Text: Brent Co / Photos: Super GT Press | posted May 06, 2011 18:02
Team strategy key to victory for Motul-Autech team in rain soaked race
The postponement of the first round of the 2011 Super GT series in Okayama due to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami has moved Round 2 at Fuji as the actual season opener and given a special name as the "Great East Japan Earthquake Reconstruction Aid Event". All of the participating Super GT cars in this race have mounted a "Gambaro! Japan" sticker on their windshield and a variety of charity events and special markets selling goods from the stricken areas have been set up around the Fuji Speedway venue.
Qualifying on pole for the GT500 Class was the Denso Sard SC430 driven by newly signed driver Hiroshi Ishiura who scored his first career pole position. Meanwhile, Masami Kageyami steered the Hankook Porsche to pole position for the GT300 class. Both drivers started at the front row of their respective classes with the unfortunate timing of a heavy downpour with the safety car leading the pack for the first five laps.
As the race pace was re-opened, second-pole Ronnie Quintarelli ran his S Road MOLA GT-R off the track losing his position. A few laps later, polesitter Ishiura found himself dropping down the order due to bad tire choices by their teams forcing early pitstops for tire changes. This put Bjorn Wirdheim in the leading the GT-R train with his #24 Advan Kondo GT-R. Following closely were Joao Paulo Lima de Oliveira in the #12 Impul GT-R and Benoit Treluyer in hot pursuit with the #23 Motul Autech GT-R.
By lap 12, both de Oliveira and Treluyer would pass Wirdheim, moving the two to first and second respectively. Wirdheim would continue to slide as Kazuya Oshima passes him with in the #6 Eneos Sustina SC430 soon after. A GT-R battle up front went on between de Oliveira and Treluyer for the lead up until the 18th lap. A serious mistake by de Oliveira would cost him dearly as he lost control of his car while passing a back-marker and collided with it forcing him to return to the pit for repairs. This gave Treluyer the lead with a fast-rising Oshima not too far behind, and Yuji Tachikawa in the #38 Zent Cerumo SC430 following in third. Now running in 4th was the Wedsport Advan SC430 driven by Tatsuya Kataoka in their team debut GT500 race from a 14th position start.
By lap 42, Oshima would dive into the pits for a driver change with Daisuke Ito. Following 2 laps after on the 44th were the cars of #23 Treluyer, #38 Tachikawa and #19 Kataoka who made their routine stops as well. Rejoining the race without tire changes were car #23 now driven by Satoshi Motoyama and #19 with Seiji Ara as their teams chose to conserve time. The Zent Cerumo team decided to change all four tires of their #38 car relegating now driver Kohei Hirate to 4th behind the #19 car driven by Ara after the pitstops.
Running with fresher tires, a hard charging Ito closed the 16-second gap between him and race leader Motoyama. However with about 10 laps remaining, rain poured harder on the track making the conditions treacherous and forced the Clerk of Course to order the red flag on lap 60 to stop the race. The finishing positions were decided from the race order in the previous lap giving the victory to the #23 Motul Autech GT-R driven by Treluyer and Motoyama, a long awaited victory after an unfortunate 2010 season for the team. Coming in 2nd was the #6 Eneos Sustina SC430 of Ito and Oshima, while the #19 WedsSport Advan SC430 of Kataoka and Ara took the final podium spot for the team's debut GT500 race.
In the GT300 class, the #33 Hankook Porsche of Masami Kageyama and Tomonobu Fujii started in the lead and never looked back as the team had an incident free race building up a confortable lead. Not so fortunate in the treacherous track conditions was the third polesitter triple a Vantage GT2 driven by Hiroki Yoshimoto who dropped out after 12 laps after a spin-out. Kageyama managed to extend his lead further as second place was being tightly fought behind him.
Just before the two-thirds limit for one driver, Kageyama dove into the pits for a driver change on the 44th lap with a comfortable lead of over one minute allowing a full tire change and refueling stop as Tomonobu Fujii drove out of the pits keeping close attention to the gap. Fujii managed to hold a lead of more than 30 seconds to the final stages of the race. The 2nd position was being fought until the final stages of the race with Tetsuya Tanaka in the #11 Jimgainer Dixcel Dunlop 458 and Takeshi Tsuchiya in the #25 Zent Porsche RSR. After several position exchanges Tanaka would take second place while Tsuchiya ended up with third when the race was decided.