SUPER GT Rd.2 Okayama

L. Duval finishes 5th, A. Couto perseveres to take 14th

In the opening round of SUPER GT, the NISSAN GT-Rs, which debuted this season, seemed to shine in terms of speed. TOYOTA’s Andre Couto and HONDA’s Loic Duval went into the Okayama International Circuit round (3.703km total length) in Mimasaka, Okayama prefecture, to catch up. This circuit is known as a technical track. It is tough for the drivers, and there are many spots where fans can see the aggressive battles right in front of their eyes.

Saturday April 12th, the 16 GT500 machines began their first qualifying session at 10:20, after the 20-minute session for the GT300 class, which began at 10am. The two GRM drivers went in as the qualifying attack drivers, charging towards their goal of recording the best time in the 20-minute session.


Andre, in the red and white DENSO DUNLOP SARD SC430 (no.39) machine was looking for a proper match between the car and tyres. He continued to have understeer problems and an unstable rearend on the car, problems he also had in the official practice from the previous day. Unable to put 100% into the attack, he finished 15th with a best time of 1’25.570.

Andre Couto:“It’s better than yesterday, but the car’s still difficult to drive. Tomorrow will be a tough race, but Takagi (teammate Toranosuke) and I will join forces to win.”


The other GRM driver, Loic Duval in the EPSON NSX (no.32), finished the first qualifying session without any problems, taking 8th (1’24.151) and moving on to the afternoon’s SL, featuring the top 10 cars from the morning. He was unable to better his time (1’24.651) in SL, but showed stable driving and kept his position.

Loic Duval:“Today I had oversteer and understeer so it definitely wasn’t an easy qualifying session, but I was happy that I was able to at least make the record of getting into SL every year since 2006. For tomorrow’s race, I’d be happy if it rained…”

Sunday April 13th, the weather forecast predicted the possibility of rain, but the “GT 300km RACE” began at 14:00 under cloudy skies amid dry conditions. Loic Duval, the starting driver of the no.32 car, went off the line from the 4th row, and Toranosuke Takagi in the no.39 machine began from the 8th row for the 82-lap race.


Loic struggled in the EPSON NSX at the beginning – but held onto his eighth position. The no.36 car passed him on the 26th lap, and the no.17 machine got by on the following tour. However, he kept at it, handing the car over to teammate Katsuyuki Hiranaka on lap 48 while running fifth. Hiranaka passed another car to go up to 4th. However, another machine passed them at the end of the race, and the pair took the checkered flag in 5th place.


Loic Duval: “I had oversteer on the entrance to corners at the beginning of the race. Front-end grip was weak under braking, and 2 cars got past as I struggled. Midway through the race, the balance of the car got better and I was able to pass a few cars. To reflect, the machine performance wasn’t quite enough to reach the podium, but we did our best. At the next race, we’ll be striving for more points!”


The no.39 DENSO DUNLOP SARD SC430 was unable to up the pace from the start. Takagi, after observing discomfort in the tyres, came back to the pits on lap 20. This unplanned pitstop distanced them from the win, but Andre showed quality driving after the 48th lap to complete the race in 14th.


Andre Couto:“It was a tough race for us. With the 2 pitstops, we weren’t able to go for the win, but we focused on finishing, so we could collect data. We’re going to use this important data to do better next time.”

The next SUPER GT event, Round 3 takes place at Fuji Speedway (Shizouka prefecture) on May 3rd and 4th.

Photos by T.Moriyama