- #3 S Road NDDP GT-R (GT300) takes second successive podium with 2nd place finish
- SUPER GT 2012 Round 5 - Race Report
SUZUKA, Mie Prefecture, Japan – Suzuka Circuit played host to Round 5 of the 2012 SUPER GT series, and the 41st running of the Pokka 1,000kms (173 laps of the 5.807km circuit) on Sunday, August 19. Starting from pole position, the #1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Masataka Yanagida/Ronnie Quintarelli) took its first victory of the season. Meanwhile, the other GT-R entries added excitement as they finished third, fourth and fifth in the summer's biggest endurance event. In addition, the GT300-class #3 S Road NDDP GT-R (Yuhi Sekiguchi/Katsumasa Chiyo/Daiki Sasaki) scored 2nd in class, visiting the podium for the second time in a row after winning the previous round.
The teams furthest from victory so far this season, the GT-R entries in the GT500 class had shown promise with strong results in the recent joint test held at Fuji Speedway in early August, giving all the GT-R squads a high level of motivation as they prepared for this, the season's longest race. In particular, it was the #1 GT-R, last year's championship-winning team, which produced a continuous volley of top times from the weekend's practice session onwards, and confidently obtained pole position in the knock-out style qualifying session. The team was thus able to begin this 1,000km endurance race, more than 3 times the normal distance of 300kms, in the most advantageous position possible. In the race as well, though the #1 GT-R began pulling away from the other teams as it built up a gap, the ranking of the lead pack changed with every machine that went off track or had burst tyres throughout the opening stages of the race. Although the #1 GT-R didn't encounter any mechanical issues, driver Masataka Yanagida came into contact with a GT300 machine on lap 41. Because of resulting damage to the car's tyres, an emergency visit to the pits for new rubber was necessitated. While the team was trying to recover the top position, the Safety Car was brought out because of a crash that occurred at the far side of the track. This resulted in the distance between cars being greatly reduced. Nonetheless, the team didn't give an inch to their pursuers and reached the checkered flag in the top position.
The other GT-R entries were also in good shape, with the #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama/Michael Krumm) coming in 4th in qualifying and the #12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/João Paulo de Oliveira) taking 5th. The drivers in both machines were in good positions from the start and if there was an opening they would try to steal the lead from the #1 GT-R. Furthermore, the #24 D'Station ADVAN KONDO GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda/Björn Wirdheim) had especially good tyre matching in this round, and, although they had started in 11th place, the pairing were in contention for a top spot at the finish after putting together consistently quick laps throguhout the six-hour event.
The result of this was that, at the middle stage of the race, in this order, the #1 GT-R, #23 GT-R, the #12 GT-R and the #24 GT-R held the top four spots - and it appeared as if the race would end this way. However, typical for an event of this duration, there was an unexpected conclusion. The various GT-Rs were approaching the final stages with strategies worthy of an endurance race, where drivers have to put in consistently quick times while controlling their tyre wear and conserving fuel. However, with just 40 minutes remaining, there was a major accident. When the Safety Car (SC) appeared to clear away the debris, the margin the GT-Rs had built up instantly vanished. As twilight fell the race was restarted, but the #35 Lexus SC430, which had pitted right before the SC came out, forced its way into the middle of the pack of GT-Rs. The Nissan machines, running at their very limit, could not get the straight first-through-fourth place results they had been hoping for, though all four were able to finish within the top five positions - and once again show the strength of the NISSAN GT-R.
Buoyed by its maiden win in the previous round at SUGO, the GT300-class #3 GT-R netted 2nd on the grid in qualifying. Start driver Yuhi Sekiguchi made the most of the position by putting in a string of quick laps right from the start. Teammate Katsumasa Chiyo then continued this good form with his consistently rapid lap times. In long-distance races, if one attempts to take on a car ahead but fails, or slides off track and breaks the machine, it is a total loss - and the strategy to advance is for nought. The pace of the #66 Aston Martin, running in the top spot, was not increasing, and the chance to overtake the leader was born. However, while Sekiguchi was at the wheel, a 10-second stop-and-go penalty was meted out for passing under yellow flags, eliminating any chance of besting his rival. The team thus had to be satisfied with a 2nd-place finish, and their second visit to the podium in as many races. The result also takes the squad to 2nd place in the championship standings.
Comment by Nissan Teams General Director Kunihiko Kakimoto
"I don't think we've ever had a 1,000km race with so many changes and shifts in position. Other than the #23 being taken by surprise and losing second place, the Nissan teams got good results, from scoring pole position to taking first, third, fourth and fifth places. I think it was a good turning point on our way to the championship. We are going to make a comeback and we appreciate the continued support."
Comment by Masataka Yanagida, driver of the #1 GT-R
"After making contact with one of the GT300 machines, which occurred purely due to my lapse in judgement, I thought it was all over. However, the resulting damage was only slight and to my relief, we were able to continue unabated. The points awarded in this race are greater than in any other round, so to win here has added value. Learning that we've advanced to 2nd in the title fight is hugely encouraging."
Comment by Hironobu Yasuda, driver of the #24 GT-R
"Originally, we were going to have 4 pit stops. But we had to add another one towards the end because we inadvertently ran out of gas. Even with this unexpected development, Björn (Wirdheim) was able to recover the loss, so I'm very happy with the results. This is the first time we as a pair have stood on the podium, and we're ready for more in the future. We had a great result during the Fuji joint test that took place in early August. We will be doing our very best to win in the next round at Fuji."
Comment by Katsumasa Chiyo, driver of the #3 GT-R
"I was expecting this 1000km event to be a tough race. Thanks to the GT-R, which is equipped with air-conditioning, I didn't have any issues with stamina. I had two tyres replaced during my stint, which, from the machine balance perspective, resulted in rather strong understeer. However, I was able to maintain my pace and do my job well. I won 1st place at SUGO, and now with this 2nd-place finish, I think I'm ready to fight for the championship. I will definitely be aiming to score victories throughout the remaining races."
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