OKAYAMA, Japan – The #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R placed third at the opening round of the 2013 Super GT season in Okayama, with Honda's Raybrig HSV-010 and Keihin HSV-010 taking the top spots on the podium.
On race morning, heavy rain gave way to cloudy skies that occasionally let the sun through. The track surface was dry, but low temperatures and windy conditions made for challenging conditions on and off track.
Despite the weather, 16,000 fans attended, as pole-sitter Ronnie Quintarelli increased his lead in the #23 GT-R, quickly building up a comfortable margin over his pursuers.
The driver switch took place at the halfway point of the race, with Masataka Yanagida's swift change ensuring the MOTUL AUTECH team maintained its position.
But the pace of the Honda HSV entries occupying 2nd to 4th increased during the race's second half, closing in on Yanagida in the GT-R. If any car in the trio were to drop out, the time difference to Yanagida would instantly be instantly shortened.
Yanagida's s pace fell away after picking up tire 'marbles' (discarded pieces of rubber that litter the track) towards the end, allowing a pair of rivals to get past on lap 77, just four laps from the flag, relegating MOTUL AUTECH to a creditable third place.
"Due to the fall in temperature, we picked up a lot of marbles and this led to a vibration that itself was the cause of locking brakes," Yanagida said after the race.
"With that, we lost pace and were unable to realize our proper potential. I must apologize, as Ronnie handed me the car in top spot. I am sorry. I would like to improve so we can demonstrate performance in the cold also."
Teammate Quintarelli said third was a reasonable result for the first round.
"Since conditions were good and the tire grip was also good, I was able to drive my stint at a solid pace," he said. "Having started in pole position, naturally I wanted to take the victory. As I haven't been on the podium in the opening round before now, I feel that this is a reasonable start to the season."
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