SUPER GT Rd.8 Autopolis

Loic Duval places 9th and Andre Couto finishes the race at 12th

On October 17th and the 18th, “SUPER GT in KYUSHU 300Km”, Round 8 of the nine SUPER GT rounds of this season was staged at Autopolis (in Oita Prefecture).
The circuit of Autopolis, located in the Aso mountain ranges is characterized with many mid-speed and high-speed turns, significantly varying undulation over its layout, and what is more, the track surface known to be tough on the tyres. And though the races fought here always turn into fairly challenging ones for many drivers, in the years 2004 and 2007 Andre Couto, and in 2008, Loic Duval have achieved podium finishes respectively.

On October 17th (Saturday), some raindrops did fall during the Free Practice session held in the morning, but the track condition stayed in the Dry, and the Official Qualifying heats began from 12:40 in the afternoon under the temperature of 19 degrees Celsius (Track temp.: 24 degrees C), with chilly winds blowing.
First, Andre Couto on LEXUS TEAM SARD (No. 39) drove in the mixed session of GT500 and GT300 classes, cleared the standard time, then handed the car over to teammate Kohei Hirate who was to serve as the Qualifying heat attacker this time. Hirate made hard pursuits in the GT500-only session (of 10 minutes duration) placing 13th (1’44.141).
Meanwhile, Loic Duval on EPSON NSX (No. 32) finished the Qualifying trials in 14th position (1’44.415), and both teams not quite able to bring their machine and tyre setting to their favorable conditions, missed the Super Lap session which is attended by only the top 8 qualifiers.

October 18th (Sunday), with the whole crowd of local fans who all longed to attend the SUPER GT staged in Kyushu, the audience figures counted the total of 42,350 with Saturday and Sunday combined. At 14:00 when the race was to start, it was 17 degrees C (Track: 26 degrees C) – rather low and cool but with warm sunshine felt, thus the race of 65 laps got underway in overall pleasant weather conditions.

No. 32 EPSON NSX chose to make 2 pit stops. First, Loic Duval’s teammate Yuhki Nakayama was on duty as the starting driver for the first stint of 22 laps. Then, Loic took over the steering from the 23rd lap with the team running at 11th position at the time, and from there on the French driver on car 32 went charging as updating his own best times. On the 42nd lap and after the team’s second pit stop, Loic Duval stayed on the steering for the last stint. And here once again with the best time (1’45,772) marked, persistent work by Loic brought EPSON NSX to take the chequered flag at 9th.

“This weekend we could not create a flow to join the top positions, but in both of the two stints that I was in charge, I think the driving went well despite the traffic, and also the lap time marked with the 3rd set of tyres was not so bad. We also gained a lot of data today which will be quite useful in our coming races, so it was good.”

In the meantime, Andre Couto who started from the 7th row on DUNLOP SARD SC430 passed car No. 17 (KEIHIN NSX, Toshihiro Kaneishi) going in front on the 2nd lap. However, soon after on the 4th turn No. 17 pushed from behind and unable to hold, No. 39 spun off, suffering some damage on the rear. Therefore, urgent pit-in became inevitable for a quick repair but as overcoming such misfortune, Andre managed to return to the course and drove until his 32 laps were through, then the machine was given over to Kohei Hirate. Hirate drove on steadily to goal, and DUNLOP SARD SC430 finished the race in 12th position.

“Due to that accident, it’s too bad we could not stay on the frontline of the battle. On the high-speed corner, the machine had some under-steer, causing the rear grip to come down a bit by bit. But because the machine condition itself wasn’t so bad after all, it’s ever more regrettable!”

Photos by T.Moriyama


In the forthcoming weekend of October 31st – November 1st, the very first Asian Le Mans Series (LMP1 Class) will be held at Okayama International Circuit, where Loic Duval will make entry with the famous team of France, Team ORECA Matmut AIM. Loic marked his debut driving in this team also last year in the Le Mans 24H Endurance race, and already has the experience driving a prototype machine. On top of that, Loic’s abundant knowledge of domestic (Japanese) circuits arouses even larger excitement for some great actions to be seen from this team. Together with the team’s regular driver Nicolas Lapierre (France), two races of 3 hours each will be fought over the two days.

Andre Couto will be present in the FIA WTCC (World Touring Car Championship) held along with the Macau GP of November 19th – 22nd, driving a Seat Leon of the SUNRED Engineering Team. Known as the Winner of the Macau GP in 2000, Andre always draws great attention as Macau’s home- and star-driver in these events held each year.