The Super GT Final Round ended with a 250km race at the Twin Ring Motegi on November 15, 2015. The GT-R NISMO from the GT500 Class achieved 2nd place in the overall results, and its drivers Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli achieved the Driver’s Title successively for the same class. Quintarelli has achieved this title on the GT500 Class for the fourth time.
The parade lap of the 53-lap race started at 1:40 PM in delicate conditions. The rain suddenly fell while the machines were positioned on the starting grid, but the weather went back to normal with clear skies. Nevertheless, the road was still wet. Each team was worried about which tires they’d be using on the grid, but in the end, all the GT500 machines started the race using rain tires.
There were six possible teams that were entitled for the GT500 Driver’s Title battle, but two Nissan GT-R machines had the power to decide it all by themselves: the #12 Calsonic Impul GT-R (driven by Hironobu Yasuda and Joao Paolo de Oliveira/ using Bridgestone (BS) tires) that achieved 5th place at the preliminary round, and the #1 Motul Autech GT-R (driven by Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli / using Michelin (MI) tires) that achieved 12th place at the preliminary round. The #12 GT-R had led a narrow margin by two points. However, there was a huge gap in the grid position during the final round.
The weather was gradually became clear after the race began. The #12 GT-R (driven by Oliveira) started 5th on the grid. The #1 GT-R (driven by Quintarelli) rose to 10th place at lap 1, and due to the intense performance brought about by changes in the tires’ compatibility towards the road conditions, it slowly rose up in the ranking. It rose up to the 6th grid at the end of lap 10, so it was next to the #12 GT-R.
The GT500 machines’ pit stop routine started as they finished lap 19, and they had to change tires to slick tires. The #12 GT-R went to the pit at the end of lap 24. Its tires were changed and it needed refueling. After that, Yasuda went in for Oliveira and went back to the course. Then the #1 GT-R went to the pit, and it went back to the course with Matsuda substituting Quintarelli. Therefore, the speed of the drivers from the former and latter parts of the race changed and it led to the #1 GT-R going ahead of the #12 GT-R.
Their gap before entering the pit was around seven to eight seconds. It entered the pit for roughly four seconds, and even though the #1 GT-R had a shorter stopping time, it seemed that the drivers had a gap in strategies for fuel consumption. It certainly did not have misses during the operation, and as a result of the combination of Quintarelli’s full swing driving before entering the pit and Matsuda’s strong feeling in driving before the race as he took over the turn (Quintarelli said), there was a change in the order.
The #1 GT-R took over the lead for the team championship title. At that rate, the #1 GT-R would’ve been able to achieve the team championship title as long as it finished within the top 3, and as long as the #38 Lexus RC F did not win, it could also have achieved 4th place ahead of the #12 GT-R.
Immediately after that, a safety car entered the course, and at the latter part of the race, #12 and #1 were in a very close fight as both of them were then included in the top 7. There was already a car in between #1 and #12, and since #1 was already in the position to stand in the winner’s podium when it finishes in second place, it would’ve won its second team championship title. The intense fight between four cars had a difference of 1.4 seconds as they entered the final lap, with the #12 GT-R achieving the 4th place, losing its opportunity to achieve the GT500 Champion title.
Matsuda once again won the Driver’s title, which he first achieved last year. “I couldn’t believe it. The rain (which lasted for a short time) before the start of the finals was probably a rain of blessing for us (with the condition of the tires).” Yesterday’s weather was not good, but it seems that what they said about something great happening today definitely came true. “Ronnie drove it very well in the first part of the race, and our team really did an amazing job while we were on the pit stop. I did not achieve the Champion title alone, so I would like to extend my gratitude to Ronnie, our team, Manager (Yutaka) Suzuki, the Michelin Tires staff, and of course, to my family.”
Matsuda also talked about his impression towards the entire season, “We were quite unable to go with the flow, especially during the middle rounds, but we were able to precisely improve our lapses. Further, we felt that a miracle happened during our previous race in Autopolis, and I think that being able to win that race has the greatest connection for us in achieving the Champion Title.” Moreover, regarding their 17th win in the GT500 class, he said, “We are still waiting for confirmation, but we also want to challenge with our goal for next year.” Matsuda achieved consecutive wins in Formula Nippon (currently known as Super Formula) from 2007 to 2008, and he himself was also aware that there are no other racers who have achieved both titles other than him, as he created a landmark achievement of becoming a top racer for both GT500 and Formula.
Further, his colleague Quinterelli achieved the individual GT500 Driver’s Title for the fourth time in this season. Quintarelli said, “Yesterday, I thought it was impossible to achieve this title for the fourth time as we only achieved 12th place in the preliminary round. But I was able to persistently deal with it no matter how impossible it may have seemed.” Quintarelli and Matsuda both pointed out that the tires became a positive factor at that short time before the start of the race when it rained, as they were worried about the tires. “We became confident about it. We can catch up with our pace.” And as Matsuda said, they drove really well.
Quintarelli, who was watching his trusted partner’s close fight from the pit, laughingly said, “It felt like my life span has become shorter by five years.” Further, he said, “But Tsugio really did well this year with great efforts so we achieved this result.” This is his fourth driver’s title in five years, hence it can be said that Quintarelli is the strongest driver in the GT500 class.
The #37 KeePer TOM’S RC F won 1st place in the GT500 Class (with Andrea Caldarelli and Ryo Hirakawa / using BS tires), and just like in Round 1, it achieved the pole-to-checkers victory. The #100 Raybrig NSX Concept-GT won 3rd place (with drivers Naoki Yamamoto and Takuya Izawa / using BS tires).
Moreover, NISMO also achieved the GT-R Team Title with the #1 GT-R.
This season’s Super GT ended with a very close fight. It is certain that the competition level was very high, but the popularity of this event remains also high as it gathered approximately 50,000 audience members on Saturday and Sunday despite the bad weather conditions in the finals. Our expectations are becoming higher from now as we anticipate further developments on the upcoming 2016 season of Super GT.
(Translated by Claire Marie Sausora)