#100 NSX dominates the SUGO campaign.

SUPER GT Round 6: Honda NSX wins its first championship of the season… Naoki Yamamoto & Takuya Izawa dominate the GT500 Class

The final day of the SUPER GT Round 6 was celebrated on the 20th of September at Miyagi Prefecture’s Sportsland SUGO; driving the NSX, Naoki Yamamoto and Takuya Izawa were awarded the first championship win for this season in the GT 500 Class. It was the first victory of this season for the members of Honda in the GT 500 Class.

The sky over SUGO was a bit cloudy on the final day; however, it became hotter than the previous day as the sky cleared just before the start of the finals. The 81 lap, 300 kilometer race started past two in the afternoon amidst the intense gaze of the 28,500 spectators. It was a battle where the condition of the road temperature was high at around 10 degrees compared to the previous day’s qualifying race.

It is a stage where safety cars (SC) are dispatched often, as it has a high accident rate since the approximately 3.7 km lap at SUGO is short, and the width of the course as well as the run-off area is not wide. It has often been described as “demon infested” and some such colorful descriptions; the said demons however, made a moderate appearance as it wreaked havoc on a third of this said race.

The #39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC F (Kohei Hirate and H. Kovalainen/wearing Bridgestone tires = BS) crashed in the back straight amidst pressure from the other cars while competing with its comrades in the Lexus team of the GT 500 Class. The timing was absolutely perfect and delicate as the SC was dispatched at this juncture.
It was decided that it would be best to make a pit stop and change drivers at this time when an SC was dispatched as the first driver had finished one-third of the race, as the maximum mileage per driver in the SUPER GT is only up to two-thirds of the race. The pit lanes are closed anyway during the time when an SC is dispatched, and as expected, most cars head to the pitstops upon their opening.

The pit road of SUGO is also narrow. This of course leads to mayhem and the like as the exit gets congested when almost all cars heads to the pits simultaneously; however, it appears that the top two of the GT 500, the two cars who ranked first and second place from the qualifying race and have defended their positions respectively, can safely cut their way through. However, Motoyama’s efforts had gone to waste as most of the amassed seven-second lead was lost due to the SC, in the case of the race leading #46 S Road MOLA GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama and Masataka Yanagida/Michelin = MI). On the other hand, it increased the chances of the pursuing #100 RAYBRIG NSX CONCEPT-GT (Naoki Yamamoto and Takuya Izawa/BS).
Taking over from Yamamoto, Izawa closed the distance between #46 after the departure of the SC.

Thus ended the 36th lap; Izawa of #100 succeeded in wresting the lead from Yanagida of #46 as they jostled for position at the first corner from the straight as they entered the 37th lap. The second half of the race showed a steady run as the differential of about seven seconds was maintained, which eventually brought about the first championship of this season to Honda NSX CONCEPT-GT.

The #100 NSX which participated in the SUGO campaign ranks in seventh place (29 points) in the Driver’s Point Ranking and has a weight handicap of 58 kg, in line with the general rule which is still in effect as of now, of having weights placed on the car which is twice the amount of points that it has accumulated. This is in accordance with the characteristic provisions of the GT 500; 50kg worth is regulated through the engine’s fuel capacity restrictor, and the actual handicap weight is eight kilograms; however since last year, all cars that are currently used in the GT 500, Nissan, Lexus, Honda, (with varying degrees) show that the handicap with actual weight is more effective than the combustion restrictor regulation handicap. In other words, Yamamoto and Izawa came into this race, cognizant of the “favorable conditions” with the eight-kilogram actual weight handicap being placed on the #100, as being light.

Nevertheless, it would have been impossible to practically grab that chance, had the components not meshed flawlessly, namely both drivers and the team members, as well as the tires. They placed second in the qualifying race as the #46 GT-R, which enjoys the same “favorable conditions,” snatched the pole position. Izawa said that “it was really frustrating;” however, he also mentioned that “I wanted to knock it all off in the race” with regards to those frustrations. Thus, with regards to the wonderful details about the result, “we were able to make a run until the end with a performance that was entirely at its peak,” as they accomplished the victory by overtaking their stubborn rivals at the race course.

Yamamoto, the one in charge of the first half of the race also mentioned that “I was not able to increase the pace that much in the early stages, I thought that it would be difficult to win, and I was just thinking of trying to make a steady run in any case and leave it to Izawa” while recalling his hard run, which paid off eventually. Izawa also said in the morning of the final race that “It might be difficult.” However, the two of them continued to steadily compete in the race as they gradually developed their position, which led to them being decorated with their greatest victory.

This is the second victory in total since its victory in the Fuji campaign in August of last year for the Honda NSX CONCEPT-GT, which continues to fight the hard battles since its introduction last year. Yamamoto, who also belonged to the championship crew at that time, said that “It was a good victory. However, I do not want to rest on my laurels as I want to move on to the next step.” In addition, it was the first GT 500 victory since the season opener of 2013 for Izawa who campaigned last year in the GP2 in Europe.

The second placer at the final race is the #46 GT-R. Following in third place is the Nissan Team with the #24 D’station ADVAN GT-R (Daiki Sasaki and M.Krumm/Yokohama = YH). In the 4th and 5th place respectively are the Lexus Team with the #6 ENEOS SUSTINA RC F (Kazuya Oshima and Yuji Kunimoto/BS), and #19 WedsSport ADVAN RC F (Juichi Wakisaka and Yuhi Sekiguchi/YH).

The “demon” of SUGO made its appearance again and again since the time when the SC was dispatched, causing a chain of penalties and accidents to the cars that ranked from one to four in the points ranking of the GT500 which were loaded with a heavy actual weight handicap (28 to 50kg). In addition, the #100 NSX and the #46 GT-R were similarly dragged into this wave by chance as well as the #37 KeePer TOM’S RC F (A. Caldarelli and Ryo Hirakawa/BS) this time. Among the cars which ranked in the 1st to 5th place, #1 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda and R. Quintarelli/MI) reached the 6th highest place of the final race. As a result, the status of the upper level of the GT500 drivers’ ranking at the end of the sixth campaign was altered as follows (Calculation of points).

51 points…#12 Nissan GT-R/BS Hirunobu Yasuda and J-P. de Oliveira
49 points…#100 Honda NSX/BS Naoki Yamamoto and Takuya Izawa
45 points…#46 Nissan GT-R/MI Satoshi Motoyama and Masataka Yanagida
45 points…#38 Lexus RC F/BS Yuji Tachikawa and Hiroaki Ishiura
44 points…#1 Nissan GT-R/MI Tsugio Matsuda and R. Quintarelli
43 points…#36 Lexus RC F/BS Daisuke Ito and J.Rossiter

The remaining two races will be a fierce battle for the six teams which are separated by a difference of eight points, Yamamoto and Izawa of the #100 NSX suddenly went up to second place with only a two-point differential from that of first place; however, it will only just be the #12 GT-R which holds first place, which will be using the “combustion restrictor regulation,” as the weight handicap will be changed to ×1 points in the following seventh campaign. There is a possibility that becoming lighter in the higher ranking will only be advantageous for the #12; it is expected that the 49kg which will be loaded on to the #100 NSX will also be a tough challenge; however, Izawa indicated that “I am not thinking that much about the others since this chance is something that we got unexpectedly. I think that the results will follow if we just compete steadily.” Yamamoto also stated that “The chance will come to us again if we run a race without mistakes like this time” (unlike the other camps which were subjected to penalties). The fighting style of the #100 NSX which is facing towards the throne is something that draws attention to itself.

Round seven will be held at the Autopolis in Oita Prefecture. The official qualifying race is scheduled on October 31 and the final race will be on November 1.

(Translated by: Michael Sabaldan)