The SUPER GT INTERNATIONAL SERIES MALAYSIA race, Round 3 of the 2012 AUTOBACS SUPER GT, was run at the Sepang International Circuit (Malaysia) on June 10. In the GT500 class, the winner was the No. 18 Weider HSV-010 (Takashi Kogure/Carlo Van Dam). In the GT300 class race, the win went to the No. 33 HANKOOK PORSCHE (Masami Kageyama/ Tomonobu Fujii).
Kogure aces the start from pole position
As predicted, a scorching tropical sun shone down and raised the track surface temperature to over 50 degrees C. at the time of the 4:00 afternoon start of the race. The formation start of the race lasted for two laps, which reduced the planned race length by one lap to a total of 53 laps instead of 54.
For the GT500 class it was a relatively clean start with the pole-sitting No. 18 Weider HSV-010 (Takashi Kogure) getting the hole shot, followed by the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 (Kohei Hirate), No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama), No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Joao Paulo de Oliveira) and the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 (Loic Duval). At the back of the pack, the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 (Daisuke Ito) that had experienced machine trouble in Saturday's qualifying had already moved up two positions on the first lap to move into 13th place.
The cars went into the second lap in this order but about halfway down the back stretch, the right rear tire of the No. 24 D'station ADVAN GT-R (Bjorn Wirdheim) running in 7th position suddenly burst, forcing it back to the pit where the decision was made to retire from the race.
Running in the lead, the No. 18 Weider HSV-010 had opened up a lead of about 1.2 sec. over the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 in 2nd position on the first lap and gradually continued to widen the gap. Behind the leader and the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 in 2nd position, the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R pulled up alongside the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R around the last corner of lap four. The two machines continued to run side-by-side for another lap before the CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R managed to pull ahead and secure 3rd position. Unable to hold the pace, the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R struggled and was finally passed by the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 on the eighth lap. Meanwhile, the No. 32 EPSON HSV-010 (Ryo Michigami) also suffered from tire trouble and was forced to make an emergency pit stop.
By the time the leading No. 18 Weider HSV-010 and the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 began to come up on GT300 class back-markers, the gap between the two machines had grown to about three seconds, but Hirate in the ZENT CERUMO SC430 held on and refused to let the Weider HSV-010 run away from him.
As the pace among the group from 3rd place back began to slow, the one car that continued to chase the two lead machines at a strong pace was the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430. On lap 16 it caught the No. 100 RAYBRIG HSV-010 (Takuya Izawa) and moved up into 6th position. Continuing his hard charge, Ito in the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 also caught and passed the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R on lap 18.
GT500 rookie Van Dam holds off Tachikawa
As the GT500 class machines gradually began to make their routine pit stops from around the 20th lap of the race, the two lead machines continued to battle on with a gap of about three seconds separating them. With the machines near the front making their pit stops, the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 finally rose to 3rd position on the 25th lap. Ahead of it, the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 was the first of the two leaders to return to the pit on lap 26 and change drivers from Hirate to Yuji Tachikawa. Seeing this, the No. 18 Weider HSV-010 also made its pit stop on the next lap, changing drivers from Kogure to Carlo Van Dam. After that it became a dual between the GT500 rookie [Van Dam] and the accomplished veteran [Tachikawa] pursuing him.
Having returned to the race one lap earlier and having warmed up its tires sufficiently, the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 (Tachikawa) managed to close to within 0.3 sec. of the No. 18 Weider HSV-010 (Van Dam) running in the lead on its first lap out of the pit. But, Van Dam hung onto his diminished lead and made it hard for Tachikawa to make a move.
The battle between the two leaders continued into the closing stages of the race, but in the end the No. 18 Weider HSV-010 was able to pull away from the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 again, perhaps because of the 46 kg in handicap weights the latter carried, and take a pole-to-finish victory, its first of the season. In addition to helping give the team its second consecutive win at Sepang, the rookie Van Dam also got his own first win in the GT500 class. Although the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 had to settle for 2nd place, this result put it atop the season point ranking again.
Meanwhile, the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 that had excited the crowd with its hard charge from the back of the pack continued to thrill them in the second half of the race. Having taken over the wheel from Ito, Kazuya Oshima dropped to 5th position at one point after the pit stop but rallied again to pass the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 (Kazuki Nakajima) and the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda) to end the race on the podium in 3rd place. It was quite a feat considering the fact that the team had started from the very back of the GT500 grid due to qualifying troubles. The No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 (Juichi Wakisaka) finished the race in 4th place after passing the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R on lap 49, but the other Michelin user in the race, the No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Masataka Yanagida) suffered a right front tire burst due to mechanical trouble on the fourth turn of lap 45 that caused it to spin out and retire from the race, taking with it the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 it had been battling for 6th place with.
HANKOOK PORSCHE turns around Sepang jinx to win from pole position
Upsets cloud the start of the race
In the GT300 class race as well, it was the pole sitter that got the hole shot, as Masami Kageyama in the No. 33 HANKOOK PORSCHE made a perfect start and took the lead. Behind No. 33, however, things weren't going so smoothly. Having followed the HANKOOK PORSCHE into the first turn after the start, the No. 911 ENDLESS TAISAN 911 (Naoki Yokomizo) spun out and came to a stop on the track. Fortunately it didn't result in a multi-car crash but it did send one of the race favorites, the ENDLESS TAISAN 911, to the very back of the pack. Chasing the HANKOOK PORSCHE now were two Lamborghinis, the No. 87 JLOC LAMBORGHINI GT3 (Koji Yamanishi) and the No. 88 MonePa LAMBORGHINI GT3 (Manabu Orido). Through the early stages of the race these two machines often ran side-by-side in a pitched battle for 2nd, with the MonePa LAMBORGHINI GT3 eventually coming out with a firm hold on 2nd. Still, the pace of the HANKOOK PORSCHE was clearly faster then the rest of the pack. By around the 20th lap, the HANKOOK PORSCHE had built up a lead of more than 10 seconds over the MonePa LAMBORGHINI GT3 in 2nd. Behind them, the ENDLESS TAISAN 911 Porsche was charging hard to the front to regain the ground it had lost. By lap 20 it had managed to recover to 6th place, and three laps later it took 5th place.
The leading HANKOOK PORSCHE made its routine pit stop on the 25th lap, with Kageyama turning over the wheel to teammate Tomonobu Fujii. During its absence from the race, the No. 2 EVANGELION RT TEST-01 PETRONAS Shiden (Hiroki Katoh) took over the lead momentarily, having stretched out its first stint longer than the other teams. But, when the Shiden made its pit stop on lap 32 (changing drivers to Kazuho Takahashi) the HANKOOK PORSCHE reclaimed the lead. At this point the HANKOOK PORSCHE was 20 seconds ahead of the second place machine, which was now the No. 0 GSR HATSUNEMIKUBMW (Tatsuya Kataoka > Nobuteru Taniguchi) that had started the race in 7th place and run in 8th or 9th place in the early stages of the race. No. 0 had made an early pit stop on the 19th lap and had moved up by skipping their tire change, with a strategy of running the entire race on one set of tires. Of course, they were only be able to hold on to 2nd place after all the teams' pit stops were finished because of Kataoka's fuel-efficient driving and the ability of last season's champion Taniguchi's ability to run at a pace equal to the other machines as his tire performance inevitably deteriorated. Meanwhile, the No. 88 and No. 87 Lamborghinis had taken more time in the pit and further machine trouble would serve to keep them from finishing among the leaders. Also, the No. 2 Shiden failed to maintain its pace in the second half of the race and was eventually passed by the ENDLESS TAISAN 911 (Kyosuke Mineo), the No. 3 S Road NDDP GT-R (Katsumasa Chiyo) and the No. 66 triple a vantage GT3 (Kazuki Hoshino > Hiroki Yoshimoto) that had held out despite transmission trouble from the qualifying.
A dramatic finish! What happened to the GSR HATSUNEMIKU BMW?
In the closing stages of the GT300 race, the leaders were the HANKOOK PORSCHE, the GSR HATSUNEMIKU BMW some 20 second behind and the ENDLESS TAISAN 911 and S Road NDDP GT-R battling for 3rd another 3 seconds back. That battle for 3rd would come down to the last lap. First to cross the finish line was the HANKOOK PORSCHE, having completed a magnificent win from pole position. Long having been considered badly suited for the Sepang track, the HANKOOK PORSCHE broke that jinx by taking its first win ever in the Malaysia round. It is also interesting to note that it was the first win ever at Sepang for the perennial GT powerhouse, Porsche.
But one more upset was waiting at the very end of the race. The GSR HATSUNEMIKU BMW that had been on course to finish 2nd never appeared on the final straight. Instead it was the ENDLESS TAISAN 911 that took the checkered in 2nd place. The final place on the podium went to the No. 66 triple a vantage GT3, which had somehow managed to hold out despite transmission trouble.
It turned out that the No. 0 GSR HATSUNEMIKU BMW ran out of gas with just half a lap remaining in the race. As the series point leader, No. 0 had tried to make up for its heavy load of handicap weights by not only skipping their tire change but also further shortening their time in the pit by adding as little fuel as possible. That strategy had gone wrong at the last minute. With this no-pointer, No. 0 gave up the lead in the point ranking to the 2nd-place finishing ENDLESS TAISAN 911 (Mineo/Yokomizo). As for the No. 11 GAINER DIXCEL R8 LMS (Tetsuya Tanaka > Katsuyuki Hiranaka) that had stood 2nd in the ranking after round two, it only managed to score 4 points with a 7th place after coming out on top in a battle with the No. 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT (Tetsuya Yamane > Kota Sasaki). This change in the ranking order makes the rest of the title race all the more interesting.
GT500: No.18 weider HSV-010
Takashi Kogure : "It was my first experience starting from pole position in quite a while and I was a bit nervous. The start went well but during the first stint I was driving, the feeling of track grip wasn't good yet and it was especially hard maintaining front tire hold. Since I had driven the second stint last year I knew it wouldn't be bad, and Carlo ran well and kept a 3-second margin for us to the end for the win. I am grateful to the team for setting up the car so well and to Carlo also."
Carlo Van Dam : "I feel great. But, it wasn't and easy race. As I watched Kogure-san racing on the monitor in the first half, I kept telling myself not to get tense. First of all I want to thank Kogure-san for this win. And I want to thank the team, too. It is just my third race since moving up to the GT500 class, so I am grateful to the team and Honda for giving a driver with such little experience this opportunity."
GT300: No.33 HANKOOK PORSCHE
Masami Kageyama : "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 It may have looked like an easy race since I started from the pole position and kept the lead, but to tell the truth, the first half wasn't as easy as it might have seemed to an onlooker. This is a course where it a car can easily come up on you from behind, so I wanted to give Fujii as much of a margin as possible for the second half. But, it wasn't easy to open up such a lead. Tire management was also quite difficult in the early stages of the race. It turned out that we were able to win with not threat, which makes me realize that there really can be wins like this."
Tomonobu Fujii : "I think it must have been hard in the first half of the race before the track grip improved, but the rivals that we thought would he a threat were gone, so I was able to conserve my tires as I ran in the latter stages. Still we were able to win this easily at the Sepang track which has always been a bad one for Hankook tires (wry laugh)."