Super GT Round 3 at Fuji Race Review – Lexus Back in the Lead

The Lexus SC430 is clearly the fastest car at Fuji in the GT500 Class, and probably the fastest car in the 2010 championship, as they have clearly demonstrated earlier in the Saturday qualifying session with a 1-2-3 position on the starting grid. What’s more impressive is the manner they did it, with a weight handicap more than their closest rivals in the championship. While the weight handicap clearly hampered the speed of the leading GTRs and HSV-010s, the Lexus SC430 of MJ KRAFT, PETRONAS TOM’S, and ENEOS dominated the Fuji 400km with an impressive display by sweeping all the podium places and the ZENT CERUMO completed a perfect weekend for Lexus by finishing 4th.

Because of the 400km race distance, according to the regulations, it is required that the driver change takes place twice along the course of the race, making it compulsory to stop at least twice. This opens up a very large window for strategies among the teams.

Lexus swept all the podium places at Fuji

Starting from pole, the MJ KRAFT SC430 driven Kazuya Oshima led the race from the front before pitting at the end of lap 31 for the first driver change to teammate Hiroaki Ishiura. The team opted for the safest option by dividing their pitstop window equally into 3 stints after competitive times were set in the practice session, knowing that they have the pace to go the distance. This meant that the 1st driver has to do twice the amount of distance in the 1st and 3rd stint compared to the 2nd driver. Oshima pitted at the end of lap 31, and all the leading teams pitted soon after, so when Ishiura took the wheel after the 1st stop, they were in the lead and have a 10 seconds gap to 2nd place PETRONAS TOM’s SC430. Ishiura steadily increased the gap to the 2nd place PETRONAS TOM’s SC430 driven by Juichi Wakisaka before pitting at the end of lap 63. Although the pitstop took a long 36 seconds, 8 seconds longer than the 1st stop, the long pitstop is negated because the PETRONAS TOM’s SC430 also took some 34 seconds to complete their 2nd pitstop.

The PETRONAS TOM’s SC430 were on a different strategy, opting for a longer 1st and 2nd stints from the leading MJ KRAFT SC430, pitting 4 laps later on the 1st stint and 3 laps later on the 2nd stint. Although Andre Lottere managed to close the gap to the leading MJ KRAFT SC430 during the final stint, it wasn’t enough as Oshima took the chequered flag in 1st place to take Lexus’ 1st win of the season.

In 3rd was the ENEOS SC430 of Daisuke Ito and Bjorn Wirdheim. The team opted for an unorthodox strategy, with a very short 1st stint, a very long middle stint and another short final stint. Ito started the race well, before pitting as early as lap 22 before handing it to Wirdheim. Wirdheim ran a very long middle stint before pitting again on lap 66, before handing the car back to Ito.

On the last stint, Ito was passed by the ARTA HSV-010 (above) of Ralph Firman and Yuji Ide for 3rd, but was fortunate to take the final podium place after the ARTA HSV-010 collided with a backmarker, thus ending their race. It must be a bitter to swallow for Honda, after none of their challengers were able to challenge Lexus’ dominance throughout the weekend. Although the KEIHIN HSV-010 driven by Toshihiro Kaneishi and Koudai Tsukakoshi finished the race in 5th, it was not what Honda had hoped for.

The HSV-010s struggled to match the pace of the SC430 for the whole weekend

Similarly, Nissan had a horrible weekend after their main challenger, the MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (above) of Satoshi Motoyama and Benoit Treluyer suffered a drive train problem just prior to the start, forcing them to start from the pitlane 2 laps after the race started. And half way into the race, they were forced to retire from the race because of an engine problem. The highest place finishing GTR was the CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (below) of Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli. A bad weekend as far as both Nissan and Honda are concerned.

In the GT300 Class, the COROLLA Axio apr GT (above) of Takuto Iguchi and Yuji Kunimoto won ahead of the ARTA Garaiya of Morio Nitta and Shinichi Takagi in 2nd and the triple a Vantage GT2 of Hideshi Matsuda and Hiroki Yoshimoto.

After 3 rounds of the championship, the defending champion PETRONAS TOM’S SC430 (above) pairing of Juichi Wakisaka and Andre Lotterer led both the driver’s point ranking (34 points) and team’s championship (43 points) in the GT500 Class heading into the 4th round at the Sepang International Circuit next month.

Stay tuned for more photos from Fuji courtesy of our correspondent, Masaaki Kitagawa!

Photo : Masaaki Kitagawa

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