GT-R GOES THREE FOR FOUR ON THE SEASON

Published on August 15th, 2011

The “SUGO GT 250km RACE,” Round 4 of the AUTOBACS SUPER GT was held at Sportsland SUGO in Miyagi Prefecture. In the GT500 class, the S Road MOLA GT-R driven by Masataka Yanagida and Ronnie Quintarelli ran from pole position to a runaway victory unchallenged by the competition. In the GT300 class, the SG CHANGI IS350 driven by Ryo Orime and Alexandre Imperatori won its first-ever SUPER GT victory.

Just after the start, Ronnie Quintarelli dashed ahead from pole position in the No. 46 S Road MOLA GT-R, followed by the No. 39 DENSO SARD SC430 (Hiroaki Ishiura), the No. 24 ADVAN KONDO GT-R (Bjorn Wirdheim) and the No. 32 EPSON HSV-010 (Yuhki Nakayama). The only initial change in the grid order came when Andre Lotterer in the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM’S SC430 moved in front of 5th-position grid-sitter Takuya Izawa in the No. 100 RAYBRIG HSV-010.

At the end of the first lap, Quintarelli in car No. 46 already had a 2.4-sec. lead over the rest of the field. Behind him, Ishiura running in 2nd position in car No. 39 was able to hold off a challenge by car No. 24 (Wirdheim) by maintaining a faster pace. That left Wirdheim behind and facing a challenge in turn from 4th position runner Nakayama. Behind them, Lotterer in car No. 36 was causing a traffic jam because of his inability to pick up the pace. This created a tight pack competing intensely for 5th position.

Running well in the lead at a pace that included setting the fastest lap of the race at 1’17.420 on lap four, Quintarelli was already encountering back markers from the GT300 by the sixth lap. As he worked his way through the back markers, his margin of lead fell to 2 sec. at one point, but by the tenth lap he was running alone in the lead and steadily increasing his margin again.

On lap 19, an accident occurred in the tightly packed middle group. In a battle between the No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN SC430 (Tatsuya Kataoka) that had worked up from a 14-position grid start and the No. 1 Weider HSV-010 (Loic Duval), a breaking mistake by Duval sent his machine off the track. After managing to get back in the race he collided with the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R on the second corner and spun out. In the aftermath of this, the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Benoit Treluyer) was passed by the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 (Kazuya Oshima), as rapid changes continued in the order. After returning to the pit, No.1 (Duval) suffered another collision on the pit road while leaving the pit and eventually had to retire from the race.

This did not affect race leader, No. 46 S Road MOLA GT-R as they had a perfect pole-to-checkered runaway victory in this 68-lap race. It was the team’s first victory in the GT500 class. For Yanagida, who had risen to the GT500 class once before only to return to GT300 again and finally make his GT500 comeback this year after winning the GT300 title last season, this was his long-awaited first win in the GT500 class. This win also puts the No. 46 driver pair of Yanagida and Ronnie Quintarelli atop the point ranking.

Finishing 2nd was the No. 39 DENSO SARD SC430, while the No. 32 EPSON HSV-010 finished 3rd. The No. 24 ADVAN KONDO GT-R finished 4th for the second round in a row and the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 (Daisuke Ito) finished 5th after coming out on top of a duel with the No. 100 RAYBRIG HSV-010 (Naoki Yamamoto).

The GT300 class saw a qualifying plagued by rain and there were teams that were unable to get a qualifying time for their second driver. But after getting those qualifying times in the official practice on the morning of race day, five of those teams won the right to compete in the race. They were the No. 5 Mach GoGoGo Syaken RD320R, the No. 7 EVANGELION RT PRODUCTION MODEL-02 DIRECTION, the No.26 Verity TAISAN Porsche, the No. 41 NetMove TAISAN Ferrari and the No. 66 triple a Vantage GT2. As for the No. 360 RUNUP SPORTS CORVETTE that was unable to run in the qualifying after a crash in the morning practice before the qualifying, it was unable to make repairs in time and had to withdraw from the race.

The skies were cloudy but the track was dry for the race. Starting from pole position, the No. 43 ARTA Garaiya (Shinichi Takagi) maintained the lead until it was challenged by No. 14 SG CHANGI IS350 (Ryo Orime) on lap three. Putting on the pressure, Orime (No. 14) pulled up side-by-side with Takagi (No. 43) several times before finally getting past him on lap nine. After that, No. 43 (Takagi) was unable to pick up the pace and continued to lose ground until he was swallowed up in the pack by 2nd-place contenders No. 62 R&D SPORT LEGACY B4 (Tetsuya Yamano), last round’s winner No. 4 HATSUNEMIKU GOODSMILE BMW (Nobuteru Taniguchi) and the ranking leaded No. 11 JIMGAINER DIXCEL DUNLOP 458 (Tetsuya Tanaka).

Meanwhile, No. 14 was gradually pulling away from the pack. This continued until it made its pit stop on lap 36. With the change of drivers it was now up to first-year GT driver Alexandre Imperatori to try to bring home the No. 14 team’s first GT victory. As the pursuing pack ran into trouble during a collision with a GT500 car, No. 14 (Imperatori) continued to widen its lead to the point where it had a comfortable 20-second lead over the 2nd-place No. 74 COROLLA Axio apr GT (Morio Nitta > Yuji Kunimoto) with ten laps remaining in the race. From there, the No. 14 SG CHANGI IS350 continued to run unchallenged to victory. This gave Orime his 4th GT300 class win and Imperatori his first win in only his fourth GT race.

The battle for 2nd place took shape between the No. 74 COROLLA Axio apr GT, which had made an early pit stop, the No. 43 ARTA Garaiya (Takagi > Kosuke Matsuura) plus the No. 33 HANKOOK PORSCHE (Masami Kageyama > Tomonobu Fujii) and the No. 4 HATSUNEMIKU GOODSMILE BMW (Taniguchi > Taku Bamba). Bamba in car No. 4 fell out of the contest after colliding with a GT500 car and spinned out. In the end, No. 74 won a duel with No. 43 coming out of the pit and went on to finish 2nd and mount the podium for the first time this season. No. 43 came home in 3rd place. Despite carrying a heavy load of handicap weight after finishing 2nd in the first three rounds of the season, the No. 11 JIMGAINER DIXCEL DUNLOP 458 managed to finish 7th and stay atop the point ranking.

Winners’ Comments

GT500 Winner: No.46 S Road MOLA GT-R

Masataka Yanagida

It has been a long road [to this first GT500]. Time and again we came close but couldn’t win. I want to take this momentum and carry it on to the coming races. I want to say how grateful I am to Nissan and Nismo and all the fans for their support, and to the team and Quintarelli for creating an environment where we were able to win. I also want to say a word of thanks to Masahiro Hasemi, who was my mentor in GT300 until last year. In the race, Ronnie had built such a margin of lead that there wasn’t much risk, so I just concentrated on my driving. I would say that I was more nervous during yesterday’s Super Lap, even though I was just watching. I am not going to let myself be satisfied with this win, because there is more to come and our ultimate goal is to win the series title.

Ronnie Quintarelli

[Watching from the pit] the second half of the race was very long. The car was in such good condition that I was able to push hard from the very first lap. I believe I was able to build up a good margin of lead and the pit stop and driver change went very well with no misses on the part of the team, and then Yanagida-san managed the machine well all the way to the checkered. I was very happy to see it all. During the race it was slippery on the last curve and I had one dangerous moment. But there was enough of a margin that I was able to take it easy and run a clever race. Since the Michelin tires are known for being good in hot conditions, I was a bit worried about today’s cool temperatures, but once I started racing I found their performance was excellent. I am really grateful to Michelin for that.

GT300 Winner: No.14 SG CHANGI IS350

Ryo Orime

I’m happy and relieved at the same time. We hadn’t been able to deliver good results this season. Personally, I was feeling a bit anxious but we didn’t let it defeat us and we kept meeting as a team and worked to improve the machine. This time, we were able to show good speed from qualifying and in the race Alex [Imperatori] gave a good performance. I think all of this is evidence of how hard we have worked. That is why I am so relieved with this result. It was a clean battle between me and Takagi in car No.43 and I think it must have been an enjoyable one to watch for the fans.

Alexandre Imperatori

I feel very happy. We didn’t have a good start to this season but I am happy to say that we got a very good result this weekend. This is my first season competing in SUPER GT and it took me a while to get used to this type of race. But SUPER GT has so many more spectators and fans than the other races I have participated in Europe and in Japanese Formula 3 Championship. That gives me great motivation. The atmosphere is the greatest and I am very happy to have been able to win here. I want to keep winning like this.

words & pix: Super GT

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