Special Round - Fuji Sprint Cup Preview 17 - 18 November
All of the regular season races have now finished, but the JAF Grand Prix FUJI SPRINT CUP, which started two years ago, is set to be held at Fuji Speedway. As you all know, this sprint race takes place over three days and features Japan's two major racing categories, Formula Nippon and SUPER GT, with this year being the third running of the event.
SUPER GT normally features races of 250 to 1,000kms, with a pair of drivers competing in shifts, but in this race, each driver competes alone on a roughly 100km short-distance event covering 22 laps. Also, standing starts will replace the usual rolling start, which promises to make even the approach to the first corner a thrill. The GT500 and GT300 classes will also be racing separately, which will make for an interesting change from the in-season races.
In the regular season rounds at Fuji, the cars are equipped with low-drag aerodynamic parts which allow drivers to achieve straightline speeds more than 10km/h faster than the aerodynamic parts usually fitted to the cars, components that are designed to exert high levels of downforce, and thus make for faster lap times. This will make it easier for the GT300 cars to overtake on the straights. However, in this event the GT300 cars will not be competing in mixed-class races like they do during the regular season. By using aerodynamic parts that create high downforce, they can use softer tires than with low drag parts. It is likely that some teams may choose to equip their cars with high downforce aerodynamic parts at Fuji so that they can mount softer tires for the sprint races.
Also, during the in-season races, individual members of the driver pairings cannot use their own preferred settings, but rather must race using a set-up on which they both compromise. Since they will be driving on their own in this event, their individual preferences are likely to come out. It will be interesting to see which drivers use which settings, or whether they will use similar settings to what they regularly choose as part of a driver duo. It will also be interesting to check what lines they use in the corners.
So how will the GT-R entrants approach the race? The #23 and #24 cars were unable to find a groove during the season and thus didn't take home any victories. Therefore we can expect they'll want to demonstrate their fighting spirit and shake off the gloom of the recently-concluded season. I think you can count on both of these two cars to put in a good showing. Of course, the #12 machine, which stalled at only one victory, nevertheless took a crushing win at Fuji in the fall, and will want to put on a repeat performance. The #1 car meanwhile, will be sure to run well, giving us race performances befitting the champion they are. The races in the rain at Autopolis and Motegi felt like they became a battle of tires, so we are definitely hoping for good weather at Fuji. If it works out that way, I think we will be able to see true all-out battles.
For the GT300 class, despite the #3 GT-R contending for the championship, they were unable to drop their handicap weights due to the regulations, and could not make their way into contention for the title. This time all of the cars will have equal conditions, so they are sure to bring their best to the competition.
Since this upcoming event's races will be a competition among the drivers, the team mechanics will have little to do in comparison to the regular in-season races. As this event is separate from regular series' races, their stance is to just sit back and enjoy the show. However, for the drivers, there are prizes hanging in the balance, so as you would expect, they will have shifted gears into battle mode. I think they will give us hard-fought races, so I hope you will be giving them your support.