Autobacs Super GT ‘Round 7 2012′ Autopolis
09 Oct, 2012
The SUPER GT IN KYUSHU 300km race, Round 7 of the 2012 AUTOBACS SUPER GT, took place on Sept. 30 at the AUTOPOLIS Circuit in Oita Pref. The GT500 race was won by the No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Masataka Yanagida/Ronnie Quintarelli), while the No. 66 triple a vantage GT3 (Hiroki Yoshimoto/Kazuki Hoshino) won the GT300 class race.
Though the morning free practice had to be cancelled, the fog had finally cleared by about noon so the race of round seven could start on time with the 8-minute warm-up run beginning at 12:55 in the afternoon. Here some teams had skinned their slick race tires, but on the starting grip all the cars were fitted with grooved rain tires. What's more, most of the teams had chosen intermediate rain tires for the start.
In the end, the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 (Loic Duval) would be the only one to change to slick tires.
The race started at 2:00 with the Safety Car in the lead. The Safety Car left the course after two laps and the real race got underway from lap three, and in the third sector of that lap the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama) succeeded in passing the pole-starting No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN SC430 (Andre Couto) to take the lead. Meanwhile the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 that had started the race on slick tires was unable to get a good pace and fell back so far that it was swallowed up by the leading cars of the GT300 race.
By the fifth lap the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R had built up a lead of about four seconds and by the tenth lap it had stretched that lead to 7.8 seconds. But, on the eleventh lap the No. 52 GREEN TEC & LEON SLS (Hironori Takeuchi) suffered throttle trouble that caused it to run off the track and crash into the barrier. That brought out the Safety Car on the 12th lap to slow the race until lap 16, which changed the whole picture by causing the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R to lose all at once the big lead it had built up.
After the race restarted on the 17th lap, the No. 24 D'station ADVAN GT-R caught and passed the No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN SC430 on the second hairpin to move into 2nd position. Also, the No. 100 RAYBRIG HSV-010 (Takuya Izawa) was able to move up to 5th position and the No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli) to 7th.
What's more, the No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN SC430 and No. 24 D'station ADVAN GT-R (Bjorn Wirdheim) running on Yokohama rain tires rather than intermediates were able to easily get past the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 (Koheo Hirate) in 4th position and begin to close in on the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R and pass it coming out of the first turn of lap 27. Now in 3rd position, the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R returned to the pit on lap 28 and changed drivers to Michael Krumm.
Behind these machines vying for the lead, there was another race going on farther back in the pack. After dropping the 14th position after taking its 15-second stop penalty on lap seven for the engine replacement it had to make as the result of a crash during yesterday's qualifying, the No. 32 EPSON HSV-010 (Ryo Michigami) was charging up through the pack. In the only car in the field on Dunlop tires, Michigami was running at a blistering pace that took him past the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 on lap 30 to move into 3rd place. From there he closed in on the two leaders, the No. 24 D'station ADVAN GT-R and No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN SC430 that were locked in an intense battle that saw the lead change hands time and again.
The No. 24 D'station ADVAN GT-R returned to the pit on the 40th lap and changed drivers from Wirdheim to Hironobu Yasuda, and here the KONDO racing team decided to skip the tire change and finish the race on the same set. In contrast, the No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN SC430 made its pit stop on lap 41 and changed all four tires, as Seiji Ara replaced Couto in the driver's seat. The No. 32 EPSON HSV-010 pitting in on lap 42 also decided not to change its tires as Yuhki Nakayama took the wheel from Michigami and returned to the race without relinquishing the lead. But, beneath the bridge on the third sector of lap 44, Nakayama hit a GT300 car and his No. 32 EPSON HSV-010 ran off the track.
This put the No. 24 D'station ADVAN GT-R in the lead, but on the first turn of lap 50, the No. 32 EPSON HSV-010 with its faster pace was able to catch and pass the No. 24 D'station ADVAN GT-R and go on to build up a lead of up to ten seconds.
With ten laps remaining in the race it looked as if the No. 32 EPSON HSV-010 was on its way to victory, but by this time the No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Masataka Yanagida) was closing in on the leader rapidly after having passed the No. 24 D'station ADVAN GT-R and the No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN SC430 in succession on laps 57 and 58 to move into 2nd position.
Winning this race would mean clinching a second consecutive season title for the No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R without waiting for the final round, and it was closing the gap on the No. 32 EPSON HSV-010 clearly with each lap. The No. 32 EPSON HSV-010 was now paying the price of not having changed its tires and its valiant effort to hold off the attack of car No. 1 would prove futile. Coming out of the first turn on the final lap, Nakayama in car No. 32 swung just wide enough to let Yanagida in the No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R get a nose in and pull ahead.
But, Nakayama wasn't going to give up without a fight. The two machines ran side-by-side through the second turn and the first hairpin in a tense battle. Finally, however, the No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R pulled into the lead as they exited the second hairpin.
The No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R went on that way to the checkered and the win, having worked all the way up from 10th position to score a dramatic come-from-behind victory. And, with this victory No. 1 clinched its second straight season title before the final round of the series. Despite suffering a spin coming out of the second hairpin in the heat of the last-lap battle with the No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R, the No. 32 EPSON HSV-010 still managed to finish a well-run race in 2nd place, while 3rd place went to the No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN SC430, having managed to pass the No. 24 D'station ADVAN GT-R on the last lap to gain its second consecutive podium finish.
The No. 24 D'station ADVAN GT-R finished 4th followed by the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 in 5th and the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R in 6th. After entering the final lap in 5th position, the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 was passed twice to finish a disappointing 7th.
As the Safety Car left the track on the third lap, the GT300 race roared into action as well. The pole-sitting No. 3 S Road NDDP GT-R (Katsumasa Chiyo) got a good start along with the 2nd grid position starter, the No. 66 triple a vantage GT3 (Kazuki Hoshino). These two machines then began to pull away from the No. 88 ManePa Lamborghini GT3 (Manabu Orido) in 3rd place and the rest of the field.
The picture changed on lap 11, however, when throttle linkage trouble struck the No. 52 GREEN TEC & LEON SLS (Hironori Takeuchi), causing it to fail to make the turn on corner number four and crash. Takeuchi was uninjured but the Safety Car had to come out and slow the race while his badly damaged car was cleared from the course. Although the race order remained unchanged behind the Safety Car, the margin that the two leaders had built up disappeared before the race was resumed on lap 16. But, once the race was underway again the same two machines began to pull away from 3rd and the rest of the pack once again, in the same match race. The margin between the No. 3 S Road NDDP GT-R and the No. 66 triple a vantage GT3 in pursuit stayed in the 1 to 0.5 second range. With both teams wanting to keep their title race chances alive and go into the final round in the best position possible by winning this race, the battle was intense. But, with momentum on its side, the triple a vantage GT3 finally passed the S Road NDDP GT-R on the inside at the first turn of lap 21 to take the lead. After this, the triple a vantage GT3 gradually built up a margin of lead over the S Road NDDP GT-R.
At the end of lap 30, the S Road NDDP GT-R now running in 2nd position made its routine pit stop. After 52 seconds of pit work the S Road machine returned to the race with Yuhi Sekiguchi now at the wheel. In the lead, the No. 66 triple a vantage GT3 made its pit stop at the end of lap 34. With the Aston Martin's disadvantage in fuel efficiency, the team was prepared for a 60-second loss here, but during the refueling a fire broke out. The crew reacted quickly to put out the flames and minimize the lost time but it still took in all 70 seconds to get out of the pit. When No. 66 finally rejoined the race it was now behind the No. 3 S Road NDDP GT-R. The lead had effectively changed hands as a result. By the time all the teams had finished their routing pit stops the S Road NDDP GT-R was now the race leader
Bring its speed to bear, however, the No. 66 triple a vantage GT3 managed to cut what was at one point a 4-second gap with the leading No. 3 S Road NDDP GT-R down to just 0.5 sec. by around the 45th lap. Now the S Road NDDP GT-R (Sekiguchi) was on the defensive in a breathtaking battle with the triple a vantage GT3 (Yoshimoto) that looked as if it would go down to the wire. But disaster struck with eight laps to go when the left rear tire of the S Road NDDP GT-R suddenly came off. Sekiguchi could do nothing as his machine ran off the track and out of the race. With this, Yoshimoto in the triple a vantage GT3 was free in the lead. The No. 911 ENDLESS TAISAN 911 (Naoki Yokomizo > Kyosuke Mineo) was 11 seconds back in 2nd place, but Yoshimoto was holding his fast pace. That margin had grown to a big 13 seconds when the triple a vantage GT3 took the checkered and its second win of the season, following its victory at Suzuka in round five. Finishing 2nd came the No. 911 ENDLESS TAISAN 911 that had managed to outrun the slowing Lamborghini machines in the latter stages of the race with a fast and steady pace. Having started from a tough 9th position the ranking leader, the No. 33 HANKOOK PORSCHE (Masami Kageyama/Tomonobu Fujii), managed to hold on through the survival race of the middle stages and finish 3rd. After running in 3rd for most of the latter stages of the race and seemingly on course for its first podium finish, the No. 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT (Tetsuya Yamano > Kota Sasaki) lost speed on the last lap and barely managed to finish the race in 4th place. It was a disappointing finish but the best yet for the BRZ that debuted this season.
Looking at the drivers' title race, the Kageyama/Fujii (No. 33) that finished 3rd in this race have maintained lead the ranking with 71 points. Four points behind in 2nd place sits the No. 66 pair of Yoshimoto/Hoshino and the No. 911 pair of Mineo/Yokomizo are nine points back. These three teams will battle it out for the GT300 season title in the final round at Motegi.