MURATA, Miyagi prefecture, Japan – The fourth round of SUPER GT took place on Sunday at Sportsland SUGO (81 laps, covering 300km), located in Murata town in Miyagi prefecture. After qualifying sixth, the #1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Masataka Yanagida/Ronnie Quintarelli) advanced to third in the race. Meanwhile, the GT300-class #3 S Road NDDP GT-R (Yuhi Sekiguchi/Katsumasa Chiyo) took its first-ever win in the series.
With the end of the rainy season in the Tohoku region, a fierce heatwave engulfed Sportsland SUGO on Saturday. However, on raceday morning there were scattered showers, and the air temperature at the race start time stood at 32 degrees, with a comparatively low track surface temperature measured at 42 Celsius. The track surface had dried out by the time the race was set to get underway, and all cars on the grid wore slicks for the start of the 81-lap event. The NISSAN camp were in a favorable position with the #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama/Michael Krumm) having taken second place in the previous day's qualifying session, while the #12 Calsonic IMPUL GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/Joao Paolo de Oliveira) sat third.
After the formation lap, all cars approached the first corner at racing speed. It was here that Oliveira in the #12 GT-R made a bold dash from the inside and threatened to overtake the pole-sitting #6 SC430. However, he lost his poise and made contact with the rival #6 machine, going into a half-spin and hitting the #23 GT-R, which itself was attempting to overtake the #6 on the outside. The contact resulted in the pair of NISSAN entries spearing off the track and into the run-off area. Suffering considerable mechanical damage, both machines were immediately forced to withdraw. NISMO Director Yutaka Suzuki commented, "All of the updates put into the #23 car since the last round at Sepang have been successful, so this unfortunate accident is all the more disappointing considering the excellent performance shown in yesterday's qualifying and this morning's warm-up sessions. We plan on making a full recovery in the 1,000km race at Suzuka next time out."
The #1 S Road REITO GT-R started in sixth place for its qualifying performance, and starting driver Quintarelli advanced to fourth place after making it cleanly through the accident on the opening lap. He overtook two more opponents on the uphill section out of the final corner on lap 21, deftly moving into second place. Quintarelli continued to circulate while waiting for a chance to challenge the #6 machine for the top position, but that opportunity didn't come before he pitted on lap 39 to hand the car over to teammate Yanagida. Yanagida, running in the latter half of the race, came back out on track in third position. Although he gained on the competitors ahead of him, he was unable to overtake and consequently finished on the third step of the podium.
Having qualified 13th, the #24 D'station ADVAN GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda/Bjorn Wirdheim) rose to ninth at one point during the race before eventually finishing in 10th position.
The #3 GT-R, contesting the GT300 class, began the race from sixth on the grid. First stint driver Chiyo demonstrated speed right out of the starting gate. He moved up to fourth place on the 27th lap, and then into second on lap 36. As a result of his pit timing, he briefly took over the lead on lap 37, after which he handed the reins to Sekiguchi. Sekiguchi returned to the race in the top spot, was overtaken during his out lap, and then started his comeback once his tyres had warmed back up. After he reclaimed the lead from the #31 Prius on lap 58, Sekiguchi didn't let up for an instant, and finished victorious, leaving the second-place finisher a massive 30 seconds behind. Chiyo commented, "I had to drive the first half of the race, and that meant managing my tyres - so I really worked hard in that respect. I was very happy that I was able to overtake the rivals. "Teammate Sekiguchi added, "I can still do a better job. After Suzuka, even though the car will be heavier, I think I can put in a good performance."
#1 driver Ronnie Quintarelli's comments:
"It took some time for the tyres to warm up in the beginning, but from about the 10th lap I was able to drive at a good pace. Here at SUGO there are not many places to pass, and I damaged the tyres a little in my pursuit of the #6, but fortunately I got past 2 cars on the uphill section. Although we finished 3rd, the result seems just like a victory to me. I gained confidence in my team, too, so I'm looking forward to competing in the upcoming races at Suzuka and Fuji."
NDDP Racing Director Masahiro Hasemi's comments:
"Today was perfect, wasn't it? For myself, I was looking for a victory here, but I never pressured the drivers to win. However, I did tell them to always think of the top position while racing. Maybe this was good motivation for them. As a result of this victory, there will be weight added, but I hope we can continue to put forth our best efforts in the coming races."
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