Super GT Rd.8 Motegi

LEXUS TEAM SARD finishes 11th in the season’s last round

After the previous Round 7 that was supposed to be staged at Fuji Speedway and cancelled due to terrible typhoon damages left over the very regions, the 2010 AUTOBACS SUPER GT came down to Round 8, the “MOTEGI GT250km” which turned out to be the one intensively-final round to conclude the season. Hence, it was the first SUPER GT race weekend held after 2-months absence since Round 6 was held at Suzuka back in August. Over these past couple of months, GRM driver racing with LEXUS TEAM SARD, Andre Couto unfortunately came to face another problem as his dear son Afonso’s leukemia relapsed. With little Afonso’s condition not yet heading towards fair recovery, and though it was indeed a very difficult decision to make, father chose to stay and care for his son at the hospital back home in Portugal. Given this situation, LEXUS TEAM SARD also had to arrive at quick decisions upon this very final round of the year to entrust Couto’s steering over to driver Carlo Van Dam from Netherlands.

October 23 (Saturday) the venue was blessed with pleasant skies and the freshest Autumn sunshine the day through, with comfortable daytime temperatures of around 19 degrees Celsius. Starting from 9:05 to 10:05 in the morning, Official Practice was held, then on to the afternoon, the first (45 minutes) of the Official Qualifying heats began from 13:05. Team’s regular driver Kohei Hirate, with Carlo Van Dam both took the command of DENSO DUNLOP SARD SC430 (No. 39) in the heats and cleared 107% of the standard time to qualify and challenge the Super Lap.
From 14:55, the 10 minutes of the first run of Super Lap (S1) got underway, where Hirate took the steer but the time of 1’45.031 resulting from this heat did not allow the team to advance farther on to the remainder of the session.

On October 24 (Sunday), the temperatures got somewhat lower and chilly to around16 degrees C (Track temperature: 20 degrees C), under overcast of cloudy skies. From 8:30am started the 45 minutes of Free Practice during which session each of the teams made last checks on their machines. In this session, Hirate marked a 6th position time of 1’46.949 on DENSO DUNLOP SARD, gaining some good feels for the upcoming race.

Now the time was 14:00 and 53 laps of the season’s final battle kicked off with a great start! As the skies above were starting to grey there were concerns for rain, but anyway all the13 cars of the GT500, and 24 of GT300 cars took off with the rolling start on dry tyres. Starting driver for LEXUS TEAM SARD, Kohei Hirate was soon to earn one position up on the 4th lap with one of the cars in front given a penalty, and No. 39 went on running at 12th for a while. Then on the 18th lap, moved one position up to 11th and eventually when the race itself came to the 20th Lap or so, there were teams already starting to take relatively-early pit in strategies.
Meanwhile, No. 39 DENSO DUNLOP SARD SC430 was one of the later ones to go in for a pit stop, as it waited until the 31st lap. On this pit stop, tyre change, re-fueling and switch of drivers took place with the machine now trusted to Carlo Van Dam. For Carlo this was his spot entry in the SUPER GT since his last one in 2008, but which did not seem to matter at all as he has not lost touch and pushed on with a very steady and secure driving all the way as keeping the 11th position to chequer. His mission to cover for Andre’s absence and help complete the season for this team were fully accomplished in safe and peace.

Regarding the championship, No. 18 Weider HSV-010 (Takashi Kogure and Loic Duval) after placing 2nd in the final round captured the 2010 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Series title, bringing Honda’s HSV-010 to big glory in its debut year.
Photos by T.Moriyama