SUPER GT Rd.6 Fuji

A. Couto gets the first podium of this season! A. Caldarelli with a 7th place finish overcoming misfortunes

Now the real battling over the series championship bursts among the contenders as SUPER GT comes to the sixth round of the season with “FUJI GT 300KM RACE” held at Fuji Speedway staging these actions for the second time since Round 2 held earlier this year in spring. Over the two days, a total of 52,000 SUPER GT fans showed up to be part of the upheaving excitement and spectacles brought before them with 15 of the GT500 class and 24 machines of the GT300 gathered to this battleground.

September 8th (SAT), the Official Practice (9:40-11:40) took place under pleasant autumn morning sun and weather conditions (Air temp. 27 degrees Celsius / Track temp. 30 degrees C). From LEXUS TEAM KeePer Kraft, Andrea Caldarelli/Yuji Kunimoto pair placed 5th (1’34.180), and Andre Couto/Seiji Ara of LEXUS TEAM WedsSport BANDOH in 7th (1’34.364) after this session.

In the Qualifying Session from 14:00 on Saturday, the two GRM drivers were in charge of driving in the Q1 of the GT500 class, respectively. With LEXUS KeePer SC430, Andrea Caldarelli marked a 7th position time (1’33.856) from the Q1, then in Q2 competed by top 11 cars Andrea’s teammate Kunimoto sprung out to position 3 in his last lap (with 1’33.933), which was then followed by Andrea’s overwhelming time-attacks in the Q3 by top 7 cars. And as a result of it all, the team achieved their so-far best qualifying result of the season placing 3rd (1’33.297).

“We are very happy getting the top result out of all Lexus today, but falling behind the two NISSAN GT-Rs, is still a point to be reflected. For tomorrow, this is something that we need to try solving and improving. Since we can start the race from the second row, we must fight to win the race with the team working together as one, ‘Gambari masu! (Do our best!)’ ”

LEXUS TEAM WedsSport BANDOH with Andre Couto positioned 9th (1’33.908) from the Q1 and jumped up further to 5th (1’34.002) after the Q2 run by Seiji Ara. Then, in the Q3 where Couto exhibited some strong and resolute driving again, the result was 6th position (1’33.452) from all of Saturday.

“In the morning we made some changes to the setting, which got us nice outcomes from the qualifying. This owes to all the ‘good job’, thanks to Yokohama san and my team. The rest is up to how we can keep up this performance throughout Sunday, and give our best so that we can achieve good results.”

The next day on October 9th (SUN), the mountains of Fuji were under fresh and brisk weather again and during the Free Practice held from 9:00 to 9:30, teams all worked on their warm-up runs tuned to the coming race. LEXUS TEAM WedsSport BANDOH positioned 3rd (1’34.881) from this session with used tyres, sensing some good feels toward the afternoon. LEXUS KeePer SC430 finished the practice placing 9th (1’35.483) in the session, even with used tyres and a full tank.

As the clock struck 14:00 o’clock (Air temp. 30 degrees C / Track temp. 46 degrees C), finally the 66 laps of battling were unleashed from the formation lap.

Kicking off from the third row, Andre Couto of WedsSport ADVAN SC430 in P6 pushed onward watching closely the early-phase development of the race, and on the 6th lap coming to the straight end, passed a car in front, no. 6 (ENEOS SUSTINA SC430), and moved up to P5. Then, onto the next lap where No. 35 was stuck with the GT300s, slipped through cleverly the disarray of several machines and sprung up to P3. Then, after a tail-to-nose battle with no. 1 (S Road REITO MOLA GT-R) that was running second at the time, Andre on the 11th lap showed another clean overtaking as well as rising to Position 2! On forth with ever more aggressive driving while also improving his own time records, veteran Portuguese SUPER GT driver closely followed the race leader, no. 12 (Calsonic IMPUL GT-R). Eventually, on finishing Lap 33, it was time to pit in, refuel and change tyres, and the steering was handed to Andre’s teammate Seiji Ara. Only however, car no. 1 here took the lead as it was already making a pit stop from slightly before, and therefore No. 19 rejoined the field in 3rd place. Throughout the remaining half of the race, as pushing and striving in P3, Ara kept renewing the time. Running strong, WedsSport ADVAN SC430 defended this position to the very end and captured the first podium of this season!

“It has been a while since I could do a race like this one – my kind of race, so I really enjoyed! The road to reaching here was long, and finally we made it on the podium this season. I want to thank the team for providing us a strong, fightable machine, I am very happy that Seiji and I were able to share this joyful moment together. I also appreciate the fans’ large cheering and support. Thank you very much. Let’s be sure that this good vibe will be carried over to the next stage Autopolis (September 29 – 30) as well, and in the meantime please continue to give us your support.”

Andrea Caldarelli on LEXUS KeePer SC430 was again appointed to serve as the starting driver of the race that they were kicking off from the second row. Throughout the early phases of the race, Andrea hung on in P3 for numbers of laps, but coming to the 7th lap at the last turn got hit by a GT300 car and coursed off! Though no particular damage was caused to the machine, this unfortunate accident dragged No. 35 down to P10. Even so, the young-star Italian driver pushed hard to catch up, and in just 4 laps climbed back to 6th. However, as going on to the 23rd lap, eventually the tyres began to wear down and No. 35 could not help being overtaken by no. 36 (PETRONAS TOM’S SC430) from behind. This cost them one position down to 7th.As finishing up the 32nd lap, LEXUS KeePer SC430 pitted in for its routine stop, switched to Yuji Kunimoto and returned to the field. Halfway through the race, overtaking one car charged with a penalty, No. 35 was back running in P6 again but on the final lap of the race getting passed by no. 39 (DENSO KOBELCO SC430), the KeePer blue-colored No. 35 finished the race in 7th place (with 4 points earned).

“In the beginning of the race, I was driving at high-pace as saving the tyres, and felt that we could at least stay in 3rd position till the end. Only if that collision didn’t occur … that is the one thing regretted, but again this is what racing is about. Though we could not do any better this weekend, the machine is improving on and on in a positive direction, so now let’s shift, move on, and challenge the next round!”
Photos by T.Moriyama