The race of Round 4 of the 2012 AUTOBACS SUPER GT, "SUGO GT 400km RACE" was held in the afternoon of July 29 at Sportsland SUGO (Miyagi prefecture). Winning the GT500 class was No.6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430, driven by Daisuke Ito and Kazuya Oshima, with the GT 300 class won by No.3 S Road NDDP GT-R, piloted by Yuhi Sekiguchi and Katsumasa Chiyo.
Weather: Clear Course: Dry
Temperature/track temperature: Beginning of the race: 31°C./42°C., Midpoint: 31°C./40°C.
Turmoil breaks out right after the start
About an hour and a half before the start of the race, sudden squall-like rains covered the circuit with water, but the track surface dried quickly and Sportsland SUGO was back to perfectly dry conditions. The temperature was 31° C., and the temperature of the track was 42° C. at two o'clock in the afternoon when the race formation lap began. After one lap, the 81-lap battle began.
When the green light went on, the top group sped toward the first corner, but No.6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 (Daisuke Ito/ Kazuya Oshima) held back No.23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama) on the outside, when No.12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Joan Paulo de Oliveira) that had started in third position on the grid pulled inside and appeared to take over the lead, but the rear tire of the No.12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R made contact with the right front of the ENEOS SUSTINA SC430. This upset the balance of the No.12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R which got wrapped up with the MOTUL AUTECH GT-R on the very outside, forcing both machines off the course where they crashed into the tire barrier. Unbelievably, the second and third grid sitters, two GT-Rs that had drawn a lot of attention in the final, were out of the race in an instant.
Fortunately, the ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 that had been involved in the freak accident did not sustain any major damage, and kept the lead. Taking the place of the GT-Rs in the second and third spots were No.35 KeePer Kraft SC430 (Andrea Caldarelli) and No.36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 (Loic Duval), following them were No.1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli) and No.17 KEIHIN HSV-010 (Toshihiro Kaneishi).
The ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 in front tried to increase its lead while the KeePer Kraft SC430 and PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 battled for position behind it, but already by the fifth lap back markers began to appear, making it unable to increase its margin. On lap six, No.17 KEIHIN HSV-010 was overtaken by No.38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 and No.39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 who rose to fifth and sixth. Of the top six machines, the only one not in the Lexus camp was the S Road REITO MOLA GT-R.
After some ten more laps, the ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 had finally managed to build up a three-second gap between it and the machines battling fiercely behind it for second place, but during the offensive and defensive battle between the KeePer Kraft SC430 and PETRONAS TOM'S SC430, the S Road REITO MOLA GT-R quickly gained ground. At the last corner on lap 21, it took advantage of a back marker slowing the speeds of the two Lexus machines, all of a sudden rocketing into second place at the first corner, and step by step moved in on the ENEOS SUSTINA SC430.
And then on the first corner of lap 32, PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 finally passed KeePer Kraft SC430 to move up into third place. The pace began to fall slightly with the S Road REITO MOLA GT-R nipping at the heels of the ENEOS SUSTINA SC430, and by lap 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 joined to make it a three-sided battle.
Oshima fends off rival's furious attack to win the goal
The ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 extricated itself from the situation by going into the pit on lap 37. Right after that, PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 passed S Road REITO MOLA GT-R to take the top spot. Ito handed over the wheel of No.6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 to Kazuya Oshima who pushed hard on the out lap. This worked out well as PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 went into the pit on lap 39 where Duvall handed over the wheel to Kazuki Nakajima. Just as the PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 was coming out of the pit, it entered the fourth corner where it was overtaken by the ENEOS SUSTINA SC430, which succeeded in recapturing the lead.
At this point, the ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 used the back markers to its own advantage to gradually increase its lead over second-place PETRONAS TOM'S SC430, at one point creating a gap of almost ten seconds, but it was rough going for the ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 in the later stages of the race as its tires were wearing out. Nakajima in the PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 gradually gained back the time to get within striking distance, four tenths of a second on the last lap, but the ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 was just able to hold on to its lead for the pole-to-win finish. It was a long-awaited victory for the LEXUS Team Le Mans ENEOS, eight years in the coming, as well as for Daisuke Ito who has been waiting for his first win since moving to the Lexus camp.
Third place went to S Road REITO MOLA GT-R, and fourth to Junichi Wakisaka, celebrating his 40th birthday on the day, who displayed excellent driving in the DENSO KOBELCO SC430. ZENT CERUMO SC430 placed fifth, maintaining its spot as the point leader.
Full throttle from start to finish! S Road NDDP GT-R's brilliant come-from-behind victory
Apr HASEPRO PRIUS GT fights the good fight in battle for the top
In contrast to the melee at the start of the GT500 class race, No.33 HANKOOK PORSCHE (Masami Kageyama) starting at the pole kept its top position in the GT300 class, as second and third place in qualifying No.88 MonePa LAMBORGHINI GT3 (Takayuki Aoki) and No.31 apr HASEPRO PRIUS GT (Morio Nitta) followed, with a single second separating each of the machines in the early stages of the race. Following them was a line of machines all the way up to No.16 MUGEN CR-Z GT (Hidenori Muto) in ninth place, each separated by one second, and a tense race followed as even the slightest mistake could mean a big fall in position. Among them, the No.88 Lamborghini and the Prius GT were waging battle when the PRIUS's pace fell off after lap 20, its position falling. It might have been due to excessive wear on the tires, but it went into the pit early on lap 28. On lap 31, fourth-place No.52 GREEN TEC & LEON SLS (Hironori Takeuchi) went into the pit too.
Taking their places were No.911 Endless TAISAN 911 (Naoki Yokomizo) and No.3 S Road NDDP GT-R (Katsumasa Chiyo). They went after the HANKOOK PORSCHE and Manepa Lamborghini GT3 in front of them. Leaders took their predetermined pit stops as the lap count approached 40. S Road NDDP GT-R held out until lap 42. They saved time in the pit by changing only the two rear tires.
Two-tire replacement strategy decisive for S Road GT-R and ManePa Lamborghini
After all the machines had completed their pit stops, No.31 apr HASEPRO PRIUS GT (Hironori Saga), which had gone into the pit early, was in the lead. However, in the latter stages of the race, tire wear took its expected toll and its pace fell. It ended up finishing the race in eight place. In addition, the other hybrid car making its debut in this race, the MUGEN CR-Z, had trouble in the pit getting the left front wheel on which translated into a time loss. What's more, it took time to restart the engine, which meant a bitter 16th-place finish in its debut race. S ROAD NDDP GT-R (Yuhi Sekiguchi) overtook apr HASEPRO PRIUS GT to take the lead. Changing only two of the tires generally worsens machine balance, but Sekiguchi passed GREEN TEC & LEON SLS (Haruki Kurosawa) and the apr HASEPOR PRIUS GT in succession which were running anywhere from half a second to two seconds faster than the other machines that were putting up 1'25s, to take the top spot. Sekiguchi paid little attention to tire wear and fuel consumption toward the end of the race, not affecting his pace at all, showing off his gung-ho driving to his fans and rivals alike. With this the S Road NDDP GT-R put up its first victory, an overwhelming 31-second lead over second-place GREEN TEC & LEON SLS. It was Sekiguchi's second win, the first coming in 2007. Naturally, this is the first for Chiyo who is making his GT debut this season. And it was also a joyous win for the Nissan GT-R with FIA GT3 specs making its debut this season as the sole domestic machine taking part in the race. Third place went to the MonePa LAMBORGHINI GT3 (Aoki>Manabu Orito), which only replaced its two left tires to make up for its high fuel consumption (refueling takes significant time). This Lamborghini experienced shifting problems, but the expert measures taken by these two veteran drivers surely helped them to find a place on the podium. Fourth place was taken by HANKOOK PORSCHE (Kageyama>Tomonobu Fujii). Following them were No.43 ARTA Garaiya (Shinichi Takagi>Takanobu Matsuura), No.0 GSR Hatsune Miku Z4, (Nobuteru Taniguchi>Tatsuya Kataoka), Endless TAISAN 911 (Yokomizo>Kyosuke Mineo), and No.11 GAINER DIXCEL R8 LMS (Tetsuya Tanaka>Katsuyuki Hiranaka) who all fought hard for fifth place in the later stages of the race. Endless TAISAN 911 pulled out from the pack to capture fifth place, keeping the Yokomizo team on top in the driver's ranking.
Race winner's comments
GT500: No.6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430
Daisuke Ito: "I could actually feel that a lot of improvements have been made in the machine's potential since Malaysia (Round 3, Sepang), and to stay in contention for the title, I thought that no matter what, we had to win this time. It's been a while since the team won, and a while for me, too, so I'm really happy. Since moving to the Lexus camp in 2008, everyone at ENEOS has given the team a lot of support, but we've had some difficulty presenting them with a victory...today, finally, we're able to give them that present."
Kazuya Oshima: "Up to now while driving my stint, my pace often fell off, and when handing the wheel over to Daisuke (Ito), we dropped in position. When that happened, I hated going back to the transporter through the ENEOS (hospitality) tent. This time Daisuke drove the first half, and I felt some pressure because he was handing over the wheel in a good position, I drove all out until reaching the top position, then backing off to save the tires to take the checkered flag. It was a relief to get the victory."
GT300No.3 S Road NDDP GT-R
Yuhi Sekiguchi: "So far this season fourth place at Round 3 in Sepang has been our best finish, in spite of its speed, we haven't been able to put up any results, so being able to produce this win makes me very happy. The engineers ran a lot of simulations this time whether to change two tires or four tires; we decided on changing two tires, and the machine was set up perfectly for that, something for which I am very grateful to the team. From here on out, we will do our best to win each and every race, with our sights set on the series title."
Katsumasa Chiyo: "I thought this time for sure we were going to win, because we haven't been able to put up any results from the season opener until now. My best times in the official practice were a little off, and 6th in the qualifying seemed to make it a long road to victory, but the pace from official practice to the race was good, so we could decide on the two-tire change strategy. The team put together a great machine for us, and I was able to drive to save the tires, meaning that we were finally able to put up a good result. I am truly happy."