SUPER GT Rd.7 Autopolis

Tossed around by unsteady weather the weekend long, A. Caldarelli in 9th, A. Couto 13th


13gt7-COU10The 2013 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Series has just two more rounds to go including this weekend’s 7th Round, “SUPER GT in KYUSHU 300km” which now came to Autopolis International Racing Course, located in the Aso region of Kyushu, the third biggest island of Japan. The track here is characterized by a blend of both mid-speed and high-speed corners, added with hard undulations which make tyre management difficult for everyone.

13gt7-CAL06Also by the geographical factors, such as the grounds naturally landscaped over the outer rim of a crater, – which are among some features quite exclusive to the Aso mountains, – climatic conditions here are known to be very unstable year round. As a matter of fact, also this race weekend through, weather was by all means a large factor!

(Audience figures: Oct. 5th (SAT), 11,600, Oct. 6 (SUN) 22,100) 



October 5th (SAT)  Official Qualifying


13gt7-CAL01The official practice session of Saturday morning, scheduled to begin at 9:00am for the duration of 2 hours had to start under uneasy conditions of fog, rain and rather strong winds blowing. Just 15 minutes in to the session, rain began to fall harder and many teams turned to wait in the garages and watch the development. Then at 9:48am, the session was red-flagged and had to be interrupted due to a dense fog over the entire area. Teams all continued to wait, anticipating the conditions to improve, but the session had to be called off for no recovery in weather could be expected. 13gt7-COU09With mist and fog, such poor conditions continuing to linger throughout the afternoon, finally the decisions were taken to postpone the Official Qualifying to the next morning. Because of these unusual Saturday schedules, both GRM drivers, Andre Couto and Andrea Caldarelli finished each of their one long and slow day without ever getting inside the machine.






October 6 (SUN)  Official Qualifying (in lieu, by a schedule change) and the Race



13gt7-CAL05From 9:00am in the morning, 25 minutes each of qualifying procedures, starting with the GT300 class, then followed by the GT500 class began. Hardly any team got their running done the previous day, so literally speaking everyone was there to try in the qualifying “unrehearsed”. Also due to the quick rearrangement in the time-schedule, a special measure was taken to appoint only one (1) driver a team be in charge of the qualifying pursuit. (Usually, both (2) drivers in the team must drive in the quali.) As to the tyres, two (2) sets of marking tyres were allowed, but out of which one (1) set chosen by the draw had to be used as starting tyres for the Race, which is quite an irregular rule.




At 9:25am, with clouds in the skies drifting rapidly by strong winds, also under occasional rain, in such a “damp” condition the qualifying session by 15 cars of the GT500 class finally got under way.

LEXUS TEAM KeePer TOM’S, No. 37 was driven by Andrea’s teammate Daisuke Ito, who after 25 minutes of time-attacking marked a 7th position time (1’38.573).


Over on LEXUS TEAM WedsSport BANDOH, Andre Couto who took the pole position last year right here on this track was appointed to drive the qualifying. However, struggling with large under-steer particularly on the high-speed corners, No. 19 could only position in14th (1’39.893) from this session.







13gt7-CAL00The clock ticked 14:00, the time to start the race. With 22 degrees Celsius of air temperature, and the track at 24 degrees C, – also despite some rain clouds in the skies above, “Dry” continued to be declared over the course. All the cars followed the given formation lap procedures like usual, and thus the race started off!








Andrea Caldarelli, appointed to be the starting driver on KeePer TOM’S SC430 No. 37, took a fine start from the 7th grid but because of machine and tyres not matching so well, gradually fell to P10 by the 15th lap. Staying in that position for some while more, Andrea finished the 27th lap for an early pit-in, and handed the machine over to Daisuke Ito. By then, fine mists of rain were falling upon the entire course, but still not as far as anyone switching over to rain tyres. Ito kept running in P8 for a while, but as coming to the 49th lap was passed by one car and down to P9 at this point and also to the very last of the race.13gt7-CAL02




“My stint was quite a difficult one. Just after five laps or so, pick-up (*marble on the tires) became terrible and the machine balance was also not quite right. Driving like that was really not easy. This is a problem we had from the Free Practice sessions, but having to go straight into the Race today without being able to finish up settings and preparation, could bring us no better race results.”




13gt7-COU05Over on WedsSport ADVAN SC430, Andre Couto ‘starting’ and managing car No. 19 from P14 on the grid, went catching up brilliantly from behind and by the 15th lap was running in P9! Then, with a relatively late pit-in on the 33rd lap, the machine was switched over to his teammate, Seiji Ara. Ara continued the stride steadily in P10, but perhaps due to the re-fitted tyres not matching the track surface so well, a while later an urgent pit-in became necessary just after lap 42 which then caused the team’s position to drop to P13. Back on the track, but not being able to improve much more and work back up the field, No. 19 ran in that same position till the end, all the way to chequer.13gt7-COU02




“In my stint, there were still several under-steering issues unsolved on the high-speed corners, but I pushed hard and could hand the machine over somehow still inside the range of points-earning… However, during Seiji’s stint, we had to pit in again and all was lost, – from there not much more could be done. It is too bad that all the efforts everybody made together did not bear fruit this weekend. Let’s all look forward to giving our utmost, drive a strong race in the last round of the season for a better outcome!”



The next round, which will also be the final stage of the 2013 series, the SUPER GT Round 8 in Motegi (TochigiPrefecture) will be held over the weekend of November 2 – 3.