April 18, 2013


2013 SUPER GT Round 2 Preview

Round 2 of the 2013 AUTOBACS SUPER GT, the FUJI GT 500km RACE, takes place at Fuji Speedway on April 28 (Sun) and 29 (Mon). Prior to becoming a fixture on the SUPER GT calendar, this event was also a mainstay of the JGTC (All-Japan Grand Touring Championship), having first joined the roster in the mid-nineties where it quickly became a climactic event, and an enduring symbol of the Golden Week holidays.

In this year's opening round, held two weeks ago at Okayama International Circuit, Masataka Yanagida and Ronnie Quintarelli (Italy) of NISMO took pole position in a very wet qualifying, before dominating the race until the final stages, showing once again, the performance of the NISSAN GT-R. However, rapid falls in both the ambient and track surface temperatures caused the car to lose pace in the dying laps of the race. As a result, the car's first victory of the season was thwarted. At Fuji however, the temperatures during Golden Week are expected to be far higher, optimal conditions for all tire brands to demonstrate their wares. The MOLA entry, which has shown dominant strength over the past two seasons, now has Satoshi Motoyama and Yuhi Sekiguchi behind the wheel. Though a glimpse of speed and the heights of their hidden potential was in evidence during qualifying for the season-opening round, rookie Sekiguchi showed his youth; but it wasn't only he who fell down the order as KONDO RACING drivers Hironobu Yasuda/Michael Krumm (Germany) and Tsugio Matsuda/Joao Paolo de Oliveira from TEAM IMPUL also fell foul of the timing beam. For 2013, all of the Nissan-equipped teams are running cars that have had their specifications updated many times during the off-season, and all teams should be well prepared with required data. In addition, the high-speed layout of Fuji International Speedway with its long main straight requires an aero kit specific to the needs of this particular racecourse, the "Fuji Special", something that is seen only at this venue.

2013 is also the final year with the 2009-specification vehicle regulations, and rival teams are expected to throw everything they've got at their bid for victory here. In particular, the Lexus teams, who faced a close contest in the opening round, are expected to run well at this, their home track. Because pace has been demonstrated on many occasions by the Nissan teams, special attention must be given to them also. Despite the Hondas being in a difficult position with a lot of success ballast after the elation of victory last time out, it is impossible to discount them. And, as the opening round two weeks ago clearly showed, the latest evolution GT500 machines have achieved a great upturn in speed. At the high-speed Fuji track, it will be interesting to see by just how much interest grows.

Although the NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT3 made its debut last season, the #3 S Road NDDP GT-R, which selects members from the NDDP (Nissan Driver Development Program) to pilot its machine, has decided on a new driver pairing, that of Kazuki Hoshino and Daiki Sasaki. In addition to the NDDP-entered car, three privateer versions are also competing. Among them, NDDP member Katsumasa Chiyo, who was a contender for the GT300-class title last year, will be driving a privately entered car from DIJON Racing this season. In the opening round, the NDDP-entered GT-R was top among the GT-R entries. Taking notice of the battles in GT300 is something well worth watching.

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