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Super GT - Pokka 1000kms Suzuka

Raceday -

 

(Pics To Follow)

 

Welcome to Humidityland. I’ve thus re-christened Mobilityland at Suzuka. The rains of yesterday finally ceased sometime after midnight leaving sauna-like conditions this morning. There is still a threat of rain as it is quite overcast, but locals say it is rare to have two consecutive rainy days this time of year and they appear to be correct as the sun has streaked through on occasion.

 

The warm-up / final practice started with a decidedly damp circuit and thus the times during the first 10 minutes of the extended 40-minute period were quite unrepresentative of any type of race pace. The #32 NSX was quickest overall at 2:06.238 while the #26 Porsche’s time of 2:16.002 was all that could be mustered in GT300. The session came to a halt prior to the halfway mark when young F3 driver Koudai Tsukokoshi went off in the #17 Real Racing Honda. Neither he nor the car were any worse for wear but he did manage to parallel park the NSX quite neatly between two mobile barriers, which took some extraction work.

 

It was only after the restart that some of the GT500 squads were able to crack the 2-minute barrier. The session ended with the #1 Honda on top at 1:57.575 (Ralph Firman), then the Nissan GT-R of Tsugio Matsuda (#12, 1:57.777) and the #38 Honda, Yuji Tachikawa, 1:57.795. In GT300 the order was Manabu Orido (#19, Lexus IS350, 2:09.165; Tetsuya Tanaka, 2:09.225, #11 Ferrari, and Ryohei Sakaguchi, #4 Vemac, 2:09.356.

 

Just for reference, all of the GT500 class Nissans are 2009-spec full monocoques. The others are older mixed monocoque – unibody cars, most of 2007 vintage.

 

Met with two important personages in the morning—first with Tomoko Kobayashi, DSC’s frequent contributor about all manner of Japanese news. She and her friends are big Peter Dumbreck and Team Kraft supporters, and Tomoko has been following him around for years. It was nice getting caught up on the scoop about various drivers. For example, Koki Saga is the son of the designer of the Toyota hybrid, and Saga-san, Senior is planning an assault on Le Mans with the concept. Koki is here as the third driver of the #39 Toyota Team Sard Lexus SC430.

 

Tomoko’s friend Miki takes the fan concept a bit further. She follows the fortunes of the #62 GT300 class Vemac team and has produced fans (the hand-held cooling variety), and chocolates with the car’s image on it.

 

A neighbor in the press room was Takuya Yura of Mooncraft. Yura-san is the designer of the body on the Riley-built Shiden. He is currently busy with a host of K-car projects. This refers to a class of 600cc cars. There are road going versions produced by the major manufacturers and regularly found on Japanese highways. Perhaps the best known of these is the Honda Beat. There is also a corresponding race series, consisting mostly of endurance races from 8-to-24 hours in length. In addition to the production cars there are K-car one-offs and replicas of famous makes of the best. Yura-san has produced Suzuki Cappuccino powered versions of famous names such as Cobra, the Porsche 908, Alfa Romeo 33 and others. It’s sort of like driving a 1/8 scale version of your favorite sports-racer.

 

The start of the 37th Suzuka 1000 Km. took place under overcast but gradually improving conditions. Indeed a light but steady breeze not only chased the clouds away but lowered the temp and humidity enough by late afternoon to make for a pleasant day.

 

Here is the starting grid with starting driver plus relief drivers. The third driver has been omitted in cases where they never actually took the wheel during the race. Similar to Grand-Am, there is a split start with the GT300 grid following some 30-seconds behind the GT500 contingent.

 

GT500

#22, Nismo, Nissan GT-R, Michael Krumm (Masataka Yanagida / Dominik Schwager)

#17, Real Racing, Honda NSX, Katsutomo Kaneishi (Toshihiro Kaneishi) [cousins, by the way]

#1, Racing Team Aguri, Honda NSX, Ralph Firman (Takuya Izawa)

#12, Team Impul, Nissan GT-R, Tsugio Matsuda (Sebastien Philippe)

#36, Toyota Team Tom’s, Lexus SC430, Andre Lotterer (Juichi Wakisaka)

#35, Toyota Team Craft, Lexus SC430, Tatsuya Kataoka (Peter Dumbreck)

#23, Nismo, Nissan GT-R, Benoit Treluyer (Satoshi Motoyama)

#6, Toyota Team Le Mans, Lexus SC430, Bjorn Wirdheim (Akira Iida)

#18, Takata, Honda NSX, Ryo Michigami (Takashi Kogure)

#32, Nakajima Racing, Honda NSX, Loic Duval (Katsuyuki Hiranaka)

#100, Team Kunimitsu, Honda NSX, Yuji Ide (Shinya Hosokawa)

#39, Toyota Team Sard, Lexus SC430, Andre Couto (Toranosuke Takagi)

#24, Kondo Racing, Nissan GT-R, Joan Paolo Lima de Oliveira (Seiji Ara)

#25, Toyota Team Tsuchiya, Lexus SC430, Hiroaki Ishiura (Takeshi Tsuchiya)

#3, Hasemi Motor Sport, Nissan GT-R, Ronnie Quintarelli (Naoki Yokomizo)

 

GT300

#77, Cusco Racing, Subaru Impreza, Tetsuya Yamano (Kouta Sasaki)

#43, Racing Team Aguri, Garaiya GT300, Shinich Takagi (Morio Nitta)

#95, Apr, Toyota MR-S, Kazuya Oshima (Keisuke Kunimoto / Yuya Sakamoto)

#2, Tokai Dream 28, Shiden MC, Hiroki Katoh (Hiroki Yoshimoto / Kazuho Takahashi)

#46, Mola, Nissan 350Z, Kazuki Hoshino (Hironobu Yasuda)

#19, Racing Project Bandoh, Lexus IS350, Manubu Orido (Tsubsa Abe / Yuhi Sekiguchi)

#81, Team Daishin, Nissan 350Z, Takayuki Aoiki (Tomonobu Fujii)

#66, JLOC, Lamborghini Murcielago, Koji Yamanishi (Atsushi Yogo)

#11, Jim Gainer, Ferrari F430, Tetsuya Tanaka (Masayuki Ueda)

#33, Hankook KTR, Porsche 997 GT3 RSR, Mitsuhiro Kinoshita (Masami Kageyama)

#4, Uematsu Nova, Vemac 320R, Ryohei Sagaguchi

#26, Team Taisan, Porsche 996 GT3R, Nobuteru Tamaguchi (Shinichi Yamaji / Keita Sawa)

#7, Re Amimaya Racing, Mazda RX-7, Hiroyuki Iiri (Ryo Orime)

#52, Team Takeuchi, Lexus IS350, Takuya Kurosawa (Takuto Iguchi)

#62, Willcom R & D Sport, Vemac 408R, Shinsuke Shibahara (Haruki Kurosawa / Shogo Mitsuyama)

#87, JLOC, Lamborghini Gallardo, Hisashi Wada (Muneyuki Kurihara / Yoshihisa Namekata)

#118, Tomei Sports, Porsche 996 GT3RS, Guts Jyonai (Masayuki Kurihara / Takashi Miyamoto)

#5, Team Mach, Vemac 320R, Tesuji Tamanaki (Naoya Yamano)

#111, Arktech Motorsports, Porsche Boxster, Tsubasa Kurosawa (Hiroshi Koizumi)

#170, Team Gaikokuya, Porsche 996 GT3RS, Yutaka Yamagishi (Kazuyoshi Takamizawa / Yoshimi Ishibashi)

#88, JLOC, Lamborghini Gallardo, Hideshi Matsuda (Naohiro Furuya / Yuya Sakamoto)

#666, Avanzza, Vemac 320R, Shogo Suho (Hironobu Takamori / Junichiro Yamashita)

#110, Arktech Motorsports, Porsche Boxster, Hidetoshi Mitsusada

#27, Team Shadow, Porsche 996 GT3R, Takashi Inoue (Hwang Jin-Woo / Yasuhiro Takasaki)

 

Starting from pit row (GT500), #38, Toyota Team Cerumo, Lexus SC430, Yuji Tachikawa (Richard Lyons)

 

There were two non-starters. The team of the new #808 Asada Racing BMW Z4 Coupe decided that the car was not ready. Not all of the drivers set adequate times for the #9 Corvette. Oddly, both cars were ceremonially driven around to the starting grid, but then unceremoniously pushed away.

 

Matsuda got the #12 Impul Nissan past Firman’s Aguri Honda on the first lap for third place, but out front Krumm opened a quick large gap over Kaneishi’s NSX. The real action was in GT300 on that first lap—a pattern that would hold all day. While Yamano’s Subaru held the early lead from the pole, Katoh slipped the Shiden past the Toyota of Oshima, only to watch the MR-S swing past again. That spot changed hands yet again on the opening lap and then going through the chicane Oshima made a daring move on Katoh but had to back off at the last instant.

 

It took until lap four before a cautious Tachikawa threaded the late starting #38 Lexus past the GT300 field. By the then the two class leaders, the #22 Nissan and #77 Subaru, had reasonably comfortable leads, but all bets were off behind them. It was especially rich in GT300 as no less than six cars ran nose-to-tail, all around the figure-eight circuit, and all vying for second in class. They were in order the colorful Garaiya, the Shiden, the #26 Porsche, Oshima’s Toyota, the #46 Nissan, and the #19 Lexus—6 makes—it doesn’t get much better than that.

 

This train ran well past the 10-minute mark while in the overall contest the Kaneishi Honda began to slowly make inroads on the main Nismo entry. While that was strategically interesting, the GT300 battle remained riveting.

 

Three cars gradually emerged from the big scrum for second, the two one-offs (the Garaiya and the Shiden) and the #26 Porsche of Tamaguchi that had made a particularly good start. The Shiden dropped back a tad, leaving it a fight between the Porsche and Garaiya. The two swapped the spot several times each lap before the Porsche edged away. Finding that the battle had moved him close to the lead Subaru, Tamaguchi then set off after Yamano, catching the Impreza on a strong run down the front straight and on the outside at Turn 1.

 

At about the half-hour mark there was a particularly busy period where the bulk of the GT500 field was lapping the GT300 runners. It all transpired peacefully but made for some interesting sites of intricate maneuvers. Matsuda did lose two spots in the process with the #12 Nissan and the traffic heated up a brewing fight for fourth overall between the #1 Honda of Firman and Lotterer’s #36 Toyota.

 

The GT300 battle continued apace with the Shiden working back through the pack to second and challenging the #26 Porsche for the lead. Yamano had dropped to third in the Subaru and was doing well holding off the #19 Lexus of Orido, with Hoshino’s Nissan nipping at both of their heels. We were nearing 50 minutes and there was no sign of anyone, at least in GT300, acknowledging that this was an endurance race. We did, however, lose one worthy competitor as the Garaiya slowed with symptoms of an axle shimmy that later led to its demise.

 

There was a similar dropping back of a GT500 runner as the #1 Honda stopped to attend to a suspected loose wheel. 

 

Krumm continued to lead Kaneishi overall, but there was a change some 30 seconds behind them as Matsuda dispatched Lotterer for third place. A short time later Matsuda became the first of the leaders to make a schedule stop. Pit calls in Super GT are handled a bit differently than elsewhere. The usual pattern is that pit side (right) tires are changed first, then refueling takes place while the tire changers change positions, then the wheel is finished on the other side.

 

Wirdheim’s #6 Lexus was another one of the early callers. Meanwhile, the #100 NSX continued to slice forward and even the bright yellow #3 Nissan of Quintarelli had a turn at the front during the pit stop exchange—a fine run for the car from the rear of the GT500 grid.

 

Most of the GT500 runners stopped within a rather narrow window just before the one-hour mark while the GT300 halts were more spread out, reflecting the more varied nature of the class. The Subaru had regained the class lead just before stopping, and for a brief period the Shiden led the class.

 

In the overall contest the #17 Honda led over the #23 Nismo car when the long-time leading #22 made its stop. There would be only a few retirements during the whole course of the day, with several coming from a rash of axle and wheel related issues. One of the Porsche Boxsters only complete a few laps while Sakaguchi had one of the more dramatic failures when the wheel parted company from his #4 Vemac.

 

There was a brief settling of positions once the pit stop sequence was completed. Yanagida, now in the #22 Nissan, had 4 seconds in hand over the new second place car, the #6 Lexus of Iida, with Toshiro Kaneishi another 15 seconds back in the #17 NSX, then 10 seconds to Wakisaka in the #36 Lexus. The other Nismo entry and the #12 Team Impul car of Philippe rounded out the top six.

 

GT300 was still not really settled. The Shiden led narrowly over the #95 Toyota. The unusual Mooncraft-Riley creation lost the spot when it made its next stop and had trouble firing. But the new class leader was not the Toyota, rather it was the #62 Vemac which had moments before passed Yasuda after a stealth run through the field.

 

During one of the rare moments during the first quarter of the race when there wasn’t a battle for GT300 honors there was suddenly a fight for the overall lead. Akira Iida was working hard against a conservatively driven stint by Yanagida and passed the #22 Nissan for the lead at the daunting Spoon Corner. There was also a similar contest for fourth place between the #36 Lexus and the #100 Honda, with the spot going to the silver Raybrig NSX when Hosokowa was worried into a bobble and slight spin with the SC430. The green #18 Honda was on the fringes of some of these dices but fell out of the running with a puncture at Turn 1 and a long slow crawl back around to the pits.

 

The only other GT300 runner to fall completely out of contention at this stage was the #19 Lexus with a host of long stops and then a return to the circuit only to be beached in a gravel trap.

 

The period from 90-minutes to the 120-minute mark saw more settling and the first real inklings of endurance strategy settling in. A few teams reverted to their “C” drivers, but the generally frenetic pace meant that the more competitive squads elected to skip going to the sometimes less-experienced pilots and stay with the season regulars for the duration of the race.

 

The #22 Nissan led for most of the time, holding a comfortable margin over the #100 Honda. The Kunimitsu-Raybrig team’s hold on second remained one of the more remarkable stories given their loss of 10 positions on the grid. The #12 Nissan remained very close in third, but elected not to mount a challenge at that time. The #6 Lexus remained equally confident holding station a few seconds further behind.

 

A new hero emerged in GT300 where the aged #7 Mazda screamed along and climbed into first by making one less stop than the others. The #46 Nissan took the top spot with the RX-7 finally stopped, while there was a gathering fight between the #95 Toyota and the #2 Shiden.

 

Kunimoto had a rather big off in the #95 Toyota and lost second spot. Yoshimoto in the Shiden was almost unable to take advantage as he was balked by a slower car. The erstwhile class leading Subaru was if far greater trouble, literally going backwards in a series of mid-race spins.

 

Eventually the Toyota made a stop, while another front-running GT300 car, the #26 Porsche, had a slight spin. These and other events conspired to allow the Mazda back into the class. In GT500 the #100 NSX took the lead over the #12 Nissan and #36 Lexus during the next sequence of stops.

 

Now into the second half of the race we had some significant drama. Takahashi in the Shiden and the #66 Lamborghini collided in the hairpin. The Italian car was undamaged but something was amiss in the Toyota powered car’s suspension. It would return to the pits but later be retired.  Treluyer then overall leading #23 Nissan had an off-and-on trip through the escape road at the chicane, allowing the #36 Lexus of Lotterer into the top spot.

 

Treluyer held onto second place, a nose behind, and a lap later the two cars pitted simultaneously. Motoyama hopped into the Nissan and headed out first but the Lexus pits were further up the road and Wakisaka managed to nose out ahead at the pit apron. By then the #22 Nissan of Yanagida had assumed the lead with the #3 Nissan of Yokomizo some distance behind in second. The Toyota Team Tom’s hopes of coming back were dashed when the #36 received a summons to the penalty box for passing under a local yellow. Yanagida’s tenure in the lead ended when the rear cowling came loose and the #22 Nissan had to make a premature stop. As the #3 Nissan had also just stopped, the #100 Honda now assumed the lead, some 12 seconds over the #12 Team Impul GT-R.

 

Into the fifth hour the sky was clear but the shadows were beginning to grow. Schwager in the #22 Nissan made an unusually tight lapping maneuver on Yogo and the #66 Lamborghini was forced into a lurid spin. The rather slow GT300 car came to a stop just as Katsutomo Kaneishi arrived on the scene. The #17 NSX’s left front clipped the Murcielago. The GT300 car was stranded for a short time while the burgundy-colored GT500 struggled back to the pits. Its one spare fender had already been employed after the car’s escapade during the recon laps and now the crew resorted to applying 300 kph spec red racer’s tape. It held, but there was some mechanical damage from the hit and they were unable to refire the car properly after a few tries along pit road.

 

Five cars remained on the GT300 lead lap at this stage with the #46 Nissan barely leading the #95 Toyota and the Mazda some distance further back. As with the GT500 leaders earlier, the top two in this class ran nose-to-tail for a few laps and then pitted simultaneously. The Nissan crew won the battle with a quicker halt although the RX-7 had passed over the line first to take top spot until its next call.

 

Heading into the final 40 laps, the #100 Honda stopped out of the lead to make its last stop, with Hosokawa returning to fifth on the track. Two laps later the Team Impul Nissan made its last stop, a particularly perfect one, and Philippe took over for the run to the flag. This let the #23 Nismo Nissan in the lead for the moment.

 

In GT300 the Mazda had stopped out of the lead with Iiri taking over for the final stint. Earlier the #46 Nissan had made its call with Yasuda charged with the final shift while Hirate moved into the #95 Toyota MR-S. These two were now respectively 1-2 in class. As the sun lowered and the lap times lengthened their relative positions became quite stable. After a nearly race long series of lead changes, GT300 suddenly settled into formation. Hirate at one stage took four seconds off of what had been a 12-second lead by Yasuda, but he was unable to close further and the Mola Z team of Hoshino and Yasuda won the class.

 

The #23 Nissan made its stop with 32 laps left, Treluyer taking over. Yokomizo in the #3 Hasemi Motor Sport GT-R briefly held the lead before handing the car back to Quintarelli—eventually settling for a commendable fifth place finish. The other Nismo entry now led with its stop still owed and indeed two laps later Krumm took over, the car returning to the circuit behind the #12 Nissan and the #100 Honda.

 

Ide in #100 gave it a sporting shot against Philippe, nearly catching the Nissan at the hairpin, only to see #12 pull away. Treluyer was going rapidly—but only for a brief moment to prove a point. Though Nismo would never admit it, there were team orders asking him to drop behind #22, so that the #23 weight ballast penalties be reduced at the next round. Such are the draconian rules of the series that it may behove one to back out of a battle in order to be in a better position to secure points down the line.

 

This was not a concern with the #22 car with 11 laps to go Krumm chased down and passed the yellow #3 Nissan. Krumm even had the slightest hope of catching the #36 Lexus for third place but time had run out. There was one last drama when the lone Ferrari spun and nearly blocked the track. There were a few close calls, but he managed to move out of harm’s way.

 

For so long this was a sprint race that only faded a bit as afternoon turned to evening. While it was hot, so was the racing, a true long-distance (as opposed to endurance) classic. The Suzuka 1000 Km. lived up to its storied reputation. Were it not for the truly classic Le Mans this year, this would be my vote for sports car race of the season.

Race Result

GT500

1 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R Tsugio Matsuda Sebastien Philippe 5:56'31.327 173laps
2 100 RAYBRIG NSX Yuji Ide Shinya Hosokawa Kosuke Matsuura +7.866secs
3 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 Juichi Wakisaka Andre Lotterer Carlo Van Dam +34.598secs
4 22 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R Michael Krumm Masataka Yanagida Dominik Schwager +35.062secs
5 3 YellowHat YMS TOMICA GT-R Ronnie Quintarelli Naoki Yokomizo +41.833secs
6 6 ENEOS SC430 Akira Iida Bjorn Wirdheim Roberto Streit +51.810
7 24 WOODONE ADVAN Clarion GT-R J.P.L.De Oliveira Seiji Ara +1'24.333 
8 23 XANAVI NISMO GT-R Satoshi Motoyama Benoit Treluyer Fabio Carbone +2'00.744
9 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 Yuji Tachikawa Richard Lyons 172 laps
10 35 houzan KRAFT SC430 Peter Dumbreck Tatsuya Kataoka 172 laps
11 32 EPSON NSX Loic DUVAL Katsuyuki Hiranaka 171 laps
12 18 TAKATA DOME NSX Ryo Michigami Takashi Kogure 169 laps
13 1 ARTA NSX Ralph Firman Takuya Izawa 167 laps
14 25 ECLIPSE ADVAN SC430 Takeshi Tsuchiya Hiroaki Ishiura 138 laps
15 39 DENSO DUNLOP SARD SC430 Toranosuke Takagi Andre Couto Koki Saga 133 laps

NCF 17 REAL NSX Katsutomo Kaneishi Toshihiro Kaneishi Koudai Tsukakoshi 119 laps
 
GT300 
       
1 46 MOLA LEOPALACE Z Kazuki Hoshino Hironobu Yasuda 5:58'40.469 160 laps
2 95 Lightning McQueen apr MR-S Kazuya Oshima Keisuke Kunimoto Yuya Sakamoto 159 laps
3 7 ORC AMEMIYA SGC-7 Hiroyuki Iiri Ryo Orime Hiroyuki Matsumura 159 laps
4 62 WILLCOM ADVAN VEMAC 408R Shinsuke Shibahara Haruki Kurosawa Shogo Mitsuyama 159 laps
5 26 YUNKER POWER TAISAN PORSCHE Nobuteru Taniguchi Shinichi Yamaji Keita Sawa 159 laps
6 81 DAISHIN ADVAN Z Takayuki Aoki Tomonobu Fujii 158 laps
7 11 JIMCENTER ADVAN F430 Tetsuya Tanaka Masayuki Ueda 157 laps
8 111 ARKTECH BOXSTER-GT Hiroshi Koizumi Tsubasa Kurosawa 155 laps
9 27 ISHIMATSU FUNKY'S HANKOOK GT3 Takashi Inoue Hwang Jin Woo Yasuhiro Takasaki 155 laps
10 5 Proµ MACH-GO 320R Tetsuji Tamanaka Naoya Yamano Katsuhiko Tsutsui 154 laps
11 170 GaishanoGaikokuya & LMP Porsche Yoshimi Ishibashi Yutaka Yamagishi Kazuyoshi Takamizawa 151 laps
12 88 triple a GALLARDO RG-3 Hideshi Matsuda Naohiro Furuya Yuya Sakamoto 151 laps
13 666 Rakuten BOMEX 320R Shogo Suho Junichiro Yamashita Takamori.com 151 laps
14 87 AKTIO GALLARDO RG-3 Hisashi Wada Muneyuki Kurihara Yoshihisa Namekata 145 laps
15 66 triple a MURCIE RG-1 Koji Yamanishi Atsushi Yogo 136 laps
16 118 4CARAT SON GT3 Takashi Miyamoto Guts Jyonai Masayuki Kurihara 132 laps
17 77 CUSCO DUNLOP SUBARU IMPREZA Tetsuya Yamano Kouta Sasaki 127 laps
18 52 GREEN TEC  KUMHO  IS350 Takuya Kurosawa Takuto Iguchi Hideki Yamauchi 125 laps
19 19 WedsSport IS350 Manabu Orido Tsubasa Abe Yuhi Sekiguchi 118 laps

NCF 2 Privée KENZO Asset Shiden Kazuho Takahashi Hiroki Katoh Hiroki Yoshimoto 91 laps
NCF 33 HANKOOK PORSCHE Mitsuhiro Kinoshita Masami Kageyama 78 laps
NCF 43 ARTA Garaiya Morio Nitta Shinichi Takagi Kyosuke Mineo 41 laps
NCF 4 EBBRO UEMATSU 320R Ryohei Sakaguchi Masaki Matsushita Tadao Uematsu 31 laps
NCF 110 KUMHO BOXSTER-GT Hidetoshi Mitsusada Daisuke Ikeda 4 laps