The FUJI GT 500KM RACE, Round 2 of the 2012 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, took place on the afternoon of May 4th at Fuji Speedway in Shizuoka Pref. The GT500 class winner was the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 driven by Juichi Wakisaka and Hiroaki Ishiura. In the GT300 class, the No. 0 GSR HATSUNEMIKU BMW (Nobuteru Taniguchi/Tatsuya Kataoka).
After a confused early going, DENSO SC430 takes the lead mid-race, but ...
A light rain began to fall on the starting grid as the time for the formation lap approached at 2:00 in the afternoon. This brought out the safety car to lead the start of the 110-lap race. It this point, all of the cars were still fitted with slick tires.
Shortly after the start, the rain grew heavier and after the opening lap behind the safety car the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 driven by Kazuki Nakajima became the first to return to the pit to change to rain tires. At the end of the second lap, all the cars in the GT500 class with the exception of the No. 8 ARTA HSV-010 (Ralph Firman) and the already re-fitted No. 36 returned to the pit. With the lead order now changed and the SC finally off the track, the race began in earnest from the end of the third lap. At this point the order of the top six machines was the No. 8 ARTA HSV-010 in the lead followed by the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430, No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 (Kazuya Oshima), No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama), No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 (Yuji Tachikawa) and the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 (Hiroaki Ishiura). But, being the only machine still on slick tires, the No. 8 ARTA HSV-010 couldn't hold the pace, and by the 4th lap it had dropped to the back of the pack. On the next lap No. 8 collided with a GT300 class car, sustaining serious damage to the front end that forced it out of the race.
Now it was the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 that held the lead, followed by the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 and No. 32 EPSON HSV-010 (Yuhki Nakayama). By the seventh lap the rain began to lift and the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R caught and passed the No. 32 EPSON HSV-010 to move into 3rd position.
Moving up in the rear, the No. 24 D'station ADVAN GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda) and No. 32 EPSON HSV-010, as well as the No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli), No. 35 KeePer Kraft SC430 (Andrea Caldarelli) and No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN SC430 (Seiji Ara) had all changed to slick tires but were as yet unable to catch the lead group.
Seeing the improved track condition, the leading No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430returned to the pit on the 15th lap. At the same time the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R running in 3rd position also returned to change tires and moved ahead of the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 with a faster pit stop.
The No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 that had been running in the lead in the meantime returned to the pit on the 17th lap to change to slick tires, but just after getting back on the track it overran the first turn. It hit a GT300 and was given a drive-through penalty that dropped it out of competition for the lead.
This put the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Joao Paulo de Oliveira) in the lead until it returned to the pit on lap 21, leaving the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 in the lead until it also made a pit stop on the 26th lap.
Amid the rapidly changing conditions, all the teams had to change their race strategies. This was evident when the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 that had taken over the lead on lap 27 stretched its initial stint on to the 45th lap before returning to the pit and changing drivers from Ishiura to Juichi Wakisaka. At the same time, the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 in 2nd position made a pit stop and changed drivers from Nakajima to Richard Lyons, leaving the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda) to take the lead again, with the No. 100 RAYBRIG HSV-010 (Naoki Yamamoto) moving into 2nd position.
By the middle stages of the race, the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R had built up a lead of over 20 seconds, but then a GT300 machine suffered a big crash at the end of the straight on the 62nd lap. This brought out the Safety Car , and when the entrance to the pit area was finally opened again on lap 65, the two leading machines, the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R and the No. 100 RAYBRIG HSV-010, both rushed into the pits at the same time.
This move put Wakisaka in the lead in the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 fighting a three-way battle with the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R and the No. 17 KEIHIN HSV-010 (Koudai Tsukakoshi). Wakisaka skillfully prevailed and was able to turn the wheel over to teammate Ishiura again with the lead intact on lap 82.
The CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R's final gamble
Looking to run a long stint from lap 65, No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Oliveira) managed well in maintaining a roughly 10-second gap with the No. 100 RAYBRIG HSV-010 (Takuya Izawa) in 2nd and was able to pass the 90th lap in the lead, but then it began to rain again!
Oliveira struggled to hold the lead until the 103rd lap before rushing back to the pit and changing to intermediate tires. Unlike him, No. 100 RAYBRIG HSV-010, No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 and the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R chose to stay out on the track running as they were.
That turned out to be the right choice, as the rain stopped quicker than expected. Racing on the tricky tack conditions, the fleeing No. 100 RAYBRIG HSV-010 was caught on the 106th lap and passed by the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 in an exciting reverse of fortunes that gave No. 39's team their long-awaited first victory in eight years, since the Sepang round of 2004.
Finishing 2nd for the second race in a row was the No. 100 RAYBRIG HSV-010. In 3rd came the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R, while the No.12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R that had been so close to victory was passed finally by the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 to end the race in 5th place.
Skilled racing and good luck bring victory to GSR HATSUNEMIKU BMW!
The triple a Vantage GT3 runs strong off its debut win in round one
From the confusion following the start of the GT300 class race, it was the No. 88 MANEPA LAMBORGHINI GT3 (Takayuki Aoki) that took the lead, having been quick to change to rain tires. It was followed in order by the No. 15 ART TASTE PORSCHE (Yorg Bergmeister) and the No. 11 GAINER DIXCEL R8 LMS (Katsuyuki Hiranaka). Then it was No. 15 that was quickest to change back to slick tires on lap nine and emerged as the leader through the early stages of the race, followed by No. 11, the No. 66 triple a Vantage GT3 (Kazuki Hoshino), No. 33 HANKOOK PORSCHE (Masami Kageyama) and the No. 3 S Road NDDP GT-R (Yuhi Sekiguchi). Meanwhile, the No. 0 GSR HATSUNEMIKU BMW waited until the 14th lap before changing to slick tires. At this point the team also changed drivers from Nobuteru Taniguchi to Tatsuya Kataoka, with a strategy of stretching out Kataoka's stint.
Through the middle stages of the race it was the leading No. 15 that maintained an especially fast pace, about one second per lap faster than the trailing No. 66 and No. 11. By the time of its pit stop and change of drivers from Jorg to Tim Bergmeister on lap 35, No. 15 had built up a nearly 30-second lead over No. 66 in 2nd place. Now behind the wheel, Tim maintained the pace, even recording a faster best lap time than Jorg's. Having dropped to 7th position with their pit stop, Tim quickly recovered to 2nd position within the space of 12 laps. But then, an unexpected accident awaited. Half way down the straight of the 58th lap, the machine suddenly tilted and went out of control, hitting hard against the guard rail near the pit exit. The Safety Car came out to slow the race until the driver could be rescued and the machine moved away. The driver, Tim's life was not in danger but he had suffered heavy blows to the head and body and was badly injured. After emergency treatment by the FRO doctor, Tim was transported by medical helicopter to a nearby hospital for further treatment.
As the race entered the 64th lap, the No. 66 triple a Vantage GT2 (Hiroki Yoshimoto) was in the lead. Giving chase was the No. 11 GAINER DIXCEL R8 LMS (Tetsuya Tanaka) and the No. 0 GSR HATSUNEMIKU BMW (Kataoka > Taniguchi), which had progress steadily after its early driver change. Behind No. 0 came the No. 911 ENDLESS TAISAN 911 (Kosuke Mineo), the No. 43 ARTA Garaiya (Kosuke Matsuura > Shinichi Takagi) and the No. 87 JLOC LAMBORGHINI GT3 (Hideki Yamauchi).
Victory goes to the team that overcomes the most threats
The last cars to change drivers before the Safety Car came out were No. 0 and No. 43. The three cars running in the lead at this point, No. 66, No. 11 and No. 911, still had another pit stop to make. Also, because of their high fuel consumption rate, they would need more time for refueling. Knowing this, cars No. 66, No. 11 and No. 911 were pushing as fast as they could go. Meanwhile, running at a pace that would conserve fuel to make it to the finish in a carefully calculated plan, No. 0 (Taniguchi) had dropped to 5th position at one point. Also, the No. 2 EVANGELIONRT RT Test Type-01 Apple Shiden that had made a pit stop during the Safety Run and changed drivers from Kazuho Takahashi to Hiroki Katoh was moving up from 8th position.
There was a gap of up to 30 seconds between No. 66 and , which had to make one more pit stop, and cars No. 0 and No. 43 that could make it to the finish without one. But it would be difficult for No. 66 and No. 11 to stay in front after their pit stops. Also, perhaps confident that there was enough gas to make it to the finish, Taniguchi in No. 0 was picking up the pace in a concerted sprint. But then, seeming disaster struck Taniguchi. He was hit by the GT500 car No. 18 Weider HSV-010 (Takashi Kogure) and spun out. This enabled cars No. 43 and No. 2 to get past, dropping Taniguchi to the tentative 3rd position.
Lady Luck hadn't deserted car No. 0, however. Around this time it began to rain again, quickly making the track slippery. With his experience as a Drift driver and his well-earned reputation for skill in machine control on a slippery track, Taniguchi was once again giving chase at a pace faster than the leaders. When No. 66 (Yoshimoto > Hoshino) and No. 11 (Tanaka > Hiranaka) made their final pit stops, Takagi in car No. 43 assumed the lead. Chasing him came Kato in car No. 2 and Taniguchi in No. 0.
It turned out that No. 43 was the car Lady Luck turned her back on. Despite having taken the lead, its tires and machine were not performing well on the slippery track. Eventually No. 0 (Taniguchi), having already dispatched No. 2 (Kato), caught and passed No. 43 to claim the lead for the third time in the race, and just eight laps remained. Leaving No. 2 and No. 43 behind to battle it out for 2nd place, Taniguchi (No. 0) pulled away to the win.
It was the first win this season for last year's champions and bearers of the coveted "0" race number, the GSR HATSUNEMIKU BMW (Taniguchi/Kataoka). This win propelled them to the top of the drivers championship point ranking.
Having passed No. 43, the No. 2 EVANGELION RT Test Type-01 Apple Shiden (Kazuho Takahashi/Hiroki Katoh) finished the race 2nd. Battling for the third rung on the winners' podium was car No. 43, still struggling to keep pace, and car No. 66, which was racing to regain ground after its pit stop. The winner of this contest was the No. 66 triple a vantage GT3 (Yoshimoto/Hoshino), enabling the team to celebrate the debut race of their new FIA GT3 machine with a podium finish. Finishing 4th was the No. 43 ARTA Garaiya (Takagi/Matsuura), while the winner of the last race, the No.11 GAINER DIXCEL R8 LMS (Tanaka/Hiranaka) finished 5th, putting them in 2nd position in the drivers' ranking.
GT500: No.39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430
Juichi Wakisaka : "It feels great to be able to give the team a victory. Previously I had teamed with Andre Lotterer (GT champion, Le Mans 24 winner), and now I believe that Ishiura-san is every bit his equal. He has matured into an outstanding driver (laughs). When we won, the team president, Shin Kato was crying. I was truly happy to see that."
Hiroaki Ishiura : "Today's was a mentally exhausting race (grimace). After coming to this team [last year] that have created an excellent environment for me, and Wakisaka san has joined us now, so I really wanted to get good results this year. During the race there were some moments when I thought we were really unlucky and I didn't even know what place I was running in at some points. I just tried to concentrate on passing whoever appeared in front of me. There were a lot of frustrations last year when we couldn't win, so I got a bit chocked up after crossing the finish line. I am grateful to the Lexus team and to Wakisaka-san."
GT300: No.0 GSR HATSUNEMIKU BMW
Nobuteru Taniguchi : "With the rain and all, it was truly a messy race (laughs). To be able to win it makes me very happy. Kataoka got the lead mid-way through the race before turning the wheel over to me. That was the reason we won, I believe. I drove the second stint without letting up at all. When I was hit by a GT500 car and spun out, it almost made my heart stop. But, I was determined not to let that defeat me and kept pushing hard."
Tatsuya Kataoka : "I got the wheel and was able to get into the lead at mid-race, but then when I got hit [running off the course and losing several places] I thought it was all over. But, then Taniguchi-san went out in the end and it started to rain. I thought we had a chance then. Watching from the pit, Taniguchi-san was driving incredibly well, so made me confident. The team calculated the fuel consumption very skillfully, and that was another wonderful factor. Taniguchi-san drove so well in the tough conditions with the rain at the beginning and end of the race and gave us a real team victory. It is our first win since I came to this team, so I am especially happy with it."