The Autopolis round, previously held in October, was moved to early summer. This 3rd round was held over May 31st and June 1st under midsummer esque temperatures that hovered around 30°C. It was decided for reasons of safety that in this and the next round the GT500 vehicles will use the aerodynamic parts that were used at Fuji.
KONDO RACING's #24 “D'station ADVAN GT-R” (Michael Krumm / Daiki Sasaki) was laden with a handicap weight of 16kg. In the 8 car, Q1 battle for top place Krumm smashed through in 4th, but in Q2 Sasaki couldn't break out of 8th and there the starting grid was finalized.
Although last round's defending champion and point leader, TEAM IMPUL's #12 “Calsonic IMPUL GT-R” (Hironobu Yasuda / Joao Paolo de Oliveira), was burdened with a coverted weight of 62kg (50kg equivalent fuel restrictor +12 kg weight), Yasuda managed to grab 8th place in Q1 and Oliveira 4th in Q2.
The #46 MOLA “S Road MOLA GT-R” (Satoshi Motoyama / Masataka Yanagida) competed with only an additional 2kg added to it's lightweight body. Yanagida took charge and majestically took the top position while Motoyama just missed 1st by the skin of his teeth to place them in 2nd. They had achieved a successive front row start.
The #23 NISMO “MOTUL AUTECH GT-R” (Tsugio Matsuda / Ronnie Quintarelli) was loaded with a handicap weight of 14kg. In Q1 Matsuda took 2nd, after which Quintarelli took pole position in Q2. As if already anticipating victory Quintarelli said, “Tomorrow's race is important. I want to have a trouble free run and take the win.”
In the GT300 class the NDDP RACING #3 “S Road NDDP GT-R” (Kazuki Hoshino / Lucas Ordonez) competed with a handicap weight of 28kg. There was a serious fight for pole amongst 13 of the 24 competing cars in which Ordonez broke through in 9th. Hoshino then took 3rd to put them in a fine starting position.
In addition the #30 “IWASAKI apr GT-R” (Iwasaki / Kageyama) qualified 10th, the #67 “STP TAISAN GAIA POWER GT-R” (Yokomizu / Mitsuyama) 16th, the #360 “OKINAWA IMP ▪ RUN UP GT-R”(Tanaka / Fujita) 20th, the #5 “Mach vehicle inspection with Transformers 30th” (Tamanaka / Yamano) 21st, and the #48 “DIJON Racing IS GT-R”(Takamori / Tanaka) 22nd.
The temperature also rose to about 30°C on race day. A crowd of 30,000 fans, mostly families, packed into the venue and one couldn't help but notice the large numbers of cars camped out to watch the race.
Krumm took the wheel for the first stint in the #24 GT-R and in the early stages of running in 8th, made contact with another car and lost a few places. After 21 laps he pitted to change tires and at lap 40 went in for a second time. Here he passed the machine over to Sasaki but at the first corner of lap 47, engine related trouble caused white smoke to pour out of the engine bay and force a stop. Their race finished in 13th place.
Oliveira started in the #12 GT-R and although he dropped one placing at lap 8, by lap 16 he had retaken his position and handed the wheel over to Yasuda in 3rd place. In the final stages, dispatch of the Safety Car (SC) extinguished their margin over the rear vehicles and this was followed up by electrical trouble that made upshifting difficult and rendered 6th gear unusable. Still Yasuda was able to keep the competition at bay and bring the car home in 3rd.
Motoyama started in the #46 GT-R and immediately began chasing after the #23 GT-R. There was an incident in which he made light contact with the leading #23 GT-R but neither vehicle received significant damage and in the last half Yanagida held their position to pass the checkered flag in 2nd. Their first podium finish of the season.
In the #23 GT-R, Quintarelli sped through the first half of the race without even once conceding his position to the competition. He then pitted on lap 37 to pass the charge to Matsuda. Matsuda built up a 17 second lead over the 2nd car in the latter half but unfortunately the SC made an appearance and his margin was lost. Still, he continued to pull away from the pack after the restart and take their first victory of the season.
Matsuda went on to say, “In the races until now we've had some unpleasant experiences, but things flowed smoothly this time right from the quaifier. Still it seems we aren't allowed to win without a struggle, are we?” Quintarelli followed saying, “I've finally been able to win in my second year since starting at NISMO. To the Nissan and NISMO fans, sorry to keep you waiting. We'll keep fighting to climb the rankings.” This is the first time Nissan has completely dominated the podium in 19 years!
In the GT300 class, Ordonez took the reigns to begin with in the #3 GT-R and although he dropped down to 4th, Hoshino began a fervant fight for 3rd. Although their result was a consecutive 4th, Hoshino was positive and stated “the drivers and teams produced the best result they could, so we feel satisfied. We are able to make a fight for the title so we'll continue fighting from here on.”
The #67 GT-R climbed up to 9th and took a consecutive top 10 finish, the #5 GT-R came 20th, the #360 GT-R 21st, and the #48 GT-R 22nd. Despite running in 6th the #30 GT-R had a large crash at the first corner on lap 43 and was regrettably forced to retire. Fortunately the driver was not seriously injured.