Autobacs Super GT Round 2 2013 Fuji
20 May, 2013
The FUJI GT 500km RACE, Round 2 of the 2013 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, took place on the afternoon of April 29th at Fuji Speedway in Shizuoka Pref. The GT500 class winner was the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM’S SC430 driven by Kazuki Nakajima and James Rossiter. In the GT300 class, the No. 31 Panasonic apr PRIUS GT driven by Morio Nitta and Koki Saga took the win.
Although a few clouds had appeared in the sky, it was still fine weather when the 110-lap FUJI GT 500km RACE started at 2:00 in the afternoon with an air temperature of 18 °C. and a track surface temperature of 29 °C.
The pole-sitting No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 (Kazuki Nakajima) got the hole shot, it was the No. 1 REITO MOLA GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama) that managed to make a jump in position to 4th behind the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 (Hiroaki Ishiura) and the No.23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli). Though it had passed the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 (Kazuya Oshima) and the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 (Yuji Tachikawa), the No. 1 REITO MOLA GT-R was re-passed by No. 6 and No. 38 in the latter half of the first lap. Then, on the last turn of the opening lap there was a collision between the No. 18 Weider Modulo HSV-010 (Naoki Yamamoto) and the No. 17 KEIHIN HSV-010 (Hiroki Tsukakoshi). This accident caused the No. 18 spun out and No. 17 to suffer series damage to its front end. So, by the end of the first lap the GT500 race was already a heated battle.
By the end of the first lap, the order of the top six was No. 36 in the lead followed by cars No. 39, 23, 6, 38 and the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Joao Paulo de Oliveira). At one point the No. 1 REITO MOLA GT-R had dropped to 8th, but passing the No. 100 RAYBRIG HSV-010 (Takuya Izawa) to rise to 7th position on the second lap.
Running in the lead, the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 gradually began to open up a lead on the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430, but coming out of the last turn of the 9th lap Kazuki Nakajima got caught behind back markers, allowing Ishiura to catch up and pull even with him on the straight to nose into the lead.
But, on the first turn of lap 11 it was Ishiura who got caught behind a back marker and ran off the track. This gave the lead back to the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 and allowed it to build a lead again.
Behind No. 36 the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 and No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 were staging a battle for 2nd and not far behind them the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R and No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 were in a close contest for 4th place. But, come out of the first turn on lap 19, Quintarelli suddenly lost power and brought his machine to a stop on the green. This left four Lexus machines in the lead. In 5th position the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R was trying to keep pace, but the No. 37 KeePer TOM'S SC430 (Daisuke Ito), having all the way up from the back of the pack was closing in, and it was clear that the Lexus machines had an advantage on the Fuji course, as they had shown in the qualifying.
After holding on to 2nd position for a long time, the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 was caught and passed on the inside by Oshima on the last turn of lap 23 and dropped to 3rd position. On lap 25, it was the first of the GT500 class machines to make its routine pit stop, changing drivers to Juichi Wakisaka for stint two.
After lap 30, the No. 24 D'station ADVAN GT-R, No. 8 ARTA HSV-010 and No. 32 Epson HSV-010 were among the first to return to the pit, but among the leaders the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 running 2nd position was the first to make its pit stop on lap 37, be followed on lap 38 by No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430, the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R and then the No. 100 RAYBRIG HSV-010. On lap 39 the leading No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 made its pit stop, changing drivers from Kazuki Nakajima to James Rossiter.
When the No.19 WedsSport ADVAN SC430 (Seiji Ara) finally made its pit stop after extending the first stint longest, the leader when all the machines had completed their first routine pit stop was Wakisaka in the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430, which had made its stop early. Wakisaka led the lead group of five Lexus cars, with cars No. 36, No. 6, No. 38 and No. 37 in trail. However, because of its early first pit stop, No. 39 was also the first to make its second pit stop on lap 67, at which point the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 resumed its position in the lead.
Finally a tense battle between Kazuki Nakajima in No. 36 and Yuji Tachikawa No. 38!
At this point in the race the top four machines were car No. 36, No. 38, No. 6 and No. 37 in that order, before No. 37 made its second pit stop on lap 73. Next car No. 6 made its pit stop on lap 75, and on lap 76, the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R, running in third position at that point, also made its second stop. And, by returning to the race in front of the No. 37 KeePer TOM'S SC430 that had made its stop earlier, No. 12 was able to break into the Lexus machines’ hold on the top five places.
Meanwhile, the leading No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 and 2nd place No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 both made their second pit stop on lap 78. Everyone watched to see which team would complete their pit work faster, but perhaps because of longer refueling time, car No. 38 was unable to beat No. 36 back to the track. What’s more, the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 (Tachikawa) returned to the track to find itself also behind the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 (Oshima) that had finished its pit stop earlier.
With 30 laps left in the race and the sun now falling lower in the western sky, the track temperature that at one point had risen to 33 degrees C. was now down to 29 C. With the conditions changed in this way, Tachikawa in the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 had been able to pass the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 on the last turn of lap 84 and was slowly closing the gap with the leading No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 (Kazuki Nakajima). The gap that had been nearly five seconds at the 90th lap was down to less than one second on the 105th lap, as the “Fuji Meister” Tachikawa closed in at a fast pace in the 1’33 range. It looked as if Tachikawa might add another win to his record of mot wins at Fuji Speedway, but it turned out the at the very end Kazuki Nakajima was able to keep Tachikawa at bay.
By the time the 110 laps of the 500km race were over, it had turned out to be a pole-to-checkered win for the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430. For both its drivers, Kazuki Nakajima and James Rossiter, this was their first career win in the GT500 class.
Finishing 2nd was the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 and in third came the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430. Also, by finishing 4th the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 completed a top four sweep by Lexus machines. By continuing to hold off the attack of the No. 37 KeePer TOM'S SC430, the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R managed to finish 5th and prevent a sweep of the top five by the Lexus camp.
Fantastic pace puts MUGEN CR-Z GT in a runaway lead
The first upset of the GT300 class race happened during the formation lap. The 3rd-position qualifying No. 55 ARTA CR-Z GT (Shinichi Takagi) took a spin-out.
The pole-starting No. 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT (Kota Sasaki) got a relatively good start, but the hybrid car No. 16 MUGEN CR-Z GT (Hideki Mutoh) got an even better start and passed the BRZ on the first turn to take the lead. From this point it looked as though the race would be a battle between these two JAF GT machines, but entering the second lap the BZR began to slow down and headed straight for the pit. With trouble in its drive train the BZR was forced to retire from the race at that point.
This left car No. 16 in the lead, chased by the FIA GT3 cars No. 3 S Road NDDP GT-R (Kazuki Hoshino), the No.33 HANKOOK PORSCHE (Masami Kageyama) and the No. 86 CrystalCroco LAMBORGHINI GT3 (Koji Yamanishi). But, running at a pace one second per lap faster than its pursuers, No. 16 opened up a margin of lead. While No. 16 ran comfortably in the front, the Lamboghini, Porsche and GT-R behind it were locked in a fierce battle for 2nd. However, both car No. 3 and No. 33 soon ran into tire trouble that dropped them far back in the pack.
When the No. 16 MUGEN CR-Z GT had finished its first routine pit stop on lap 35, it had a nearly 30-second lead over the No. 31 Panasonic apr PRIUS GT (Morio Nitta) in 2nd position. Having started from 5th position on the grid and lost ground in the early running, including a spin that dropped it to 18th position at one point, No. 31 had recovered brilliantly to reach 2nd position in the space of 30 laps. Still, in the race to be the first hybrid car to win a SUPER GT race, it was far behind its Honda CR-Z rival.
In the second driver stint over the middle stages of the race, both No. 16 (Yuhki Nakayama) and No. 31 (Koki Saga) were running lap times in the 1’40 to 1’42 range. The car No. 16 was slightly faster and had extended its lead to about 40 seconds by the time of its second routine pit stop. In the pit work, the No. 31 team was slightly faster, but not enough to close the gap by much. With ten laps remaining in the race there was still a 38 to 40 second gap between the leading MUGEN CR-Z GT (Hideki Mutoh) and the Panasonic apr PRIUS GT (Morio Nitta) and everyone thought the CR-Z was on its way to victory.
Miracle or disaster? Luck separates the two hybrids
It was not the finish that anyone expected, however, as the tire trouble that had plagued other machines this day struck the No. 16 MUGEN CR-Z GT as well. On lap 91, Mutoh radioed his pit crew that there was vibration coming from his front tires. Considering what had happened thus far, the team decided not to take any chances and ordered Mutoh back to the pit to change the two front tires. Unfortunately, its 40-second lead wasn’t enough to prevent car No. 31 from taking the lead by the time No. 16 was back on the track.
Holding onto the lead for the remaining eight laps of the race, the No. 31 Panasonic apr PRIUS GT not only won the race but also the honor of being the first hybrid car ever to win a SUPER GT race. After changing tires, the No. 16 MUGEN CR-Z GT had more than a minute of lead over 3rd place and was able to run on to a 2nd-place finish.
The battle for 3rd place also had a survival aspect. After moving up into 3rd position with its early pit stop strategy, the No. 4 GSR HATSUNEMIKU BMW (Nobuteru Taniguchi > Tatsuya Kataoka > Taniguchi) was also hit with tire trouble and fell back out of contention. Meanwhile, the No. 88 ManePo LAMBORGHINI GT3 (Takayuki Aoki > Manabu Orido > Aoki) had gained time in the pit by skipping its tire change only to be struck by front tire trouble with 13 laps left in the race. Its position was taken over by the No. 86 CrystalCroco LAMBORGHINIGT3 (Yamanishi > Shinya Hosokawa > Yamanishi) running on an orthodox strategy. This allowed Yamanishi in car No. 86 to run on to claim the 3rd spot on the podium unthreatened by the 4th place No. 52 OKINAWA-IMP SLS (Takeshi Tsuchiya > Hironori Takeuchi > Tsuchiya) 18 seconds behind.