F GT3) and aimed for the higher position. Right at that moment, car No. 87 (T-DASH Lamborghini G3) lost control after making contact with a GT500 car at the front, resulting in a major crash on the course involving GT500 cars. A safety car (SC) was introduced.
After the cars were recovered and the debris was removed, the SC was taken off during the 13th lap to allow the race to resume. He continuously overtook car No. 34 (Modulo KENWOOD NSX GT3) during the 16th lap and car No. 244 (Takanoko-no-yu RC F GT3) during the 18th lap. Driver Kataoka put on a raging show of takeovers.
Car No. 4, which was now in view of the top 10, demonstrated a strong race pace that reduced the gap to car No. 65 (LEON PYRAMID AMG) that was up ahead by 0.5 seconds each lap and closed to within 1 second of the same 2020 model Mercedes. It aimed for an undercut during the 21st lap and took an early pit stop. Driver Kataoka had improved 7 positions from the start.
Driver Taniguchi returned to the course in 24th position and passed car No. 244 again during the 27th lap, as the top cars changed positions as they went through their routines. However, selecting tires with different compounds from the first-half stint based on the feeling of the race would backfire.
“Given the weather conditions, we put on tires that we didn’t have enough data on, and the rear tires began to slip as soon as I came out. It made me want to cry out, ‘This is absolutely impossible.’” Under these circumstances, Driver Taniguchi used his special slide control to somehow hang in there. He passed car No. 31 (TOYOTA GR SPORT PRIUS PHV apr GT) during the 37th lap and car No. 52 (Saitama Toyopet GB GR Supra GT) during the ensuing 38th lap. Both are JAF-GT cars that are performing well this season and are equipped with Bridgestone tires. He demonstrated prideful driving to come back to 11th position.
Then, parts fell onto the record line from the GT500 class battle, resulting in the 2nd SC introduction of the day. The conditions allowed the team to close the gap to the top 10 instantly.
The tire settings, which high hopes had been placed on from the previous day, remained unchanged from the early part of the stint and produced “oversteer (according to Driver Taniguchi).” Once the race resumed during the 47th lap, car No. 56 (REALIZE Nissan Motor Academy GT-R), which was right behind, pulled ahead for a moment, but he caught up with steady laps in the 1:52 range.
Then, during the 56th lap, car No. 360 (RUNUP RIVAUX GT-R), which was the pole sitter that was in 2nd position, and car No. 9 (PACIFIC NAC D’station Vantage G3) somehow ran out of gas on the last corner of the final lap and stopped. As a result, car No. 4 (Goodsmile Hatsune Miku AMG) passed the checkered flags in 10th position after a dramatic finish.
Furthermore, car No. 56, which finished in 6th position, was handed a penalty of 30 seconds added to its race time for a pit stop work violation, resulting in an official finish in 9th position for car No. 4. Similarly to the last round, the team was able to recover from a tough starting position to finish the race in a single-digit position and took home 2 valuable points.
■Comments from the Team
I thought we had a chance given the circumstances of this race… Even if the weekend had been dry, the air temperatures suited the range of the tires we brought in, and the tire settings for race 1 (first-half stint) were fixed and had an extremely good feeling. However, we need tires that don’t need to be changed after all… We caught up to car No. 65, so we entered the pit early, but why did we have a gap of 9 positions from 1st? (cries) The tires for the second half did not work very well. This was unexpected, because we had the highest hope for the tires. The second half of the season will have different air temperatures, and I want to believe that we will have a successful race soon if we really turn things around.
We just couldn’t make the right choices, as we dug our own grave during the qualifying session and the final race. Even from the official practice, the road surface was uncertain, resulting in our confusion and putting us into a negative spiral. The other struggled during the Q1 qualifying session due to a lack of passion, but I think we would have had no issue qualifying if we had stuck with dry tires. These are the choices we didn’t get right. We chose standard settings as usual during the warm-up, and this was very good. However, the tires we chose for the second half were not good. As a result, we wish we would have chosen the same tires as the first half. Our learning point this time is not to gamble like that.
Our tire selection was questionable this time, and the weather also played a part in this. We selected the tires for the second-half stint based on the feeling during the official practice, but they were producing oversteer right from the start, resulting in a tough situation. Even our rivals seemed to be removing the tires they brought in this time, so we should have had a chance. There is nothing we can do if we gave 100% and could not compete, but it is a shame to have to wonder after the race about things we could have done better. Either due to a blessing in disguise or the other way around, we ended up with few points again. Everybody else is steadily gaining points, so I want to finally get a good result next time, although I say this every time. I’m sure all of you are disappointed, but I am even more disappointed.
The rain threw a wrench in our plans during the qualifying session, and we fell to the lower positions. Based on the characteristics of Twin Ring Motegi, starting at 18th position is very tough. The fact that we had to use wet tires during the qualifying session is another weakness of ours at the moment. In terms of the race, our pace was better than expected, and we succeeded in improving our position at Twin Ring Motegi, where it is hard to pass others. However, we replaced the tires from my stint with different tires that felt good during the practice run the day before, and this ended up backfiring… The car that was right in front of us before our pit stop ended up winning the race, so this changed everything. There is no chance, since they got the same time without any changes. It is tough to absolutely lack ability after all.