SUPER GT Rd.3 Sepang

Andre Couto settles to a 10th place finish due to time-loss caused in pit

The 2011 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 3 “SUPER GT INTERNATIONAL SERIES MALAYSIA” unfolded at the Sepang International Circuit (Length: 5.542km) over June 18 – 19th. About 7 hours of flight away from Japan, this circuit located near Kuala Lumpur Airport in Malaysia close to the Equator is renowned to also host F1 and MotoGP events. And obviously, it being a tropical region, for any race the auspices here are never so easy on the drivers or machines. On top of that, occasional squall or sudden rain-shower common to this area can always stir up and upset developments of the race. And where such demanding conditions await, GRM driver Andre Couto coming in from Macau (where he resides) joined the rest of LEXUS TEAM KRAFT members committed to face all the challenges. Now, for this team who has been working to seek a good flow, particularly as progressing on to the last half of the series, it is quite important that they finish this 3rd round with positive results. Thus, Andre Couto came with some strong determinations to fight through the two days of this one special weekend held in Malaysia.

On June18th (Saturday), Official Practice Session took place from 10:00 to 11:45 AM, where Andre Couto, together with teammate Juichi Wakisaka worked to tune D’STATION KeePer SC430 to a good setting, and finished this session with a 10th position time result (1’59.299). Then, from 14:15 to 15:05 (Sunny skies, with temperature 35 degrees C / track temp.46 degrees C), the first run of the Qualifying Session began. 15 machines of the GT500 class, and 19 machines of GT300 ran the session together, and Wakisaka of LEXUS TEAM KRAFT cleared the standard time. Soon after, Andre Couto coursed in to make time-attacks and outputting a 1’59.441 9th position time, the team was able to advance to the next session (10 min.) of just the GT500 class alone. There Andre marked the time of 1’58.313 and in 10th position advanced to the Super Lap (SL).

Following the SL by the GT300s, beginning at 17:12 with the sun from the west still coming down strong (Temp. 32 degrees C / Track: 43 degrees C), Andre Couto on No. 35 hit the track as the first runner of the GT500 – Super Lap. Gradually warming up the tyres, then “Right On!!” already in the first lap of the timed session, marked a 1’57.948 time. Though the rivals soon followed or exceeded with faster times, D’STATION KeePer SC430 clung on and secured their grid start from 10th position in the next day’s race.

“Machine is in better and better shape every round, and today we were able to move on to the Super Lap, which is a good achievement. In the race tomorrow, we will be using stronger tyres, and since our machine has been finished to such a good state, I think we can really look forward to tomorrow!”

Next day, the 19th (Sun), the Free Practice session in the morning continued to be under dry condition (Temp.: 32 degrees C/Track temp. 37 degrees C), and Wakisaka/Couto’s D’STATION KeePer SC430 marked a 3rd position time of 1’59.587 and in good note prepared for the race to come that late afternoon.
The Sepang race this year was to start from 16.00, just past the peak of daytime high temperatures. Even then, the temperatures continued to stay high at 34 degrees Celsius with the track temperature reading 43 degrees C, and for sure the 46 laps of the race here on this track always turns into a harsh one not only for the drivers, but just as much for the team crew doing the pit actions. And soon following the formation lap, all the cars rolled out to the SUPER GT race of Round 3!

Andre Couto serving the starting driver kicked off from the 5th row and ran at 10th position for a while. On the 7th lap, he moved up to 9th as another machine going in 6th position spun out. Further, on the 10th lap, Andre overtook car no. 39 (DENSO SARD SC430) going in front and rose to 8th position. But thenafter for a while, another car going ahead in 5th position (No. 24 ADVAN KONDO GT-R) but not able to pick up a good pace, clogged up everybody’s way and therefore, D’STATION KeePer SC430 without any choice also had to stay stuck, patiently following a trail of cars. What’s worse, this had to go on for as long as six laps, as the layout of Sepang Circuit does not allow for much overtaking. Eventually when no. 24 finally went in for a pit stop in the 17th lap, all the machines held up behind 5th and downward were finally able to raise their paces and Andre Couto on No. 35 was also able to move up positions to 7th. Shortly passed the 17th lap many of the GT500 cars started pitting in (to fuel, tyre change and driver change), while Andre on LEXUS TEM KRAFT stayed on track driving steadily for some laps more till it was time for pit-stop scheduled upon completion of his 25 laps stint. However, on this pit stop refueling did not go smooth, and an unfortunate time loss was caused! Wakisaka, now on the steer stormed out to catch up for this loss, and though having to go from the rearmost, he throve with veteran driving, working back up to 10th which is the position the team got the chequer.

“There is definite improvement with our machine, and it is now more competitive. Both Juichi and I really did our best today. If it hadn’t been for the fueling trouble on our pit-stop, we could have finished the race in the top 6, I’m sure. At SUGO (July 30 -31) the team will reunite as one aiming for a win, so please stay tuned with us!”

Photos by T.Moriyama