JAF Grand Prix FUJI SPRINT CUP 2012 November 16 - 18
The JAF Grand Prix FUJI SPRINT CUP 2012, held jointly by SUPER GT and Formula Nippon, was held at Fuji Speedway over three days, from November 16 through 18. This year marked the third time the event has been held, and as usual, the GT500 and GT300 classes ran separately, with solo drivers competing in the 22-lap sprint races. There were no pit stops to change drivers or fuel. The first day was blessed with fine weather from the morning onward.
Qualifying for the first race was held on the afternoon of the 16th. In the GT300 class, the NDDP RACING-entered #3 S Road NDDP GT-R (Katsumasa Chiyo) took eighth, while in the GT500 class, MOLA's the #1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli) was ninth, the #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Michael Krumm) eighth for NISMO team, TEAM IMPUL's the CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Joao Paulo de Oliveira) seventh, and KONDO RACING's #24 D'station ADVAN GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda) sixth.
After qualifying for the first race was completed, the qualifying session for the second race was held, and in the GT300 Class, the #3 GT-R (Yuhi Sekiguchi) took fifth. In GT500, the #24 GT-R (Bjorn Wirdheim) was ninth, the #1 GT-R (Masataka Yanagida) seventh, the #23 GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama) fifth, and the #12 GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda) third.
Cold rain fell from morning on the 17th, the day of the first race for both classes. Despite the inclement weather, 19,000 fans packed into Fuji Speedway. In the GT300 class, Katsumasa Chiyo in the #3 GT-R climbed to third place by lap six and was aiming for a spot on the podium, but was overtaken at the final corner of the last lap, crossing the finish line fourth, but by the narrowest of margins.
The first GT500-class race started in heavy rain. Hironobu Yasuda in the #24 GT-R started sixth, but it took time for his tires to warm up, and by lap four he had fallen back as far as eleventh place. He rallied and made his way back up to ninth by lap six. Due to the steadily worsening conditions, the Safety Car was called out on lap nine, and red flags were displayed three laps later, signaling the end of the race. Yasuda's result was decided from the position he held on lap ten, ninth.
Joao Paolo de Oliveira got the #12 GT-R off to a rocket start, entering the first corner in the top spot from seventh on the grid. He recorded the race's fastest lap on the third tour, drawing further ahead of the pack. However, since his car started moving just an instant before the start, it was judged to be a jump start and he received a drive-through penalty, making a pit stop at the end of lap four. He returned to the track in eighth, and was able to climb back up to sixth by the end of the race.
Michael Krumm was aboard the #23 GT-R, advancing three positions at the start, racing ahead into fifth place. On the second lap, he allowed the #1 GT-R to overtake and fell to sixth, but due to withdrawals and penalties for other cars, he had succeeded in rising to fourth by lap five. Later he was able to close the gap to the #6 SC430 ahead of him to within 0.6 seconds before the Safety Car came out on track and the race was halted. He didn't earn a place on the podium, but did take fourth place.
Quintarelli started the #1 GT-R from ninth on the grid. His Michelin tires were a perfect match for the wet track surface conditions and he quickly rose up the order. He was 6th on the first lap, 4th on lap two, then third the following lap, before taking second on lap five as he chased the then-leading #17 HSV-010. Just as the gap between the two rivals started to widen on lap nine, the top driver went into a spin, letting Quintarelli take over the top position with ease. On the same lap, the Safety Car entered came out on track, ending the race and giving the MOLA squad their second consecutive victory.
On the 18th, the last day of the three-day event, the weather was once again clear. Prior to the second race, a one-make race for former drivers called the Legend Cup was held, with 20 drivers including Coach Masahiro Hasemi, Team Director Masahiko Kondo and former champion Haruhito Yanagida participating in a fierce battle. Kazuyoshi Hoshino, who had heretofore sat out this race due to lower back pain, took part for the first time. In the NISSAN camp, Coach Hasemi finished highest in seventh place.
In the second GT300 race, Yuhi Sekiguchi in the #3 GT-R had an excellent start, working his way from fifth on the grid into a position to try for the top spot. However, at the first corner he collided with a rival car and spun, falling to last place. By lap four, he had made his way back to ninth, but had to make a pit stop on lap six for repairs to the damage on the right front corner of his car. He returned to the race after repairs were completed, but the two-lap delay saw him finish in nineteenth place.
The last race of the day was the second GT500 race. Masataka Yanagida in the #1 GT-R rose from a seventh place starting spot to fifth on the opening lap, but at the hairpin turn on the lap, he collided with the #35 SC430, sustaining damage to the right front fender, and forcing a pit stop on lap six for repairs. This caused him to fall to last place, but he was able to climb up one position on lap fifteen to finish in fourteenth position.
Tsugio Matsuda in the #12 GT-R started from third on the grid, and immediately climbed to second, but just as with de Oliveira the previous day, his getaway was ruled a jump start, and he received a drive-through penalty that he dealt with at the end of the fifth lap. Matsuda fell into last place for a time, but made a comeback, clawing his way up to eleventh place by lap nineteen and aiming for the top ten. He ended up crossing the finish line in the same position.
Bjorn Wirdheim in the #24 GT-R started ninth, rising through the ranks one by one, and succeeding in improving his position to fourth place by lap six. On lap eight he momentarily fell to fifth, but returned to fourth place on lap ten. However, from the middle of the race, his tires began to lose their grip, slowing his pace, and he allowed the #23 GT-R to overtake him on lap eighteen, near the end of the race. He crossed the finish line in fifth, and was able to make his presence felt in this race.
Satoshi Motoyama in the #23 GT-R got off to a slow start, falling to ninth place, but on lap six, he rose to sixth place, and at the thirteenth corner on lap twelve, he got around the #35 SC430 to rise to fifth place. He then closed in on the #24 GT-R, which had had a three-second lead, snatching away fourth place on lap eighteen, and holding onto the position to the flag. He didn't reach the victory stand, but did put on a spectacular chase.
At this event, which drew some 68,300 spectators over the three days, there was also an East versus West competition, with the Westerners taking their first victory this year. At the Grand Finale, held after sundown, all of the drivers who had taken part were assembled together. In the results for the GT500 class, the #23 GT-R was ranked fourth overall.