April 8, 2013
April 7th, Okayama International Circuit (Okayama) - The opening round of the 2013 SUPER GT season was held at Okayama International Circuit on Sunday, April 7th, where the #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Masataka Yanagida/Ronnie Quintarelli) started from pole position and led until the dying moments of the 81-lap contest. Although a pair of rivals slipped by at the end, the drivers from the #23 machine stood on the third step of the winners' podium.
#23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R
Ronnie Quintarelli / Masataka Yanagida
Come race morning, the previous day's heavy rain had given way to cloudy skies that occasionally let the sun shine through. Although the track surface was dry, low ambient temperatures and winter-like wind conditions meant a challenging environment for those watching the race. Despite this, no fewer than 16,000 fans came to witness an opening round well worthy of their attendance. Pole-sitter Ronnie Quintarelli increased his lead in the #23 GT-R lap after lap, quickly building up a comfortable margin over his pursuers. While the battle for 2nd place saw changes in the order as rivals fought for a place on the podium, and advances were made behind the #23 GT-R, Quintarelli never let anyone get close enough to make a move that would stick.
The driver switch was carried out at the halfway point of the race, with Yanagida's swift change ensuring the team maintained its position after the order had once again settled down. Although extending the lead and reaching the flag in that position was considered, the pace of the HSV entries occupying 2nd to 4th places increased during the race's second half, imminently closing in on Yanagida in the GT-R. If any one of the trio were to drop out, the time difference to Yanagida would instantly be instantly shortened. Although he continued to drive desperately protecting his position, his pace fell away after picking up tire 'marbles' (discarded pieces of rubber that litter the track) towards the end, allowing a pair of rivals to get past on lap 77, just four tours from the flag. Yanagida continued to the end, crossing the line in 3rd place.
Qualifying third, the #24 D'station ADVAN GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda/Michael Krumm) were 2nd in the morning's free practice session, run in the dry. The result raised expectations for the pair in the race. Despite a slow start that saw Krumm fall down the order early on, it was expected that Yasuda would be able to recover the loss during the race's latter half. However, Yasuda had a most unfortunate spin on his out-lap directly after taking the wheel, incurring a further delay. The chance to shine was missed and the car finished in 13th position.
In the #12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/Joao Paolo de Oliveira), Matsuda took the start after qualifying 7th, before handing over to Oliveira in 5th. By the time his cold tires had warmed, he had dropped two spots, but an ensuing battle with the #39 SC430 during the final stages brought the fans to their feet in applause. As a result, they advanced to 6th place at the flag. Oliveira: “It was a lot of fun having that battle with the #39 car. I was told I could make up one position and I think this is a positive result as extra points were also scored”.
The #1 REITO MOLA GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama/Yuhi Sekiguchi) attracted attention when it briefly topped qualifying, but a spin during the session caused red flags to come out, cancelling the team's best time and sending them to 14th-place on the starting grid. Sekiguchi, a race start specialist, made the most of his opening stint, moving the car up to 10th position. However, when light rain fell during the middle of the race, he fell back to 13th spot. Subsequent contact with another car earned a drive-through penalty, making life difficult for Motoyama in the second half, who maintained 12th position throughout the final stages, later advancing to 10th at the flag when two higher-ranked cars were omitted.
In GT300, the #3 S Road NDDP GT-R (Kazuki Hoshino/Daiki Sasaki) started from 2nd on the grid after a convincing qualifying performance. After catching the leaders on the opening lap, the GT-R stayed in the lead throughout the race's first half. Later, contact with another car caused a broken steering rod, and after pitting on lap 45 and handing over to Sasaki, continuing was deemed too difficult and the car was retired.
NISMO Team Director Yutaka Suzuki's comment:
“The temperature fell dramatically at the end, this didn't suit our tires and caused us to lose speed. Although Yanagida pushed hard, it was difficult to maintain pace. However, we can take away some positives from this, including knowing how to fight when temperatures are low, and amassing worthwhile data. From here we can be confident of setting good times, and this gives us confidence for the rest of the season. I think it's good that we've started the season on the winners' podium.”
#23 GT-R driver Masataka Yanagida's comment:
“Due to the fall in temperature, we picked up a lot of marbles and this led to a vibration which itself was the cause of locking brakes. With that, we lost pace and were unable to realize our proper potential. I must apologize as Ronnie handed me the car in top spot. I am sorry. I would like to improve so we can demonstrate performance in the cold also.”
#23 GT-R driver Ronnie Quintarelli's comment:
“Since conditions were good and the tire grip was also good, I was able to drive my stint at a solid pace. Having started in pole position, naturally I wanted to take the victory. As I haven't been on the podium in the opening round before now, I feel that this is a reasonable start to the season.”
|Pos||No||Machine||Driver||Time / Behind|
|1||100||RAYBRIG HSV-010||Takuya Izawa||Takashi Kogure||1:58'48.911|
|2||17||KEIHIN HSV-010||Koudai Tsukakoshi||Toshihiro Kaneishi||0.555|
|3||23||MOTUL AUTECH GT-R||Masataka Yanagida||Ronnie Quintarelli||4.903|
|4||38||ZENT CERUMO SC430||Yuji Tachikawa||Kohei Hirate||11.534|
|5||18||Weider Modulo HSV-010||Naoki Yamamoto||Frederic Makowiecki||12.612|
|6||12||CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R||Tsugio Matsuda||JP.de Oliveira||50.496|
|10||1||REITO MOLA GT-R||Satoshi Motoyama||Yuhi Sekiguchi||1'30.704|
|13||24||D'station ADVAN GT-R||Hironobu Yasuda||Michael Krumm||1Lap|
|Pos||No||Machine||Driver||Time / Behind|
|1||11||GAINER DIXCEL SLS||Katsuyuki Hiranaka||Bjorn Wirdheim||1:59'57.178|
|2||4||GSR HATSUNEMIKU BMW||Nobuteru Taniguchi||Tatsuya Kataoka||11.036|
|3||87||LA SEINE LAMBORGHINI GT3||Hideki Yamauchi||Hiroki Yoshimoto||1Lap|
|9||48||DIJON Racing GT-R||Hiroshi Takamori||Katsumasa Chiyo||2Laps|
|13||7||OGT Bonds Racing GT-R||Igor Sushko||Ryo Orime||2Laps|
|18||360||RUN UP GROUP GT-R||Takuya Shirasaka||Atsushi Tanaka||4Laps|
|-||3||S Road NDDP GT-R||Kazuki Hoshino||Daiki Sasaki||33Laps|