Text: Brent Co / Photos: Brent Co | posted July 27, 2007 09:00
Woodone Advan Clarion Z scores dramatic come-from-behind first victory
The 2007 Super GT Series moves to Sepang, Malaysia for the fourth round of the championship series. Team AutoIndustriya.com was there to cover the excitement while also enjoying VIP treatment at the MOTUL Paddock Club courtesy of Autoplus Sportzentrium. A different atmosphere could be felt at the Sepang Circuit with the roar of the high powered Super GT engines and the sights of the Race Queens which were definitely eye candy.
In qualifying, it was the Takata Dome NSX driven by Takashi Kogure who captured pole position for the GT500 class in the first qualifying session with a laptime of 1m54.833s, shattering the former course lap record (1m57.824s) by a wide margin. Kogure would again repeat his impressive run to further lower his time to 1m54.306s in the Super Lap qualifying session. This is the third consecutive pole position for the Takata Dome NSX, as they qualified in pole for the second and third rounds. Following in the second and third grid spot were the ARTA NSX (8) and houzan TOM's SC430 (1).
A few hours before the race, dark clouds threatened to rain over the circuit, but it eventually passed as the race was run under the hot tropical sun. For the GT500 class, a big upset at the warm-up lap as the polesitter Takata Dome NSX driven by Takashi Kogure was forced to pull off the track with a drivetrain failure. It left the door wide open for the ARTA NSX (8) driven by ex-F1 driver Ralph Firman whose task was only to have a good start to take early lead. But he was not alone in front as houzan TOM's SC430 (1) driven by Andre Lotterer and Calsonic Impul Z (12) driven by Benoit Treluyer came in tow. The Raybrig NSX (100) driven by Dominic Schwager moved up the order followed the top three but was later penalized with a drive-through penalty after passing another car before crossing the control line. Meanwhile, the Epson NSX (32) driven by Loic Duval suffered a blown tire from a spin after it was tagged from behind by Andre Couto driving the DENSO SARD SC430. This forced Duval to make an emergency pit stop.
By the lap 10, Firman would drop down to 3rd, as Treluyer and Lotterer would swap positions with the former taking the advantage. Behind them, the Motul Autech Z (22) driven by Michael Krumm overshoots while trying to pass the Xanavi Nismo Z (23) driven by Richard Lyons on the 13th lap. This left a door wide open for JP De Oliveira in the Woodone Advan Clarion Z (24) to pass both cars, leaving the two cars to a fierce duel.
Banking on a two-stop strategy, Lyons drove the #23 car into the pits for an early tire change stop on the 14th lap. The other leading teams with similar strategies soon followed with their tire changes.
This gave the Yellow Hat TOMICA Z (3) driven by Sebastien Philippe the lead with Oliveira and Krumm following in 2nd and 3rd. But in the 19th lap, Oliveira would soon find a way past Philippe and continued to pick up the pace. By the next lap, the one-stop strategy teams would find themselves pitting in. Krumm delayed his pit stop until the 25th lap as birthday celebrant Tsugio Matsuda sat in the driver's seat. The Yellow Hat car pitted in soon after with Masataka Yanagida now in the driver's seat.
Race leader car no. 24 held on until the 32nd lap to make its one and only pit stop, at this point, they had already a 40-second lead over the second position runner. This gave plenty of time to change tires, refuel and change drivers as Seiji Ara stepped in for Oliveira. The 37-second pit stop returned Ara in a tentative 4th position as the current top three runners have yet to make their second pit stops.
As the top runners made their pit stops, the Yellow Hat Z moved up to 2nd, while the Motul Z moved up to 3rd, making it a 1-2-3 Fairlady Z run. However, the Raybrig NSX was quickly moving up the order by this time, and eventually passed both cars 22 and 3. With 10 laps remaining in the race, the 22 car was forced to make a last minute pit stop as the tires were rapidly losing grip. The Eclipse Advan SC430 (25) driven by Takeshi Tsuchiya moved up to 4th but would later be overtaken by car 12 with Treluyer now on the wheel. Yanagida in car 3 tried to follow suit, but his attempt was foiled by Tsuchiya.
Up in front, Ara continued to pull away from the pack with steady laps as the Raybrig car tried to narrow the gap. Yanagida meanwhile, was weakening fast under the Malaysian heat running with an empty water bottle. He eventually let the Calsonic Impul Z to pass him on lap 51.
At the checkered flag, it was Ara taking the first ever Super GT win for Kondo Racing since its entry last year, and also the first win for co-drive JP Oliveira. The Raybrig NSX followed in second with some disappointment over the jump start penalty. Claiming the final podium spot was Calsonic Impul Z driven by Treluyer.
In the GT300 class qualifying, the Toy Story apr MR-S (101) driven by Kazuya Oshima was the top qualifier for the class with a 2m6.584s laptime. Qualifying in second was the Arta Garaiya (43), while the Willcom Advan VEMAC408R (62) took the third grid spot. Both the triple a Gallardo RG-3 cars were unable to set a qualifying time due to technical problems and were excluded from the race.
At the start, it was polesitter Oshima driving car 101 to the lead followed by Morio Niita driving car 43. Making an amazing start was Tatsuya Tanaka who catapulted the Ebro 430R (4) from 7th grid position to 4th position. By the 7th lap, Niita found a way past Oshima, but as bad luck would have it, he eventually lost grip on the next lap with the car jumping off the track into the guardrails. Considerable damage was sustained by the car and it was found to be unfixable after he limped the car back to the pits.
Tanaka was now running in 2nd and when on to pass the race leader on the 14th lap, which was now running on minimal tire grip with worn out soft compound tires. This led Oshima to make an early pit stop for a tire and driver change on the 22nd lap as Ishiura now in the driver's seat with hard compound tires. The Ebro 430R now in the lead eventually pitted in on the 26th lap, as the other cars also came in for their respective pit stops until the 33rd lap with Johan Apple Shinden (2) car driven by Hiroki Katoh making the final pit stop. At this point, the Toy Story car assumed the lead with car 4 in second. Car 2 eventually caught up in third position.
A three-way Fairlady Z battle developed behind the frontrunners between houzan Dunlop Z (46), houzan Dunlop Z (47) and the Endless Advan Z (13), from which car 46 managed to get ahead. Later on, the Johan Apple Shinden car would eventually lose its spot after its right-side door came open, allowing the No. 46 houzan Dunlop Z to move into third in the final laps of the race.
At the checkered flag, it was the Toy Story apr MR-S (101) claiming victory, while the Ebro 430R came in second and the houzan Dunlop Z (46) car finishing in third. This is the second season win for the duo of Oshima and Ishiura and their fourth podium finish giving them a comfortable lead in the championship.