GOODSMILE RACING & TeamUKYO RACE REPORT 8
2020 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round8 takanokono hotel FUJI GT 300km RACE
Period: November 28-29, 2020
Location: Fuji Speedway (Shizuoka Prefecture)
Spectators: No announcement
Driver Points: 0P
2020 Series Overall Ranking: 8th (36P)
SUPER GT 2020, which opened in July, will finally reach the season finale. The final race of the turbulent 2020 series was held at Fuji Speedway, where winter has already arrived, from November 28th to 29th, which is later than the usual final race of the year.
There are a total of 7 teams that still have a chance of winning the series championship in the final round GT300 class. GOODSMILE RACING & TeamUKYO’s Nobuteru Taniguchi/Tatsuya Kataoka also got their place among them. However, since their points gained are the lowest among these seven teams, there are some strict conditions for them to be able to pull off coming from behind to be the champions. They would need to get 1P in the pole position qualifier and the maximum 20P and get the championship in the final race. Not only that, but they need to meet conditions of the highest level of difficulty, that is to say that none of their rivals gain a large amount of points. They consecutively got to the winner’s podium in rounds 6 and 7, and had hoped to be fortunate enough to win the Fuji Speedway for the fourth time this season.
Due to the regulations of SUPER GT, the weight handicap (WH) added according to the annual driving performance is ‘halved’ in the race immediately before the final race and becomes ‘zero’ in the final race. In this race, all cars will have their weight removed. Furthermore, for the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT3, the Balance of Performance (BoP) imposed by vehicle type, has been changed to +60 kg, a decrease of 5 kg, which is a slight improvement compared to Fuji’s past three races.
We welcome Saturday, with Taniguchi driving to start the official practice. The qualifying results for the race held at Fuji this year were 18th in the opening round, 10th in the 2nd round, and 8th in the 5th round. Beyond all of these, he will work on settings with the aim of acquiring pole position.
The weather is fine, but strong winds blow with the climate of early winter. As of 9 am at the start of the session, the temperature was as low as 14 degrees and the road surface temperature 16 degrees. Taniguchi energetically did one short run after another. Throughout the 90-minute mixed race session with the GT500 class, he gripped the steering wheel and was absorbed in working to improve the machine. After optimizing the settings, he kept on by taking charge of occupancy in the qualifying simulation for the 10-minute GT300 class. He recorded a best time of 1’36.960 and did a total of 40 laps. However, at the straight end, the highest speed he clocked in just before the first corner didn’t reach 270 km/h and so his level was the slowest in that class. With some rivals lowering their handicap weights and recording maximum figures of close to 280 km/h, the strict performance adjustments of the Mercedes-AMG GT3, which have restricted engine power, have truly become apparent. The session comes to an end harshly with him being ranked 18th overall.
Kataoka will take charge of the 15-minute run for becoming proficient with FCY (full course yellow), which is scheduled to be introduced next season. It’s been decided that he will continue to take charge as the driver in the qualifier Q1. The team adopted a strategy of betting on Kataoka for the 1:15 pm official qualifier.
Of the 30 GT300 class vehicles involved (one of which did not enter the qualifier) that were grouped in ranking order, car No. 4 (Goodsmile Hatsune Miku AMG) was put into Group A this time. Right after the course opens, he heads to the track. Kataoka proceeded to carefully warm up the tires in 1 minute and 40 seconds plus on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th laps, and rushed into a measured attack on the 5th lap. He drives Sector 2 and Sector 3 at a personal best. When he recorded 1’37.215 and took 9th place, he continued his attack. He set a personal best in the final technical Sector 3, and after passing the control line, with a shortened time of 1’37.111, he got the checkered flag. However, his result was unfortunately 12th in Group A and he did not reach 8th to advance in line in Q2. At this point, it was decided that 1P could not be obtained through pole position, so the chance of being the 2020 series champion disappeared.
Car No. 4 Goodsmile Hatsune Miku AMG ranked 24th overall, alongside results of Group B in Q1. The result ended up breaking the record for worst grid this season.
Sunday is here. Although the wind has subsided, the morning sky is full of clouds and there is a midwinter chill. At the morning pit viewing, all four of Racing Miku’s cheerleaders for 2020 appeared in front of the spectators for the first time this season. After that, the flight performance of Yoshihide Muroya, the world champion of air racing, really gets the packed audience excited. At 11:30 am, the last pre-final warm-up run of the season began.
The temperature is 7 degrees. Kataoka does laps of 1’38s plus and checks the machine balance for the race.
At 1:00 pm, while conditions were at a low temperature of 8 degrees and a road surface temperature of 13 degrees, a 2 circuit formation lap begins for the start of the 2020 race finals of 66 laps and 300 km. Kataoka starts from the 24th grid. He completed a sufficient tire warm-up by adding another lap whilst driving to the formation lap, bringing it to total of 3. Then, immediately after the start of the race, fierce overtaking begins. He passes 7 cars in just the opening lap. He jumps up to 17th place and crosses the control line. In the following lap too, he passes car No. 30 (TOYOTA GR SPORT PRIUS PHV apr GT) and car NO. 7 (Studie BMW M6) and is in 15th place. On the third lap, escaping the turmoil of the multi-crash of car No. 34 (Modulo KENWOOD NSX GT3) that occurred at the Dunlop corner, he dodges two more cars and moves up to 13th place. The pit is excited at Kataoka’s overtaking show, where he zooms past 11 cars in only 3 laps. Expectations grow that he will increase his position even further.
Kataoka carves out a personal best of 1’38.456 on lap 5, chases the car in front, No. 25 (HOPPY Porsche), and on lap 7, he comes out in front of the Porsche by breaking to enter Dunlop corner.
However, here the team got a shock. He took a quick, sharp turn at the left corner leading to the Dunlop corner, and when he tried to start back up again heading to the 13th whilst leaving space on the inner side, car No. 25, couldn’t come to a complete stop and crashed into him from the rear left. Car No. 4 (Goodsmile Hatsune Miku AMG), which as a result of that ended up in a spin, stopped in the center of the course facing backwards. The engine has also stalled. Due to this accident, he drops to 27th, which is essentially the lowest position at this time.
Although Kataoka has a hard time restarting the engine, it restarts. Pull yourself together and start overtaking again from bottom place. Immediately after regaining a pace of 1’39 plus, he gets to 25th place by the 10th lap, and by the 14th lap he was in 23rd place because of things like car No.2 (SYNTIUM Apple Lotus) taking an emergency pit stop, and overtaking car No. 34.
After that, he got his position back like every lap, through his direct confrontation on the course, and early pit strategies of rival camps, etc., and made a pit stop at 8th place on the 25th lap.
Taniguchi, who is taking charge of the second half stint, enters the course after refueling and changing tires. He closes the gap with car No. 30 that is ahead, by carving out a time of 1’38 plus over 3 laps. However, there is no way in the Mercedes-AMG GT3, which fights to keep straight, to capture the JAF-GT Prius, and he continues in a state of endurance to the final stages of the race. At this time, assuming that pit stops for all cars are finished with, he will essentially be in 14th place.
Then, after passing 40 laps, car No. 25, which had received a drive-through penalty due to a rear-end collision with car No. 4 in the early stages, approached, and a three-way battle went on for more than 10 laps. However, on lap 51, he let himself be overtaken because of a tire drop-down, and car No. 4 fell back to 15th place.
After that, the distance to car No. 25 could not be shortened, and the race ended with a checkered flag on lap 59, 2 laps behind the lead.
Under harsh conditions from the early stages of this season, he has accumulated points by repeating single finishes in tenacious races. At the last stages of the race, he seized the opportunity with the safety car and won the podium twice, but in the end, he was 8th in the drivers’ ranking and 7th in the team ranking. The goal set before the opening, of capturing the series championship, could not be achieved.
Due to the coronavirus, the 2020 season has progressed significantly differently than usual. The battle of GOODSMILE RACING & Team UKYO, which was followed by many fans and sponsors, ended in this way.
■Comments from the Team
I think the single could have gone well if there hadn’t been an accident in the early stages, but even so, the reality of being behind car No. 65 (5th place) symbolizes this year’s race, right. Indeed, the strict BoP meant we couldn’t get speed in the qualifier. That was a difficulty that has never come up before.
However, if I do a proper analysis of the disadvantageous conditions side by side, I think that there are still different answers for each situation even with the options we have. Through collaboration with HWA (AMG Racing Division in Germany), which has been engaged since this season, I realized that communication with Mr. Yokohama may not have been sufficient enough. Up until now, there were many parts that we could get straight using our experience as a base, but to make good use of the data and solve problems, takes all the members of the team learning from each other. Creating that kind of loop will make it work. If the team as a package, that includes the car, driver, engineer, everything, has a high level of analytical power and determination, we should be able to get the upper hand in a different way. Essentially, it’s about being active and involved for the long term, and I want to create a strong team to do that. That’s what I think.
(*In tears*)After having been racing for such a long time, this is a year where I feel “I guess there are times when things really don’t go so well.” I think that this year there was too much difference in performance, in terms of equipment. I think there was certainly the aspect that having either BS or GT-R made you strong, but whatever we the losing side say, just sounds like an excuse. We have to change to pull ourselves out of this, otherwise the situation won’t change. In my experience, changing the situation seems difficult, and looking back after the change you see it was actually easy. Nothing will change if I stay locked up in my room all the time and complain about trifles, but when I go out and exercise my mood changes, and things start to become clear to me. If something changes, it changes dramatically. That’s the difficult part of racing, the complicated but easy part. This year’s result is frustrating, but I feel that we have to reflect on it without just complaining, respect the winning opponent, and learn from this defeat.
With there being no weight for each car in the final, I think it was a race in which the power relationship that had been a little blurred during the season showed itself clearly once again. For the second half stint, I chose the same compound as the first half, but I couldn’t maintain my lap time and finally wasn’t able to keep up with the pace of the cars around me. It’s true that the Mercedes is tight, and the tires are tough. It was obvious to everyone that it was harsh for us who were using both. It was an extremely tough year with Q1 at a ‘passing, not passing’ level throughout the entire season. I hope at least that the adjustments will become a little more even.
When I competed with no weight, the difference in the initial performance came out clearly. I gave the qualifiers a shot feeling I had absolutely no right to win given the current materials and rules. The only strength of the current Mercedes is that it’s good in the finals, so I started with the idea of at least trying to make the race an interesting one. I came out from behind, and in that way overtook a great many cars, and up to that point things were good, but just as I was closing the gap I got hit. At the end, the tires tightened and it ended with a dissatisfying result. I think what happened this weekend was symbolic of this season. As a result, when everyone was weighting, I was lucky to have a safety car and get to the podium twice, and that at least was a relief, but even so, I still feel 2020 has left me ‘dissatisfied’.