Round 6 of SUPER GT was held at Fuji International Speedway over the September 8-9 weekend. The 300-km event featured four NISSAN GT-R entries in the GT500 class, and one in GT300. Having last visited the circuit in May, fans thronged to the track from qualifying day.
For this round, the GT-Rs featured a mix of new aerodynamic parts, first developed for Round 2 at Fuji (for high-speed circuits) and improved for Round 4 at SUGO. Handicap weights for the GT-Rs stood at 86kgs for the #1 car, 60kgs for the #23 machine; the #12 GT-R had 46kgs onboard, while the #24 GT-R car sported 28kgs in its floor. Contesting the GT 300 class, the #3 machine was saddled with 92kgs.
For the first time at Fuji, qualifying was run to a knockout format. The first session (Q1) saw the #24 D'station ADVAN GT-R from KONDO RACING (Hironobu Yasuda/Bjorn Wirdheim) take 10th with Yasuda at the controls. Wirdheim took charge for Q2, netting 11th place, and the end of their qualifying attack.
The NISMO-entered #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama/Michael Krumm) had Motoyama in the car for Q1, the Japanese recording the 8th-quickest time. In Q2, Krumm took over, taking 4th and advancing to Q3, where once again Motoyama attacked. However, tyre setting issues in Q3 meant he ended up seventh.
The #1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Masataka Yanagida/Ronnie Quintarelli) had Quintarelli driving in Q1, where he set the top time. In Q2, Yanagida was 6th. Q3 saw the Italian champion back in the car, scoring 2nd place and the team's second consecutive front row start.
The #12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/Joao Paolo de Oliveira) from TEAM IMPUL was 2nd in Q1 (de Oliveira). Matsuda then just made it through Q2 with seventh, before his Brazilian teammate took his first-ever pole position with a scintillating last-minute blast. GT-Rs had locked out the front row.
Having scored two consecutive podium finishes in GT300, the #3 S Road NDDP GT-R from NDDP RACING had new partner Daiki Sasaki alongside regular driver Katsumasa Chiyo as Yuhi Sekiguchi sat out this round due to a suspension. Sasaki took charge in Q1, netting 17th place and failing to advance. Their grid position having thus been decided.
With an ambient temperature of 30 degrees and the track measured at 45 Celsius, much hotter than the previous day, the grandstands at Fuji were filled with over 33,800 race fans. Although the lingering summer heat was severe in direct sunlight, in the shade, a light breeze brought with it the signs of autumn cool. A pair of GT-Rs filled the front row, each on different brands of rubber. Attention was being paid to which make would fare better in the race.
Although the formation lap began at exactly 14:00, the engine in the #24 GT-R did not fire up and the car had to be rolled back to its pit. The 66-lap race then got underway at 14:03, with the pair of GT-Rs protecting their positions as the cars made it into the first corner. There was no contact at turn 1 as everybody made it through cleanly.
As for the #3 GT-R contesting the GT300 class, Chiyo took the start. Despite the heavy handicap weight onboard, the car quickly moved up from 17th place to 6th, greatly pleasing the fans. On lap 33, Chiyo handed the car over to Daiki Sasaki, making his SUPER GT racing debut. Sasaki came back out on track in ninth place, protected his position to the flag and scoring two valuable championship points in the process.
Though good things were expected from the #24 GT-R as it had recorded encouraging times at the Fuji tyre test in August, the car fell one lap behind at the start. Bjorn Wirdheim then carefully threaded his way through the GT300 traffic, though progress was difficult. Hirinobu Yasuda took over for the second half, crossing the finish line in 13th place.
Michael Krumm took the wheel of the #23 GT-R for the start, pushing hard and taking fifth place by lap nine. However, a 10-second stop-and-go penalty was incurred for passing under yellow flags on his way to the pit, and the car thus dropped to 12th place. Despite Satoshi Motoyama's advance to 10th in the race's second half, lack of fuel on the final lap meant the car fell to eleventh.
Ronnie Quintarelli took the start in the #1 GT-R, falling slightly to fourth place in lap 13 before rising back to third when the 3rd-placed machine went off track on lap 28. With quick pit work during the driver switch, the machine was back out on track in 2nd place. Masataka Yanagida protected this position throughout his stint, crossing the line in 2nd place and taking 15 valuable championship points for the team's efforts.
Tsugio Matsuda took the wheel of the #12 GT-R for the race's first half, ekeing out a 6-second advantage over his pursuers while carefully managing his tyres. His stop on lap 34 was the last of the GT500 machines and de Oliveira climbed aboard. The Brazilian set about building up the gap to over 20 seconds during his stint, crossing the finish line in the top spot and well ahead of the 2nd-placed car. The team's first win since the Okayama round in 2011 saw them rise to 3rd in the title fight.
“Although we weren't able to win here in Round 2 back in May after running in the top position, today everything worked out perfectly,” commented Matsuda. “It was a prefect weekend. Tsugio managed the tyres brilliantly and made my job easy. Also, this time it seems as if fate was on our side,” said de Oliveira. Smiling, Team Director Kazuyoshi Hoshino relayed, “It was a long race. I can hardly put into words how happy I am to see us win for the first time in one year, and it was tense right up to the last moments.”