SUPER GT Round 3 Suzuka Circuit:First podium of the season after an intense battle
Round 3 of the SUPER GT, the “SUZUKA GT 300km Fan Festival,” was held on May 20th (Sun) at Suzuka Circuit, Suzuka, Mie Prefecture. The weather was slightly overcast with an air temperature of 19.7°C making it perfect conditions for watching this race that was held in front of 33,000 fans who gathered for the event.
In qualifying, held on the previous day, the SUBARU BRZ GT300 secured 4th place on the grid, a good position to aim for a top placing finish. Hideki Yamauchi took charge for the start of the race. Within the top two grid starters, the pole sitting #96, and the #25, which qualified 2nd, the #25 went with a strategy of not changing any tires during the race and so started off running at a conservative pace. For this reason, the BRZ GT300 was able to move into 3rd relatively easily in lap 2. From there it engaged in a 3-car battle for the top spot with the #96 and #0.
However, the #96 maintained the pace that it demonstrated in qualifying, implementing a strategy of pulling away from the competition and with every lap was able to extend its lead over the rest of the pack by approximately 1 second. The BRZ GT300 that had selected medium tires, pursued the two cars in front but they gradually began to increase the gap. However, the safety car was dispatched when a machine spun out and crashed in lap 12, leaving it stopped on the course. Although this meant that the difference with the lead cars was immediately closed, it also meant that the over 12-second difference the BRZ GT300 had built up over the car in 4th was also lost.
After that, the race was restarted at lap 17 and the BRZ GT300 headed into the pits at lap 23. Here Hideki Yamauchi handed the car over to Takuto Iguchi. After refueling and replacing only the rear tires, they sent the car back out onto the track. After the pit crew had confirmed the level of degradation on the tires, one yelled out the decision to “Leave the front ones!”. This strategy of replacing just two tires and reducing their pit stop time was adopted due to having lost their margin over the car in 4th and the fact that the #25, that qualified 2nd, was running without changing any tires
An intense battle unfolded with machines taking various strategies that varied between replacing no tires, 2 tires or all 4 tires. In the closing stages of the race, while the #96 managed to pull in front of the fray, a 5-car battle for 2nd place unfolded. In the last 10 laps, this close battle became even closer, with the five machines crowding together with less than 1 second between them. Iguchi maintained their 3rd place position while fiercely pursuing the #0 running in 2nd. Although he wasn’t easily able to make it passed, and it would take several laps, finally, at the chicane on lap 44, he was able to overtake and move up to 2nd place.
However, the #25 car, which had been preserving its tires in the early stages, increased its pace and the BRZ GT300 dropped back down to 3rd. From there it passed the checkered flag still in 3rd and achieved their first podium of the season.
“We were really excited at being able to fight for the top spot but in the latter half our tire degradation progressed and it turned into a race where we had to run while taking the tires into consideration. Reflecting on all the troubles that we’ve had so far, I’m really glad we were able to achieve a good result this time.”
“After running for about 10 laps, I said over the radio that I thought we should probably change all four tires, but we kind of took a gamble and took on the challenge of only exchanging the two rear ones. If we hadn’t, it is unmistakable that we would have been left out of the fight for the podium. This time, it’s been a while since we passed the checkered flag and got onto the podium so I’m very pleased.”
Team Principal, Makoto Shibuya
“Iguchi endured the tough situation with the tires in the second half and was able to pass the #0 with the briefest of chances, so I think everything really went well today. We were considering only changing the rear two tires right from the beginning and our intention was to change all four if the front tires degraded significantly. However, Yamauchi drove well, and I think only changing two tires enabled us to grab this podium finish.”
The next race, round 4, will be held over June 29th to 30th at Thailand’s Chang International Circuit. As the location experiences high temperatures and often squalls, along with a road surface that is frequently dusty and slippery, in addition to stop-and-go course layout, it will be a race held under very different conditions to the races so far. The team will be taking effective engine cooling measures and so on, so we hope that all the fans have high expectations for the success of the SUBARU BRZ 300 that will be aiming for victory.