JAF GP Fuji Sprint Cup - Fuji Speedway Nov 23 - 24
The special post-season round “JAF Grand Prix FUJI SPRINT CUP 2013”, featuring SUPER FORMULA and SUPER GT took place from November 22 to 24 at Fuji Speedway. SUPER GT, normally run to a semi-endurance format, had two sprint races of 22 laps (approx. 100km) each, one for each driver, and also used standing starts. The entire weekend was blessed with sunny weather, and views of Mt. Fuji were particularly captivating with its fresh cap of snow. Qualifying was held on the morning of the 23rd.
The first race was Race 1 for the GT300 class, and Daiki Sasaki in NDDP RACING's #3 S Raod NDDP GT-R took pole position. He made a poor start however, falling to 7th. Nevertheless, a relentless fightback saw him take 2nd place on lap 16. The battle for the top was decided when the leader's tire burst and Sasaki was through. On "Day of Nice Nissan"(11-23 could be meant it via Japanese pronaunciation as say Ii-Nissan) enthused the driver after taking the car's the first victory of the season.
A.Buncombe was deprived of the top spot when he qualified his #35 NISMO ATHLETE GT-R GT3, competing part of the NISMO Global Driver Exchange Program, 3rd on the grid on his the first race in Japan. His earlier hard work came to naught when a tire burst on lap 17 and he finished in 19th. Meanwhile, the #30 GT-R of I.Sushko got rear-ended and finished in 20th, the #5 GT-R of J.Yamashita came home in 10th, and the #48 GT-R with K.Chiyo driving, reached the flag in 4th.
The first GT500 race got underway at 15:35. Piloting the #1 REITO MOLA GT-R, Yuhi Sekiguchi started from 11th, and in the early laps was embroiled in a five-way battle for 7th place. With his pace gradually fading, Sekiguchi pitted on lap 13, and the team decided to retire the car due to machine trouble.
Hironobu Yasuda qualified the #24 D'station ADVAN GT-R of KONDO RACING in 10th, but unable to get sufficient heat into his tires, fell to 15th on the opening lap. From that point however, he was able to pick up the pace and by lap 16 had advanced to 9th. He dropped one position on lap 19, eventually finishing in 10th.
Tsugio Matsuda qualified #12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R 9th, and with skillful maneuvering during the chaos at the start, was moving up to 5th by the haripin on the opening lap. He dropped one position on lap 6, but then ran on his own. Although he was caught the #23 GT-R in the race's final stages on lap 20, those two cars made battle on the braking which caused losing balance on #23 GT-R and contacts at the first turn on lap 21. #12 GT-R had damage on Front-bumper on this incident, he finished in 8th eventually.
Starting from 6th in NISMO's #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R, Ronnie Quintarelli was move up to 4th right away, but less-than-optimal tire-matching to the track surface conditions meant the car soon dropped back to its original position, before falling further to 8th place on lap 4. Despite catching the cars ahead in the race's later stages, getting around the #12 GT-R proved difficult, and contact was made at the first turn on lap 21. He moved up one position on the final lap to finish 7th.
The 24th saw over 39,000 motor sport fans at the circuit, the LEGENDS CUP attracting scores of enthusiasts eager to see their racing heroes from yesteryear. They included Director Masahiro Hasemi, the father/son duos of Kazuyoshi/Kazuki Hoshino and Haruhito/Masataka Yanagida, also Masahiko Kondo among the 23 entries. Boosting the excitement was a mandatory driver switch during the 10-lap race, and plenty of battle or penalties made peculiar excitement around the circuit.
The second GT300 race started at 14:05 on the 24th. Despite winning pole position, Kazuki Hoshino regrettably jumped the start, incurring a drive-through penalty that dropped him to the back of the pack, in 22nd. Upon his return to the track, Hoshino put in a spirited performance and had passed fifteen cars to run 7th by lap 19, the position in which he finished.
Starting from 5th, the #35 GT-R of Lucas Ordonez was up to 2nd place by lap 8, with his eyes set firmly on taking over the lead. Misfortune struck however, and on lap 14 Ordonez had to pit for fresh rear tires due to mechanical problem. He went on to finish 18th. Celebrating his 100th GT start, Tetsuya Tamanaka in the #5 GT-R unfortunately retired in the early stages. Hiroshi Takamori in the #48 GT-R finshed in 20th while the #30 GT-R of Yuki Iwasaki was classified in 11th.
The second GT500 race got underway at 15:35 on the 24th as finale for the whole event. Satoshi Motoyama, who left the line from 10th in the #1 GT-R, was up to 8th by lap 3. However, a visit to the pit to change tires was in order on lap 16 after a steady decline in pace. He came back to fight on track, reaching the checkered flag in 15th place.
The #23 GT-R had Masataka Yanagida behind the wheel for its 4th-place start. Getting caught up in the confusion immediately after saw him drop to 7th on the opening lap, then fall to 10th by lap 4 as he struggled to increasing his pace. He did however make up one position, getting past the #1 GT-R on lap 8. By the time the flag fell he had dropped back to 14th place.
Michael Krumm started the #24 D'station ADVAN GT-R from 12th, just dropping one position on the opening lap, but taking it back the position on lap 3. His tenacious run saw him fight for 9th with a gaggle of other cars on lap 14, and moved into 10th position. He made up one more place towards the end of the race, but was 10th when he crossed the line.
Joao Paolo de Oliveira took part in his second race of the day, following his earlier SUPER FORMULA outing. Qualifying 7th, he made a dramatically good start, leaping into 3rd. Then he was calmly maintaining the position while managing his tires. Though unable to match the pace of the leading pair, he took the 3rd step on the podium, placing highest among the GT-Rs.
At the JAF Grand Prix prize giving held afterwards, the driver combination of Hoshino and Sasaki took second place overall in the GT300-class standings, and stood on the podium as darkness approached. This was the last of four years of the JAF GP being held at Fuji. Next year's special GT event will be an All-Star race (venue, date and time T.B.A.).