Rd.5 SUZUKA Circuit 18 - 19 August
With no wins in the first four races of 2012, some may be wondering what has happened to the NISSAN GT-R that won 5 of 8 races last year? I'm sure these results have fans worried. However, reflecting upon the first half of the racing season, the GT-R entrants were just plain unlucky. It feels as if between weather problems and accidents, all sorts of bad factors were lined up against the GT-R. That said, this next race is the start of the second half of the season. While the GT-R entrants may have started slow out of the gates, their speed is certain and they are all still in a position to fight for the title.
The GT-R had a good showing at the joint test held at Fuji Speedway on August 9th-10th. I don't know the extent of the weight handicap given to its rivals but the GT-R took first in three of four sessions and all four cars finished in strong positions. Especially impressive was KONDO RACING, which has yet to show its true strength this season, finishing on top of the timesheets in two of the session. The GT-R looks to have all the ingredients necessary to line up something special this coming weekend.
The next round at Suzuka will, for the first time in four years, be a 1,000km race. This is an event that will test the cars' endurance and see them make significantly more trips to the pits than in a regular race distance of 300kms. Therefore, any problems with a team's pit work will be magnified - and could cost them the race. In this sense, NISMO included all NISSAN teams can brag of extremely competent pit work. They will have to drive the full 1,000km with only two drivers, but the NISSAN-developed air conditioner will prove to be a major weapon for them. Driving in a comfortable environment will help the pilots maintain their concentration and should give them a healthy margin over the competition. Even moreso, they have had no trouble with their car throughout the season so far. Plus, in this 1,000km race, bonus points apply - so with no unexpected mishaps, they should be in a position to take a major points-haul.
In regards to the accident between two GT-R drivers in the last round at SUGO, both drivers have talked it through and hold no hard feelings. Also, both cars have been completely repaired. The four NISSAN teams are all coming to show their absolute best, so it should be an intense race.
The #3 NDDP (NISSAN Driver Development Program) GT-R entry, fresh off its maiden win in the GT300 class at SUGO, took the top spot in the afternoon session on day two of the recent Fuji joint test, demonstrating that the car is in good shape in comparison to its rivals. The new FIA GT3-spec GT-R is finally starting to show its stuff against the other FIA GT3 machines, and the drivers are starting to gain confidence. The NDDP, engaged in developing up-and-coming young drivers, has pencilled in rising star and All-Japan F3 championship N Class points' leader Daiki Sasaki as third/reserve driver for this upcoming 1,000km race, in recognition of his abilities over the competition. The recent test at Fuji was his first in a non-formula machine but his times are no worse than a regular GT driver's. Due to this, the powers-that-be are thinking of letting him drive at Suzuka. They are somewhat uneasy about his braking and fuel management skills, however. This is because that under FIA GT3 rules, cars all seem to run heavy. With all of these factors in play, how will these young drivers fare in the toughest event of the season? I'm looking forward to the results.