SUPER GT Rd.6 Fuji

A. Couto misses the podium chance, struggling some technical factors…..

On September 10 – 11th, the “FUJI GT 250km RACE”, the 6th of the total of 8 rounds in 2011 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Series took place at Fuji Speedway. In this race which is already one of the last and near-climax phases of the season was attended by the audience of about 42,600 GT fans this weekend, who were all glued to watching some fierce battling go on till the very last second! Andre Couto driving with LEXUS TEAM KRAFT flew in from his hometown Macau to join forces again with his team and teammate Juichi Wakisaka who, just like Andre, are greatly determined to give their most and gain back the lost grounds of up to now – really do some catching up in these final rounds!

On September 10th (SAT) under pleasant autumn-blue skies, the day begun with first the Official Practice Session in the morning (9:15 – 11:00). On D’STATION KeePer SC430 first Juichi Wakisaka, later serving the qualifying-attacker, ran to do the machine check as firming up the setting, which machine was next handled by Andre in charge of doing the long run. Marking a 4th position time (1’35.656) from this session, No. 35 was able to gain a good feel toward the Qualifying to take place in the afternoon.

As going on to the Super Lap, Juichi Wakisaka whose order was to start 7th, headed to course-in on given the cue from the official, but just then it happened to be that No. 35 was blocking the way for car No. 6 (ENEOS SUSTINA SC430) which was already on its way out, so therefore Wakisaka had to yield and give way to No. 6. This was in fact, a mistake on the steward’s half, but for any reason such happenings could still disturb any driver when trying to pick up pace or good rhythm, also delays the warmup of tyres. In spite of it all however, the expert Japanese driver managed to make a quick recovery, and in this session confirmed the 4th place starting grid for the team.Commented Andre Couto after the qualifying session, “For us this was not the best SL and result, but for all LEXUS to dominate the top 5 positions at the home course is really something. We can be very confident with the machine and its setup so please watch us! We are really going to tackle hard in the race tomorrow!”, with a cheerful look on his face.

On the following day, 11th (SUN) the Free Practice Session (8:20 – 8:50) took place under light rain. This forced all machines to run with rain tyres, and on D’STATION KeePer SC430, first Couto put in 9 laps, followed by Wakisaka doing 2 laps. Rain already cleared by the time Free Practice was to finish, in fact, it gradually started turning into a rather perspiring-hot weather.

The clock stroke 14:00, and though clouds spread over the skies the dry condition (Temperature of 29 degrees C, Track temperature 39 degrees C) was addressed on the track, and rolling start by 15 machines of GT500 and 23 of the GT300 kicked off for the 55 laps of race with enormous bursting sounds!

Starting from a good, 2nd row of the grid, D’STATION KeePer SC430 went with Andre Couto, – as a matter of fact with an excellent start among all LEXUS’s in the top rows – and ran at position-4 in the early laps of the race. However, on the 10th lap, it got passed by No. 36 (PETRONAS TOM’S SC430) from behind and thus it lost one position down to 5th. From there on, the pace did not grow much better which cost No. 35 some more positions down. Unable to hold much longer in that condition, Andre went into the pit on 19th Lap just on completing his stint, then the machine got refueled, tyres changed and switched to Wakisaka for the remainder of the race. Going back onto the field at 14th position, Juichi tried catching up with a great strive, and brought the position back to 11th by Lap 37. Then, toward the last laps, with one car retiring, the position was up to 10th, and soon one another notch up as overtaking a car in front, and thus D’STATION KeePer SC430 finished the race in 9th position.

“Today, some technical issues that we had slowed us down. And though it couldn’t be helped, since the machine was set up so well, we really saw good chances for a podium result this time… it is rather disappointing. With all the team together we will review, troubleshoot and solve the problems, and for sure go to “win” the next round!”

Andre Couto continues to be actively involved in the bone-marrow donor bank awareness-raising program that the SUPER GT is promoting.
On September 11th (SUN), the Japanese Red Cross Society opened a blood donation booth on-site Fuji Speedway to call for donor bank registry, where Andre also joined the campaign efforts to promote greater public awareness and cooperation.

Photos by T.Moriyama&GRM