Round5 Suzuka : Qualifying Review
On August 18, the official qualifying for the 41st INTERNATIONAL POKKA 1000km, Round 5 of the 2012 AUTOBACS SUPER GT, took place at the Suzuka Circuit in Mie Pref. In the GT500 class qualifying competed in a "knock-out" format, the No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Masataka Yanagida/Ronnie Quintarelli) won the pole position. In the GT300 class, the No. 16 Mugen CR-Z GT (Hideki Mutoh/Daisuke Nakajima) became the first hybrid car to win a class pole position.
Red flag interrupts Q1 to create a one-shot contest
The knock-out style qualifying started at 2:00 in the afternoon with the air temperature at 32 degrees C. and the track surface temperature at 46. Under a scorching mid-summer sun, the track surface temperature was climbing even higher when the GT500 class Q1 session started at 2:15 following the GT300 class Q1.
Although it was only a 15-minute session, the teams waited in their pits for the opening minutes of the session in order to keep tire wear to a minimum. With nine minutes remaining in the session, the No. 35 KeePer Kraft SC430 (Yuji Kunimoto) led a charge of teams onto the track, followed by the No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli), the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 (Daisuke Ito) and the No. 24 D'station ADVAN GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda). After them, the rest of the GT500 teams hurriedly took to the track.
The No. 35 KeePer Kraft SC430 was the first to finish a timed lap in the 2'01 range, but that was quickly bettered by with a time of 1'57.559 by the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 to take the early lead. This was followed by attacks by the No. 100 RAYBRIG HSV-010 (Takuya Izawa) and the No. 17 KEIHIN HSV-010 (Koudai Tsukakoshi). Then, with less than four minutes remaining in the session, the No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN SC430 (Andre Cuoto) ran off the track at the Deguna Corner.
This brought out the red flag to stop the competition with just 3 min. 10 sec. remaining, which forced the teams to go back to the pit just as they were about to begin their serious timed attacks. At this point the top three were the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430, the No. 100 RAYBRIG HSV-010 and the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 (Yuji Tachikawa), while the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 and No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN SC430 were still without a timed lap.
When the session was restarted at 2:32 p.m. all of the teams were forced to make just one desperate run for a qualifying time. The teams staggered their entrances to the track as best they could to make one tense time attack, out of which the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 (Loic Duval) was the fastest with a time of 1'52.557. This was followed by the No. 35 KeePer Kraft SC430 (Kunimoto), No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Quintarelli) and the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 (Hiroaki Ishiura). Meanwhile, the team whose pit area was closes to the final turn, the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Motoyama) raced down the back straight just as the checkered flag began to wave and signal the end of the session. It was a tense moment of uncertainty as to whether the lap would be accepted. But it was, and the time of 1'53.048 was enough to move them on to Q2 in 5th position.
The top 11 machines in q1 qualified to compete in Q2, but four machines, including the No. 8 ARTA HSV-010 (Ralph Firman) were knocked out at this stage.
As the GT500 class Q2 session began at 2:55 in the afternoon, the temperature was 30 degrees and the track surface temperature was 48. With the exception of the No. 24 D'station ADVAN GT-R (Bjorn Wirdheim) that left the pit soon as the GT500 board was posted, the rest of the GT500 class teams waited about two minutes before taking to the track.
Having to work around the cars that were now coming onto the track, the No. 24 D'station ADVAN GT-R could only manage a time of 1'54.649, while the following No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Masataka Yanagida) ran a 1'53.088 to top the board.
With five minutes remaining in Q2, the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 (Kazuya Oshima) recorded a 1'53.090 lap to move into 2nd position. Just after that, the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda) ran a 1'53.060 to temporarily steal the lead from the No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R, but Yanagida came right back to take the lead again with a time of 1'52.802.
With one minute remaining in Q2, the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430 (Kazuki Nakajima) just fell short of the leader with a time of 1'52.835, and as no other machines managed to break the 52-second barrier, the session ended with the No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R holding the fastest time. Filling out the top seven that qualified to move on to Q3 were the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S SC430, No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R, No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430, No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Michael Krumm), No. 17 KEIHIN HSV-010 (Toshihiro Kaneishi) and the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 Juichi Wakisaka). The four teams that failed to make the cut included the point-leading No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 (Kohei Hirate).
Hot SC430 machines also near the top, will make the race exciting
The GT500 class' Q3 started at 3:30 p.m., with the No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R (Quintarelli) the first to take to the course and eventually running a seemingly untouchable 1'51.554 time with three minutes remaining in the session. Just before the checkered flag ended the session, the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 (Ishiura), No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 (Ito) and the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Motoyama) also ran times in the 1'51 range but failed to better Quintarelli's time. These results gave the No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R its first pole position of the season.
The two Lexus machines that had been fast since the official practice, the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SC430 and the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 ended Q3 in 2nd and 3rd places respectively, while the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R and No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R that were taken out of the competition due to accidents in the last round at SUGO came back to claim good grip positions of 4th and 5th this time. With this, the stage is set with the No. 1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R in good position to make up for a disappointing 700km race here at last year's Suzuka, where it had to settle for second place after starting in pole position.
GT300 class pole goes to the MUGEN CR-Z GT, a first for a hybrid car!
The CR-Z and BRZ make strong showings for the JAF GT machines
The 15-minute GT300 class Q1 session began on schedule at exactly 2:00 p.m. As soon as the green light went on, the No. 66 triple a vantage GT3 (Kazuki Hoshino) that had recorded the fastest time in the morning free practice took to the course. In contrast, the No. 11 GAINER DIXCEL R8 LMS (Tetsuya Tanaka) and the No. 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT (Tetsuya Yamano) stood by and waited. As in the morning session, Hoshino in car No. 66 was the first to make a time attack, recording a time of 2'02.195 that naturally went to the top of the board. This time bettered the course record set back in 2007 (2'02.254). After this, no other machines were able to break into the 2'02 range. Emerging to set the second fastest time at 2'03.136 was the new No. 16 MUGEN CR-Z GT (Hideki Mutoh) that had just made its debut in the last round at SUGO. Then, last year's championship machine, the No. 0 GSR HATSUNEMIKU BMW (Nobuteru Taniguchi), ran a 2'03.418 to claim 3rd position. In the final minutes of the session, Yamano in car No. 61, who has won consecutive races at Suzuka this summer, came through with a 2'03.913 lap to move into 4th position. The No. 33 HANKOOK PORSCHE (Masami Kageyama) that had scored consecutive pole positions at the last round at SUGO and the previous round at Sepang, failed to break under 2 min. 4 sec. and ended up in 5th position. Unlike the usual rush of cars improving on their best times in the last minutes of a knock-out session, this time the hot track surface and the uncertainty in tire choices seemed to prevent teams from bettering their times. In this session the winner of round one, car No. 11, placed 16th to just barely qualify for Q2. Placing 17th, the No. 14 Team SGC IS350 (Ryo Orime) and eight other teams were knocked out at this point.
The GT300 class' 10-minute Q2 session started five minutes late at 14:45 due to the red flag the stopped the GT500 class Q1 session. Quick to get out on the course were the No. 16 MUGEN CR-Z GT (Daisuke Nakajima), No. 43 ARTA Garaiya (Shinichi Takagi) and the No. 0 GSR HATSUNEMIKUBMW (Tatsuya Kataoka). The last to enter the course were the No. 66 triple a vantage GT3 (Hiroki Yoshimoto), the No. 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT (Kota Sasaki) and the No. 911 ENDLESS TAISAN 911 (Naoki Yokomizo). The first to mark a top time was Nakajima in car No. 16 with a 2'03.288 lap. Next, the No. 33 HANKOOK PORSCHE (Tomonobu Fujii) recorded a 2'03.190 to take the lead away from No. 16. But, the Yoshimoto in the hot car No. 66 was quick to better that and take top position with a time of 2'02.584. At this point, car No. 66 was the only one in the 2'02 range. Moving past No. 16 into 3rd position came the winner of the last round, the No. 3 S Road NDDP GT-R (Yuhi Sekiuchi) with a time of 2'03.202. The car that came in 10th place and won the last slot in Q3 was the No. 911 ENDLESSTAISAN 911 (Naoki Yokomizo). Failing to make the cut for Q3 by just 0.4 sec. was the No. 4 GSR ProjectMirai BMW (Taku Bamba). Among the other five machines knocked out in Q2 were the other hybrid car, the No. 31 apr HASEPRO PRIUS GT (Morio Nitta), the 2nd place finisher in the last round, the No. 52 GREEN TEC & LEON SLS (Haruki Kurosawa) and the No. 11 GAINER DIXCEL R8 LMS (Katsuyuki Hiranaka).
The Q3 session to determine the top ten places on the GT300 grid began at 15:15. This was also a 10-minute session. In the early running, the No. 16 MUGEN CR-Z GT (Mutoh) ran a good first lap at 2'02.130 to break the course record again and move to the top of the board. Then the No. 0 GSR HATSUNEMIKUBMW (Taniguchi) also broke the 2'03 barrier with a time of 2'02.987 to claim 2nd place. But, No. 66 triple a vantage GT3 (Hoshino) soon came in with a time of 2'02.078, bettering its Q1 time. No other machine was able to match this time during the session, keeping No. 66 in the top position. It looked as though No. 0 would finish the session in 3rd position, but with two minutes left the No. 3 S Road NDDP GT-R (Katsumasa Chiyo) recorded a time of 2'02.885, just ahead of the champions to grab that position. Qualifying in 5th position came the No. 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT (Yamano), which will be trying for a third consecutive Suzuka victory. No. 61's fine showing bodes well for the return of the JAF GT300 machines that were expected to have a hard time this season against the GT3 machines.
With these results it appeared as if the No. 66 triple a vantage GT3 had taken pole position, but in the post-qualifying inspections a violation was found in the capacity of its fuel tank that disqualified its times.
As a result, the No. 16 MUGEN CR-Z GT was moved up and became the first SUPER GT hybrid car to win a pole position.
Pole position winner comments
No.1 S Road REITO MOLA GT-R [GT500]
Ronnie Quintarelli: “The feeling of the car and the feeling of the tires were both the best they have been this season. We had cleared Q1 and Q2 well and I was able to make a perfect run in Q3. The Nissan development staff had been preparing some updated parts for the last round at SUGO, and in the official tests the other day at Suzuka, we verified that the car itself was performing much better. It made me feel that we are at the start of a whole new season. Since we chose the qualifying round tires with the race in mind, I am confident that we can win in tomorrow's race."
No. 16 MUGEN CR-Z GT [GT300]
Hideki Mutoh: “I am glad that we were able to win pole position. We have only run one race and two official tests so far, so I never thought that we would be able to win a pole position this soon. During the morning's free practice, the machine's balance was not good and it felt shaky. As a result we were way down in the times. But we made a very quick recovery, didn't we? The team used their know-how and set up the machine very well. The team made a tremendous effort and got the machine set up well for the afternoon qualifying. I believe that the way everyone worked so hard and so well was worthy of this pole position.
As the course conditions got better, the tire choices also went well. The feeling got better in Q1 and the tires had good grip, so I was able to run the timed laps with no problems. In Q2, Daisuke [Nakajima] did a good job, and by Q3 the balance had gotten better. It was a dramatic change. I never thought I would get times like that. We were updating the settings with every run. In the tests, problems would be revealed and the team would find a to cover for them. They were working around the clock for us. That is why I feel that the team deserves this pole position as a reward. I hope it pleases them.
In the race, the good mileage of the hybrid will be a great weapon for us. The tires also have very long life, so we will be able to maintain a solid pace. S long as there is no machine trouble and no mistakes, I think we should be able to make a podium finish. In the race I want to do my part to repay the team for all their efforts.
Daisuke Nakajima: "This time the pole position came to us in a different way than usual, so it feels a bit strange and it's still hard to realize we did it. But, everyone on the team worked very hard to prepare the car for Suzuka, and the drivers did the best they could, so I'm happy with this result. I didn't expect us to get a pole position at such a good place. I am truly grateful for it.
The people on the No. 31 [apr HASEPRO PRIUS GT] team might be angry right now that we became the first hybrid car to win a pole position (laughs), but it certainly is an honor. Because, this is the first pole ever for a hybrid car. It makes me very happy personally as well.
I had come to see the 1000km race several times before it became part of the SUPER GT series, and it certainly has a big name. So, it has a special image. But, we came here intending to race, and it wasn't with the intention that we were going to go out and get the pole position, but simply with the feeling that we are going to do the best and get the best result we can in this, our second race. Even half the race is 500km long, and in my career in Formula Nippon a 250km race is the longest I have ever driven. What's more the heat will surely be a real challenge here. But, personally I feel prepared and will be ready to run as many laps as the manager asks me to! I'm sure the race will be different from the qualifying, but we will be starting from the best position, so if we take it cool and steady, a good result should follow.”