SEPANG, Malaysia – On Sunday, the Malaysian round and third race of the 2013 SUPER GT series took place at Sepang International Circuit, situated on the outskirts of the country's capital, Kuala Lumpur. Starting from pole position, the #12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/Joao Paolo de Oliveira) dominated the race, earning the first victory of the season for the Nissan GT-R.
Considering the proximity of the circuit to the Equator, temperatures were relatively low this year, meaning less stress on both machine and driver. However, the ambient temperature at the 4 p.m. rolling start was still a sultry 33 degrees Celsius. Every car made it through the first corner scrum cleanly, with starting driver in the #12 GT-R Tsugio Matsuda maintaining strategy and keeping his position at the front.
Pushing too hard in the first half of the race would surely mean losing any advantage as tire wear is always a factor in these conditions. Despite this, the #38 SC430 challenged Matsuda right from the start, only to go off after making contact with another car on lap 6. By the tenth lap, the #18 Weider HSV-010 was looming large in Matsuda's mirrors, and another challenger to be kept at bay by Matsuda until lap 18 when the rival slipped past. However, after pitting to switch over to teammate Oliveira on lap 25, the #18 HSV spent far longer than planned on its stop, instantly handing the lead back to the #12 GT-R. Without a threat from any other rivals, Oliveira was able to control the race all the way to the checkered flag after 54 laps.
Having qualified in sixth position, the #1 REITO MOLA GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama/Yuhi Sekiguchi) had Sekiguchi at the wheel for the opening stint. The youngster's strong start saw him move up to 4th place on the opening lap. His aggressive pursuit of those ahead then took him past the #37 SC430 on lap 5 for third position. However, contact from another vehicle on the following lap meant he dropped back. After falling to seventh, he began another charge, pitting from that position on lap 23 to hand over to his teammate. Later in the race, debris lay strewn across the track from a car that had spun off due to a burst tire, but Motoyama remained in command, setting consistent lap times throughout his stint, never falling prey to the slings and arrows that befell others in the closing stages. He chased the #36 SC430 all the way into the closing stages, getting past on lap 51, reaching the checkered flag in sixth place.
Meanwhile, the #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Masataka Yanagida/Ronnie Quintarelli), having qualified ninth, saw Quintarelli take charge for the opening stint. Running at a consistent pace, he gradually made up positions. On lap 9 he advanced to sixth place, before pitting for the driver switch on lap 24, at which point he was approximately 12 seconds behind the #37 SC430. Deft work by the NISMO pit crew meant his teammate Yanagida was back out quickly enough to mitigate the previous difference to their rivals.
However, a drive-through penalty imposed due to earlier contact with the #1 GT-R caused an immediate and significant loss of time. Yanagida drove flawlessly throughout his stint, though making up the loss proved difficult and he finished in ninth place. Starting 14th, the #24 D'station ADVAN GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda/ Michael Krumm) finished 13th. In GT300, the #3 S-Road NDDP GT-R (Kazuki Hoshino/Daiki Sasaki) started from the 17th slot on the grid, crossing the line in tenth place, top among the NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT3 entries, the team's effort paying off with a points-finish.
TEAM IMPUL Director Kazuyoshi Hoshino's comment:
"Anyway, this was a race that showed the true power of the team. Although our handicap weight must increase and make tire selection difficult etc. this is a change that must be made, and the main thing is that we will try to always continue competing with all our might. I think it will be the best if we can win the ultimate prize."
#12 CALSONIC IMPUL driver Tsugio Matsuda's comment:
"I had thought that because I was able to take pole after much effort I would take the start, and it went well. I was able to maintain a quick pace whilst thinking about the life of the tires and as soon as they started oversteering under braking, I pitted, barely earlier than expected. After the #18 got past, I tried to avoid letting him build up too much of a gap, though the speedy pitwork from the team allowed us to quickly get back on top, though there were still many challenges. Despite it being hard earned, I'm very happy with this win today. I want to fight for the title properly with this car."
#12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R driver Joao Paolo de Oliveira's comment:
"I too thought it was important to take pole here. Whatever happens behind doesn't matter as long as you are ahead. Tsugio drove wonderfully today, and the pit work was also excellent. Moreover, it was fortunate I was able to run several clear laps when I returned the car to the race. Looking at the gap back to the #39 SC430, I pushed and was able to maintain the gap all the way to the flag."
# # #