TOCHIGI PREFECTURE, Japan – The final round of this year's SUPER GT series, the "Motegi GT 250km" took place on Sunday, October 28th at Twin Ring Motegi. After qualifying 7th, the #1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Masataka Yanagida / Ronnie Qintarelli) made an excellent start and advanced throughout the race to finish 2nd, a mere hair's breadth away from the victors.
Rain fell from the morning of race day, and when the event got underway at 2pm, it was in wet conditions that the machines followed the Safety Car (SC) for two laps before being let loose on the 4.8-kilometre circuit. Crowned champions for the second season in succession in the previous round at Autopolis, the #1 MOLA GT-R had Quintarelli at the wheel for the opening stint. Immediately after the departure of the SC, two tours into the 53-lap thriller, the Italian vaulted into fifth place, and by lap nine had risen further to 2nd. With the rain occasionally falling quite heavily, being able to see the cars ahead was at times impossible; and when it let off, the fog presented another hinderance to visibility.
The #38 LEXUS SC430 led from the start, but despite its efforts to pull away, the #1 GT-R stuck to its tail, with Yanagida mounting an assault after the driver switch that saw the gap shrink lap after lap during the race's second half. In the end, the difference to the winners was less than a second, and there was much talk of a reversal of fortune for the 2nd-place finishers. Although the #38 SC430, itself fighting for a championship position, was able to stay ahead despite a violent attempt from Yanagida on the final lap, the gap was a scant 0.138 seconds as the cars reached the checkered flag in unison.
Driver Masataka Yanagida later commented, "Although I pursued the #38 machine relentlessly, Tachikawa never left a gap or made any mistakes. I was therefore unable to find a way past, much to my regret."
Meanwhile, Quintarelli relayed, "Despite a difficult start to the season, from the middle of the campaign things really turned around and we were able to achieve the results we had been aiming at. To be crowned champions two years running makes us all extremely happy. I'd like to thank all the fans who cheered us on throughout the rain today. We'll be doing our level best in the upcoming JAF Cup, and appreciate your continued support."
The #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama/Michael Krumm) started from third on the grid, with Krumm onboard for the race's first half. The German driver snatched 2nd place right after the start, cementing his position in the event's early stages, only for his early progress to come undone as the car fell down the order later on. Pitting early in an attempt to turn the tide, he handed over to teammate Motoyama, who, through a gritty drive, maintained position and brought the car home in sixth place.
The #12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/Joao Paolo de Oliveira) was in attack mode throughout the weekend, recording good times in every session. After lining up eighth on the grid, Matsuda took the wheel for the start. Slight over-exuberance while running sixth saw the car go off track, losing a lot of time. Matsuda recovered to 10th place before handing the car over to de Oliveira. In his stint, the Brazilian had few opportunities in which to challenge, crossing the finish line where he had started, in 10th place.
Commencing their race from 15th position, the #24 D'station ADVAN GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda/Bjorn Wirdheim), with Wirdheim at the controls, ran a patient stint from the tail-end of the field. After Yasuda climbed aboard for the latter half, he protected his pace whilst avoiding coming into contact with a spinning front-running machine and other cars that went off track, to finish the race in eleventh position.
Contesting the GT300 class, the #3 S Road NDDP GT-R (Yuhi Sekiguchi/Katsumasa Chiyo) saw Sekiguchi take the start, with the aim of improving on the car's 6th-place qualifying spot. Although its chance of rising to the front was only slight, an intense battle with the #66 Aston Martin developed as it tried to move through the order, the results of which provided exciting on-track action. Even with no new tires going on the car in the driver switch, plus Chiyo's attempts to make up ground in the race's second half, improved pace was not forthcoming and the car finished in 6th place.
Comment by Nissan Teams General Director Kunihiko Kakimoto
"Were the tires that didn't perform well in the dry qualifying session at an advantage in the rain? The impression I get is that the difference in their performance was considerable. Although the winning #38 car was running on Bridgestone rubber, I think that the performance of the #23 machine was no less impressive as it claimed a sixth-place result. On the other hand, the #1 car had an excellent result considering its starting position of seventh and how it harried the leaders all the way to the flag. I am extremely proud of the fact that we have taken two successive championship titles, and we plan to thoroughly analyze the data accumulated during our run of three consecutive race victories on the way to the title this year. We will be concentrating on development so that the GT-R can play an equally active role next year also."
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