On the second day of the Official Test at Sportsland SUGO the sky was cloudy from morning. As with Day 1, both the air temperature and track surface temperature were lower than usual for this time of year. The drivers approved greatly of the new schedule adopted this year that increased the amount of class-specific time on the track. On the morning of this day, each class had a full two hours of exclusive track time, while the afternoon session was run with both classes running together. With this schedule, the 39 participating teams of the two classes each devoted themselves to their own agenda of tests to prepare for Round 7 at SUGO and the final three races of the season.
Session 1: 8:15 - 10:15 (GT300); 10:035 - 12:35 (GT500)
Weather: cloudy; Track: dry
Air temperature: 24℃ - 28℃; Track surface 26℃ - 34℃ (at the start: 24℃/26℃)
Session 2: 14:30 - 16:30 (GT500/GT300)
Weather: rain; Track: wet
Air temperature: 23℃ - 24℃; Track surface 26℃ - 28℃ (at the start: 23℃/28℃)
KEIHIN NSX-GT records only time in 1’10 range in the morning sessions
There was drizzling rain for a while in the GT300 class session that was held first, but not enough to affect the track surface, and after that session the GT500 class session started under overcast skies and on a dry track. During this 2-hour session that lasted nearly to noon the temperature didn’t rise much and the track conditions remained stable. In this session the teams were able to put in anywhere from 60 to 80 laps, mainly in long-distance test runs.
As with yesterday, the fastest times in this session were recorded by the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi/Bertrand Baguette). In the early part of the session, Koudai Tsukakoshi began to run times in the 1’10 range, eventually recording a top time of 1’10.828. After the team changed drivers and put Baguette at the wheel, he did a long run at a good pace. In the end, the KEIHIN NSX-GT was the only car to break into the 1’10 range, while the second fastest time of 1’11.180 was recorded by the No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN LC500 (Yuji Kunimoto/Sho Tsuboi), which carried the lightest handicap weight of the LEXUS LC500 cars. The third fastest time went to the No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT (Tomoki Nojiri/Takuya Izawa). The fastest among the NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT500 cars was the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Daiki Sasaki/James Rossiter) in 7th place.
Kunimoto of the WedsSport ADVAN LC500 team that managed to break in among the Honda NSX-GT cars that had been fast since the day before said, “The machine wasn’t really in such good condition and, to tell the truth, we struggled a bit with the machine balance and the grip of the tires.” He went on to comment that the good lap times they managed to get was a positive factor but that things would be different in a race week, and that he wanted to see them work more on the machine’s condition in find some solutions in the final session in the afternoon.
NSX-GT cars strong in the afternoon’s wet conditions as well. RAYBRIG NSX-GT runs the top time
The cloud cover that had hung over the circuit since morning turned to rain at about 2:00 in the afternoon just after the open pit time. The final session of the day was to be a 2-hour session for both classes running together, and all the teams ran it with rain tires. As it turned out, the two days of testing had provided a variety of conditions from dry to semi-wet and full wet for the teams to gather data from. Also seeing the that the air temperature and track surface temperature had hovered around the temperature range expected for Round 7 here at SUGO in September, in a sense it can be seen as providing good conditions for very practical race testing.
The first 15 minutes of the session that began at 14:15 was devoted to Safety Car practice. Since it is possible that Round 7 will be held in the rain, the teams went out with the intention of getting some useful wet-condition test data. The rain was not strong but it was continuous, and in the early going cars could be seen avoiding the patches with less water on the track in order to keep their tires from overheating, but as the session progressed the rain got strong until it was full-wet conditions. Around the middle of the session the No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN LC500 (Sho Tsuboi) ran off the track at the UMANOSE Corner and came to a stop on the gravel, which brought out the Red Flag. But the resulting stoppage time only lasted for about seven minutes.
It was here that the eventual top time was run by an NSX-GT car. It was Yamamoto in the No. 1 RAYBRIG NSX-GT (Naoki Yamamoto/Jenson Button) who recorded that time of 1’19.343. The second fastest time went to the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT and third fastest to the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda/Ronnie Quintarelli).
The MOTUL AUTECH GT-R had brought to the test this time a car mounting the much-talked-about new engine that Nissan/NISMO had announced it would introduce for the remaining races of the season. Manager Yutaka Suzuki commented: “Since there is a big gap with the top team in the season ranking, we intend to put everything we have into the last three races, we want to battle to get as many points as we can in each of the races.” He went on to say, “This time we did a variety of tests aimed not only at SUGO but at all three remaining races, but since we haven’t had good results lately at SUGO, we are going to do some thorough analysis of the data we get here.”
In GT300, HOPPY 86 MC strongest in the morning, ARTA NSX GT3 fastest in the afternoon rain
The morning’s 2-hour GT300-exclusive test session started at 8:00 and in the early going the No. 31 TOYOTA GR SPORT PRIUS PHV apr GT (Koki Saga/Yuhki Nakayama) suffered suspension trouble that brought it to a stop on the Rainbow Corner. This resulted in 20 minutes of Red Flag stoppage, but aside from that everything else went smoothly. As a result, the teams were able to run their long-distance test without much interruption.
Eventually, the fastest time in this session was recorded by Sato of the No. 25 HOPPY 86 MC (Takamitsu Matsui/Kimiya Sato) team in the early going, with a time of 1’18.307. The second fastest time went to the No. 52 SAITAMA TOYOPET GB MARK X MC (Shigekazu Wakisaka/Hiroki Yoshhida) and third fastest to the No. 4 GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU AMG (Nobuteru Taniguchi/Tatsuya Kataoka).
In the afternoon session that was run in rainy conditions, the No. 87 T-DASH Lamborghini GT3 (Tsubasa Takahashi/Andre Couto/Kiyoto Fujinami) didn’t participate, thus leaving the GT300 class at 23 cars. As with the GT500 class, the fastest time was run in the early going when there was less rain. This time of 1’27.535 was run by Fukuzumi of the No. 55 ARTA NSX GT3 (Shinichi Takagi/Nirei Fukuzumi) team and it remained the fastest throughout the 2-hour session. The second fastest time was run by the No. 31 TOYOTA GR SPORT PRIUS PHV apr GT, while the third fastest time went to the No. 96 K-tunes RC F GT3 (Morio Nitta/Sena Sakaguchi).
In the afternoon session, the fastest time was run by the ARTA NSX GT3, the current ranking leader, but because of its failure to get a good time in the dry session, it finished out the SUGO test in 21st place overall. Takagi commented: “We are leading the standings now, but there is very little difference between the top ten teams or so, and for that reason we don’t really feel that we are in the lead. Since we are going into Round 6 carrying the heaviest weight handicap, there is a good chance that we could easily lose the top spot to whoever wins that race. We think the race that may decide the title race is Round 7 at SUGO, where we will be racing with only half the weight handicap on a course where our machine is known to be strong. But it is a course that we are running on for the first time since changing cars to the NSX GT3, and the fact is that we can’t really be satisfied with the test results here.” However, being a point leader that has managed to earn points diligently at every race thus far, the chances look good that the team will do well in the race.
Koudai Tsukakoshi (No.17 KEIHIN NSX-GT)
During these two days we were able to make good progress through our test menu and find a good direction for the car’s set-up, and our times got better in accordance with that. We got the top time, but it was only in the test context and I’m sure that in the race week the conditions will be different, but both of us drivers were able to record good times and we were able to get solid data from our long runs, and what’s more, we did OK in the rain, so overall I think it was a good test for the team.
Until now, we have had races where all the pieces didn’t come together, but I want to see us carry the good flow that we got together here into the last three races of the season and do our best. This time the schedule gave us a lot of time to run as a class separate from the GT300 cars, and that increased the speed with which we could get through our test menu and get very precise data, which was great. In the future, it would probably be good to do it this way at other circuits too.
Kimiya Sato (No. 25 HOPPY 86 MC)
I came into this season with a new team and a new car, so there has been a lot of searching I had to do at first, and this time I think I was able to deepen my understanding of the car. This morning we focused primarily on evaluating the tires, and after testing three or four sets of tires, I was able to get this top time just before I turned the car over to [Takamitsu] Matsui-san.
The three races remaining in this season are all on courses that I have never raced on before with a Mother Chassis car. But in this test, I got the chance to drive a lot, and with the new tires, so I am looking forward to the coming race, and especially Round 7 at SUGO. The conditions will surely be different when we get into the actual race week, but I think I will be able to go into it with a positive attitude. Of course, I want us to go for the win.