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Come watch GT at Fuji during the long weekend! Long-distance battle of the early season offers full of excitements

 

Traditionally held in the latter half of “Golden Week”, the AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 2 “FUJI GT 500km RACE” is scheduled in the early half of the holiday this year on April 28th (Sun) and 29th (Mon/Hol). As last year, the race distance will be a long 500km where the race strategy, two pit stops, which is more than usual race, a possibility to use third driver, etc., will have significant meaning. Being a long race, any mistakes made in the early stage can possibly be recovered, or, in contrast, any unexpected incidents can turn the race into a turbulent. Come on out to the Fuji Speedway in the proximity of the capital during the long weekend to see the SUPER GT with your own eyes.

 

Competitive landscape created at the season opener doesn’t mean anything at Round 2...

With hard rain on the qualifying day and nearly dry condition on the race day, cars that showed “Speed” changed completely in a night at the season opener. In addition, the opening round was held at Okayama, a technical track, and the second round is at Fuji, a high-speed circuit. Thus, an equation,“HSV-010 GT has an advantage this season” because the fleet completed 1-2 finish at the season opener, may not be applicable. Similarly, you can’t say that SC430 fleet, which sank to the bottom place at the rainy qualifying, will “struggle this year.”
Especially, SC430 (+ Bridgestone tire) teams are most likely to take on the Round 2 Fuji with everything they have to revenge their defeat in the opening round’s qualifying. First of all, Fuji is a Toyota affiliate and the home track of SC430. Complete domination on the grid could happen as SC430 is strong at a high-speed track (3 poles in 5 races in last 3 years at Fuji). No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 (Yuji Tachikawa/Kohei Hirate) lead by ace driver Tachikawa, who is also known as “Fuji Meister” with the most pole positions, No.39 DENSO KOBELSCO SC430 (Juichi Wakisaka/Hiroaki Ishiura) with Ishiura, who got pole position at two rounds of 2011 season at Fuji, and No.6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 (Kazuya Oshima/Yuji Kunimoto) with Oshima, who boasts speed comparable to the above two drivers, are the candidates for pole position as well as winning the race.
In the GT-R fleet, which continues to show speed and strength all around again this season, No.12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/Joao Paulo de Oliveira), which came so close but fell short of victory at last year’s Round 2 Fuji, and No.23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Masataka Yanagida/Ronnie Quintarelli), reputed for its wise racing strategy, are the teams to watch.
Despite being said to be unsuitable to a high-speed circuit, the entire HSV-010 GT fleet is geared up to “Reclaim the championship” as this season will be the last year (Honda will compete with new NSX next season). It would be interesting to see how No.17 KEIHIN HSV-010 (Koudai Tsukakoshi/Toshihiro Kaneishi), which fell just short and finished second at the season opener, and No.8 ARTA HSV-010 (Ralph Firman/Kosuke Matsuura), which has been showing strong performance at Fuji, will perform. Although it may be a difficult race for No.100 RAYBRIG HSV-010 (Takuya Izawa/Takashi Kogure), winner of the season opener, with the handicap weight the car has to mount, it should not be underestimated considering the momentum it has.

 

 

 

Tire war and weather will decide the game

Orders changed rapidly due to changing track conditions with the rain fell and stopped during the race at last year’s Round 2 Fuji. Rain tires could have a significant impact to the win or lose especially in rain. If it rains, No.32 EPSON HSV-010 (Ryo Michigami/Daisuke Nakajima) with Dunlop as well as No.24 D'station ADVAN GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda/Michael Krumm) and No.19 WedsSport ADVAN SC430 (Seiji Ara/Andre Couto) with Yokohama Tires may be seen competing in the top positions.
If the temperature rose higher than usual years, then No.1 REITO MOLA GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama/Yuhi Sekiguchi) and No.18 Weider Modulo HSV-010 (Naoki Yamamoto/Frederic Makowiecki) could stir up the race thanks to their Michelin tires.
Tire war gets more intense every year, or even, every race. Considering that Bridgestone, which is fired up to re-gain the championship, has revealed to take on the series flat out with a statement, “Do everything that can be done,” it would be fun to watch the race in this perspective.

 

 

 

 

FIA GT3 cars have advantage in a high-speed track..., not any more

Since the appearance of powerful FIA GT3 cars, Fuji with the high-speed track is “difficult for JAF GT specification machine” had been the commonly-accepted notion. But a new type of car emerged that might have potential to demolish the notion, and that is the hybrid machine. By effectively utilizing the assist provided by the motor, it can match up the FIA GT3 cars in terms of thrust in the high-speed range. In fact, Prius got the pole position at last year’s Round 6 Fuji, and, despite lagging behind in the early stage, it charged back from behind to take a podium finish at the second place in the race.
Therefore, the candidates for pole position which may also finish in the top positions in the race would be, from FIA GT3, Porsches, namely No.0 ENDLESS TAISAN PORSCHE (Kyosuke Mineo/Naoki Yokomizo) and No.33 HANKOOK PORSCHE (Masami Kageyama/Tomonobu Fujii), Mercedes-Benz SLS which showing speed this season, namely the winner of previous round No.11 GAINER DIXCEL SLS (Katsuyuki Hiranaka/Bjorn Wirdheim), McLaren, namely No.2 EVA RT TEST-01APPLE MP4-12C (Kazuho Takahashi/Hiroki Katoh), and NISSAN GT-R, namely No.3 S Road NDDP GT-R (Kazuki Hoshino/Saiki Sasaki). And hybrid machines such as No.31 Panasonic apr PRIUS GT (Morio Nitta/Koki Saga) and No.16 MUGEN CR-Z GT (Hideki Mutoh/Yuhki Nakayama) could be standing up against the FIA GT3 cars. Furthermore, No.88 MonePa LAMBORGHINI GT3 (Manabu Orido/Takayuki Aoki), which despite showing speed suffered out of gas due to insufficient test at the previous round, is certainly a team to watch.
If weather changed or if the race turned out to be a turbulent, No.4 GSR HATSUNEMIKU BMW (Nobuteru Taniguchi/Tatsuya Kataoka), known for its cleverness in the race which won the same race in Fuji last year, and No.61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT (Tetsuya Yamano/Kota Sasaki), which was quick in the rainy qualifying at the season opener, can be added to the candidate list.

Some teams in the GT300 class are adding third driver, and, therefore, their performance as well as the pit strategy would be another interesting point to see. Latest news tells that Yuji Ide, a former F1 driver who also has won in the GT500 class, will be taking the wheel of No.7 OGT Bonds Racing GT-R (Igor Sushuko/Yuji Ide).

 

 

 

With a full of topics, the Round 2 Fuji will be held on April 28th (Sun) and 29th (Mon/Hol). Fans are encouraged to fully take advantage of the first half of long holiday to enjoy SUPER GT at the circuit as well as via the broadcast on J SPORTS.

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