The stage for Round 3 of the 2013 SUPER GT series was Malaysia's Sepang International Circuit. Nissan's affinity with the Equatorial track is well known, the manufacturer having won a total of six times from twelve starts, including one exhibition race victory. Qualifying on the 15 June and the race (16 June) were scheduled for the evening, in order to avoid the strong daytime sunlight and high temperatures.
Qualifying began at 16:30 on the 15th with the ambient temperature hovering around 32 degrees Celsius. Running without any handicap weight, the #24 D'station ADVAN GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda/Michael Krumm) from KONDO RACING did not advance to Q2 after Krumm set the 14th-quickest time, his performance determining the car's grid position.
NISMO's #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Masataka Yanagida /Ronnie Quintarelli) was carrying 22kgs' success ballast. It was decided that Yanagida would pilot the car in Q1 with the aim of advancing to the top eight in Q2. This goal was missed however, the car ending up ninth and out of Q2 for the first time this season.
The handicap weight in the #1 REITO MOLA GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama/Yuhi Sekiguchi) was a scant 6kgs, and advancing to the top group was expected. Sekiguchi attacked in Q1, sucessfully setting the fourth-quickest time. With track temperature dropping slightly for Q2, Motoyama put the car 6th, ensuring a third-row start.
Despite TEAM IMPUL's #12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/Joao Paolo de Oliveira) carrying 22kgs' success ballast, Matsuda topped the timesheets in Q1, guaranteeing a berth in Q2. Oliveira repeated the feat in Q2, earning the team's first pole position since last year's Fuji round in September. Team Director Kazuyoshi Hoshino let out a roar the moment pole was secured.
Having yet to score points this season, the GT300-class NDDP RACING-entered #3 S Road NDDP GT-R (Kazuki Hoshino/Daiki Sasaki) netted 17th in Q1 with Hoshino at the wheel, deciding their grid position on the spot as only the top 13 machines advanced to Q2.
Meanwhile, in the #48 DIJON Racing IS GT-R (Hiroshi Takamori/Katsumsa Chiyo), Chiyo scored the sixth-quickest time in Q1, while Takamori took 13th in Q2. In the 2012-model #360 RUN UP GROUP GT-R (Takuya Shirasaka/Atsushi Tanaka), Shirasaka was 21st in Q1, setting the team's starting grid position. The race was expected to be one of playing catch-up and survival.
The morning of the 16th dawned bright and clear, though gradually clouded over. With an ambient temperature of 32 degrees and the track measuring 40 Celsius, the 54-lap race got underway at precisely 16:04 in front of 67,000 fans. The #12 GT-R set off in the lead, protecting its position.
Using Yokohama rubber, favored in hot conditions, the 2007 and 2008-winning #24 GT-R was expected to do well at Sepang. Krumm took charge in the opening stint, handing over to Yasuda on lap 26. With a steady run, Yasuda crossed the finish line in 13th place, having advanced one place from their starting position.
In the #23 GT-R, Quintarelli took the start, advancing to 6th by lap 9. However at the final corner on lap 22, he made contact with another car. He pitted on lap 24, handing over to teammate Yanagida, who subsequently had to serve a drive-through penalty for the earlier contact, dropping the car to 11th. Recovering to ninth by the flag, the team's effort paid out with two championship points.
Sekiguchi was the starting driver in the #1 GT-R, and moved up to 4th place on the opening lap. He then advanced to third on lap 5. However, he made contact with the 2nd-placed machine at turn 14 on lap 6. Although no penalty was incurred, the incident saw the car drop to seventh. He pitted on lap 23 to hand over to Motoyama, the veteran driving steadily throughout his stint to finish in sixth place.
In the #12 GT-R, Matsuda protected his position at the head of the field until getting passed at turn 14 on lap 18. He made his stop on lap 25, handing the wheel to Oliveira. Deft pitwork by the team saw the car return to the top spot on lap 27. From there, Oliveira maintained the gap at the front, crossing the line in 1st place. It was the team's first victory since last year's Round 6 at Fuji Speedway.
“I'm very happy we were able to win such a difficult race. I look forward to not making any mistakes throughout the second half of the season,” said Matsuda. Oliveira commented, “I thought that for this race it was important to take pole position. I was fortunate in that I had a couple of clear laps from my out lap. This victory is down to teamwork.” The win moves the pair up to 2nd in the points.
In the GT300-class #3 GT-R, Sasaki started 17th, moving up to eleventh before pitting on lap 25. Hoshino took over for the second half, advancing to 10th on lap 45, the position in which he reached the flag. Despite struggling, the result sees the team take its first points of 2013. They are expected to catch up in the middle of the season.
As for the other GT-Rs in GT300, Takamori took charge for the start in the #48 GT-R, with Chiyo trying to get into the points in the race's second half. He was unsuccessful, reaching the finish in 13th place. The #360 GT-R had Shirasaka hand over to Tanaka, who put in a steady drive to finish 18th.