The 3rd round of SUPER GT took place at Malaysia's Sepang International Circuit on June 9th and 10th.Among the GT-R runners, there were four machines contesting the GT500 class, while a single entry was entered in GT300. The free practice session, on the morning of qualifying day, was held in cloudy conditions with temperatures never going above 30 degrees Celsius.
At lunchtime on the 9th, the hospitality area of the TEAM IMPUL garage featured an annual event, celebrating the birthday of Team Director Kazuyoshi Hoshino, who turns 65 on July 1st. Drivers Tsugio Matsuda, who will be 37 on June 18th, and Joao Paolo de Oliveira, who turns 31 on July 13, also congratulated each other on the auspicious occasion.
The battle to advance to Super Lap (SL) was conducted in a single 15-minute session. In the #1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Masataka Yanagida/Ronnie Quintarelli), Yanagida took the wheel, though missed the top 10 by a mere 0.031 seconds, resulting in the MOLA entry not advancing to SL.
In the KONDO RACING-run #24 D'station ADVAN GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda/Bjorn Wirdheim) Yasuda took charge for the first qualifying session, advancing to SL in 10th place. In the Super Lap session, Wirdheim was at the wheel, opting for an attack that resulted in the car moving up to sixth place on the grid.
Matsuda took 7th place in the 1st qualifying session, allowing the #12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/J.P. de Oliveira) from TEAM IMPUL to easily advanced to SL. For Super Lap, Oliveira took over at this track he likes so much he calls it, “I Love Sepang”, netting the 4th quickest time, and a spot on the second row of the grid.
As for the #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama/Michael Krumm) from NISMO, Krumm took the car to 4th place in the first qualifying session, guaranteeing the car a berth in Super Lap. For SL, Motoyama took charge of the attack and stole 3rd. The GT-R would thus line up next to another identical machine on the 2nd row of the starting grid.
Yuhi Sekiguchi secured advancement to the afternoon's SL for the #3 S Road NDDP GT-R (Yuhi Sekiguchi/Katsumasa Chiyo) and NDDP RACING with the eighth-quickest time in GT300 during the opening qualifying session. Chiyo put his first SL experience to good use when he planted the car sixth on the grid for the following day's race. Expectations started to rise for the team's first visit to the winner's platform.
Race day (10th) was blessed with fine weather from the morning, with temperatures rising above 30°C ahead of the main race. In the morning's warm up session, the #1 GT-R took the top time, encouraging expectations for the afternoon. Forecasts suggested little chance of rain on what was expected to be a blisteringly hot day.
The sun reflecting off the already boiling track surface caused severe sweating during the starting grid procedure. Nissan Motor Co., Ltd's COO Toshiyuki Shiga (3rd from the left) also rushed to show his support for the Nissan teams. In addition, the grandstands were filled with no fewer than 48,000 race fans on race day.
Just as the day's temperatures began to wane at 16:00, the formation lap started. With the cars not sufficiently bunched up at the start, one more lap behind the Safety Car was needed, and the official race distance reduced from 54 to 53 laps. Temperatures stood at 33 degrees Celsius (ambient), with the track surface measured at approximately 50 degrees.
In the #24 GT-R, Bjorn Wirdheim took the wheel for the start. However, his right rear tyre burst suddenly at the end of the back straight on lap 2 while the Swede was fighting for position. Although an urgent pit stop was then carried out, since damage around the wheel housing and the cause of the incident weren't clearly known, the machine was retired.
The #1 GT-R suffered as its tyres did not match the track surface temperatures during the race's first half, and Ronnie Quintarelli brought the car in on lap 25. Although time was saved on the car's in and out laps, and also during its pit stop, plus the fact that Yanagida battled for sixth place during the latter half, a brake problem on lap 45 pitched the car into a spin causing the machine to spear off track, resulting in immediate retirement.
Satoshi Motoyama piloted the #23 GT-R for the race's first half, though the car suffered heavily from understeer and a loss of performance in the corners. The machine was brought in for its stop on lap 24, ahead of schedule, with Michael Krumm taking over. Unable to increase the car's pace, it eventually finished in eighth place. Despite the disappointment, three valuable championship points were earned for the team's efforts.
Starting in fourth, the #12 Calsonic Impul GT-R had Joao Paolo de Oliveira at the wheel for the opening stint. This was another car to be affected by understeer, compromising the machine's performance in the corners. Bringing forward their pit stop, the car came in for its driver switch on lap 25 while running third, with Tsugio Matsuda taking over. Despite struggling throughout his stint, Matsuda brought the car home in fifth place.
In the #3 GT-R competing in the GT300 class, Katsumasa Chiyo took charge at the start, finishing the first half of the race in eighth place before handing the machine over to his teammate Yuhi Sekiguchi.During the second half, Sekiguchi got embroiled in a fierce battle with the #911 Porsche and was headed for a podium finish, only for that plan to unfortunately unravel and the car end up just outside the winners' platform in fourth.