The Motul Autech Nissan GT-R wins the bad-weather season opener.
Photos: Super GT
The FUJI GT 400km RACE, Round 2 of the 2011 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, took place at Fuji Speedway in Shizuoka Pref. on 1st May 2011. The come-from-behind winner in the GT500 class was the sixth-place qualifying MOTUL AUTECH GT-R driven by Satoshi Motoyama and Benoit Treluyer while the winner of the GT300 class race was the No. 33 HANKOOK PORSCHE with drivers Masami Kageyama and Tomonobu Fujii. This race was scheduled as the second round of the 2011 series, but the first round at Okayama originally scheduled for April 3rd 2011 was postponed due to the tragic Great East Japan Earthquake disaster, it effectively became the season opener. Also, the race distance was shortened from the original 400 km to 300 km.
The race started in pouring rain with the safety car leading for the first five laps, with the race starting effectively from the sixth lap. On the first corner of that lap the second-position starter, the No. 46 S Road MOLA GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli), ran off the track. Meanwhile, the pole-sitting No. 39 DENSO SARD SC430 (Hiroaki Ishiura) began to lose ground steadily and fell behind the pack. In both cases, the tyres chose by these two teams for the start did not fit the track conditions, forcing them to make early tyre changes. Also, the No. 100 RAYBRIG HSV-010 (Takuya Izawa) and No. 32 EPSON HSV-010 (Ryo Michigami) returned to the pit early to change tyres. These events put the No. 24 ADVAN KONDO GT-R (Bjorn Wirdheim) in the lead initially, with the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Joao Paulo Lima de Oliveira) and the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Benoit Treluyer) in hot pursuit not far behind. On the twelfth lap, De Oliveira in car No. 12 and Treluyer in No. 23 passed No. 24 (Wirdheim) in quick succession. After that, Wirdheim (No. 24) was also passed by the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 (Kazuya Oshima).
The ensuing GT-R battle between No. 12 (De Oliveira) and No. 23 (Treluyer) continued at the front at an exciting pace until lap 18, when De Oliveira (No. 12) lost control while trying to pass a back-marker and collide with it. The damage to the left rear of his machine from this collision forced De Olivier to return to the pit for repairs. This left No. 23 (Treluyer), No. 6 (Oshima) and the fast-rising 11th-place starter, the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO SC430 (Yuji Tachikawa), running as the top three in that order. Behind them, the No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN SC430 (Tatsuya Kataoka) was also giving chase. This was the GT500 debut race for the new No. 19 team and their choice of tyres had fit the conditions perfectly and enabled Kataoka to move up rapidly through the pack from 14th position on the starting grid.
Among these, Ito (No. 6) was running at the fastest pace and gradually closing what was initially a 16-second gap between him and Motoyama (No. 23). It looked as if Ito would eventually take the lead if that pace continued, but with about ten laps remaining the rain began falling harder and forming puddles on the track that made conditions treacherous. Cars began spinning out and running off the track. Seeing this, the Clerk of the course ordered the red flag out at the end of lap 60 to stop the race. Eventually it was decided to end the competition at this point, making the running order at the end of lap 59 the final finishing order. This gave the victory to the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama/Benoit Treluyer). Finishing seconnd was the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA SC430 (Daisuke Ito/Kazuya Oshima), while third went to the No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN SC430 (Tatsuya Kataoka/Seiji Ara).
In the GT300 class race, the pole-starting No. 33 HANKOOK PORSCHE (Masami Kageyama/Tomonobu Fujii) won the first race of the season in a perfect pole-to-checkered victory without once giving up the lead. Kageyama was the starting driver for No. 33. In a race plagued with accidents that saw the third-place grid sitter, the No. 66 triple a Vantage GT2 (Hiroki Yoshimoto) spin out and the second-place starting grid sitting No. 27 PACIFIC NAC IKAMUSUME Ferrari (Hideki Yamauchi) fall back after a collision with a GT500 machine, No. 33 continued to run at a steady pace in the lead. At the back, the second position changed hands several times in a hotly contested race that allowed No. 33 (Kageyama) to run clear and unchallenged. Kageyama (No. 33) continued to drive on to just before the two-thirds of race distance limit for one driver before returning to the pit on lap 44 to hand the wheel over to teammate Tomonobu Fujii. At this point No. 33 had a lead over second of more than one minute, which was more than enough to allow them to change all four tyres and refuel without surrendering the lead.
After taking over the driver's seat, Fujii drove on steadily, keeping a watch on the gap with the cars behind him. He managed to maintain a lead of more than 30 seconds into the final stages of the race. As the rain grew heavier in the closing laps and cars began spinning out and running off the track, Fujii maintained his pace without faltering. At the end of the 60th lap for the GT500 race, the red flag came out to halt the race due to the worsening weather conditions. That became the end of the race and the finale for No. 33's perfect victory. The battle for second place lasted into the final stages of the race. In the middle stages the battle had raged between the No. 62 R&D SPORT LEGACY B4 (Tetsuya Yamano > Kota Sasaki) and the No. 31 HASEPRO MA IWASAKI apr COROLLA (Koki Saga > Yuki Iwasaki), but wiper trouble on car No. 62 hurt its visibility and eventually electrical problems brought the car to a stop. No. 31 also had to slow down as the rain grew heavier.
This allowed the No. 11 JIMGAINER DIXCEL DUNLOP 458 (Katsuyuki Hiranaka > Tetsuya Tanaka) and the No. 25 ZENT Porsche RSR (Akihiro Tsuzuki > Takeshi Tsuchiya) to move up. Car No. 11 had been given a 10-second penalty stop in the early going when start driver Hiranaka spun out during the safety car run, but he had been able to regain ground steadily after that. Meanwhile, the start driver for car No. 25, Tsuzuki, managed to run at a pace as fast as his veteran teammate Tsuchiya, as they continued to climb up through the field. In the closing stages of the race, No. 25 (Tsuchiya) was running in front of No. 11 (Tanaka) in a close-fought battle until Tanaka (No. 11) managed to slip past Tsuchiya skillfully on the Dunlop Corner of lap 49. Tsuchiya (No. 25) stayed close behind, however, and finally managed to pass Tanaka back on lap 56. However, this was the very lap that the red flag came out to stop the race. As a result, the finishing order was that of the previous lap, thus putting the No. 11 JIMGAINER DIXCEL DUNLOP 458 in second place and the No. 25 ZENT Porsche RSR in third in the finishing order.