SUPER GT Rd.1 Okayama

A. Caldarelli with his first Pole-to-Win, also seizes two consecutive season-opener victories! A. Couto also with a PP settles to 7th gaining points.


15gt1-CAL1015gt1-COU7With cherry blossoms coming to a full bloom all about, the SUPER GT series blossomed up its season with an opening round held at Okayama International Circuit (3.703km).


From GRM this season, the two drivers – Andrea Caldarelli with LEXUS TEAM KeePer TOM’S, and Andre Couto with his new team GAINER, will be present in all 8 rounds of this Series.


Coming through the tough winter tests, now it is time for the much-awaited stage – the season’s 1st round to begin! (Attendance figures, as officially announced: April 4th (SAT) 9,300 / April 5th (SUN) 17,000) 



April 4th (SAT)  Official Qualifying


Official qualifying session in the morning (09:00-10:45) started in the semi-wet condition. However, the track gradually dried and in the last half of the session, the 15 cars of GT500 and 28 of GT300, everyone worked on improving the time results with slick tyres.


15gt1-CAL9KeePer TOM’S RC F (No. 37) which has been updated to the 2015 SPEC, first had Andrea checking into the setting, and then Andrea’s new teammate Ryo Hirakawa marking a P4 time (1’20”251) in the GT500-only session.









Meanwhile, Andre Couto on GAINER TANAX GT-R (No. 10) together with his teammate Katsumasa Chiyo, showed also that their machine is set to a good package, clocking the P4 time of 1’27.756 in the GT300 from this practice session.



15gt1-COU4Soon, the clock ticked 14:50, time to start the Official Qualifying session. Okayama International Circuit was then found under cloudy skies but in Dry condition and the first heats of GT300 qualifying for 15 minutes got under way.

Andre Couto, entrusted by his GAINER team with the Q1, put NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT-R under his belt and ran carefully as warming up tyres as going on to the attack lap. Andre positioned 3rd (1’27.129) from Q1, and advanced to the Q2 (15:35~16:07) which is competed among the top 13 cars. In the Q2, Katsumasa Chiyo continued to deliver strong attempts, resulting with a PP! What a fantastic way to start – already from the very first stage of the 2015 season!


15gt1-COU8Andre Couto

“The whole team has challenged working on this brand new machine and from the stages of testing we already knew that this machine is fast. And today, we were able to bring out from it even better performance, especially with the team working as one. I feel happy to start the season in this way. Tomorrow, the weather might be somewhat unstable and the race might bring us different stories, but in any case we will give our best to win!”



15gt1-CAL7Also at LEXUS TEAM KeePer TOM’S, Andrea Caldarelli was appointed the Q1 attacker. Andrea rev’ed up, pushed strongly throughout Q1 (15:00 – 15:25), and advanced to the Q2 with P4 (1’19.703) time. Then came Ryo Hirakawa, making a full entry in the SUPER GT this season, who says he made a minor mistake in the Q2, but still re-wrote the course record (1’19.404) with his 1’19.008, and brought the team to get a PP in the GT500 class!




Hence, the qualifying results brought by the two GRM drivers this Saturday were quite pleasing, especially with both drivers taking pole positions in each of their classes, GT500 and GT300.


15gt1-IMA2Andrea Caldarelli

“In the Q1, we found that tyres were not warming up as well, so by Q2 we made a few more adjustments. Also advising Ryo to address his attacking pursuits 1 lap earlier seemed to have worked and Ryo really did well! In the practice this morning, we confirmed that the car can be quick in the Wet as well, so let’s look forward to tomorrow’s race. And even if it rains, we know that we are competitive, no matter what!”





April 5th (SUN)  RACE


15gt1-IMA1The track was again found in misty conditions from the Free Practice session (9:00 – 9:30) held in the morning, both GRM drivers started their day in good note. And it seemed that such weather did not matter at all to Andrea Caldarelli on LEXUS TEAM KeePer TOM’S, as he clocked the top time of 1’35.095 even on quite a heavy-wet track. Meanwhile, Andre Couto on GAINER TANAX GT-R finished the morning session for the GT300 class positioning 3rd (1’40.625), and further prepared for the Race to come in the afternoon.



By 14:30, the rain had eased off but the skies were still covered with thick rainclouds, and Wet condition was announced for the course. Under the air temp. of 18 deg. C and track temp. 20 deg. C, the 300km (82 laps) of the first round of SUPER GT 2015 kicked off.


15gt1-CAL1Andrea Caldarelli with a rolling start from Pole, brought KeePer TOM’S RC F under his good control and widened the gap with P2 behind or the whole backfield. This experienced Italian driver on No. 37 led the race with confidence, giving a steady push throughout the early phase of the race, but on the 17th lap, it was overtaken by car no. 1 (MOTUL AUTECH GT-R) coming from behind. But soon after, car no. 1 came down with a machine trouble and from the 22nd lap and onwards, Andrea was back leading the field again. However, perhaps by wear of tyres, time did not improve so much more and it was passed by two Hondas, no. 15 (Drago Modulo NSX CONCEPT-GT) and no. 100 (RAYBRIG NSX CONCEPT-GT). From the 25th lap, No. 37 had to stay running in P3 for another while. And right around 15:30, rain started to pour again which caused many machines to pit in.


15gt1-CAL3After 41 laps done, Andrea finally returned to the pit for a switch-over to his Japanese teammate Ryo Hirakawa. The team worked quickly and swift with the pit-work actions which got No. 37 to rejoin the field in P1! Hirakawa kept up the good push, as managing a slippy track and still leading the race. However on the 49th lap, no. 100 from behind passed and No. 37 was back running in P2. Slowly the rain started falling even heavier from about the 70th lap, but Hirakawa went on closing in a bit by bit with the top, and overtook no. 100 on the 71st lap at last! From there and onwards, Andrea’s new teammate delivered brilliant laps remaining, and LEXUS KeePer TOM’S took a perfect pole-to-win victory, which also means a second consecutive victory in the season-opener race!!


15gt1-CAL5Andrea Caldarelli

“Race itself turned into a very difficult one, as the tyre choice was never easy. In my stint, I chose the medium-compound and decided to anyway try earning as much margin I can. But then, the tyres started suffering and even so we delayed the pit-in timing as long as we can. Inside Ryo’s stint, the car was on medium tyres, plus much more rain came down and the matchup with tyres became better, which led us to this excellent result. I want to thank the team for this great machine and all the work they have done. I also thank everybody for the great support!”



15gt1-COU1In the GT300 class, Andre Couto appointed to serve the starting driver rolled out well from pole position. GAINER TANAX GT-R (No. 10) possessed its lead up to the 2nd lap, but due to lack of grip with the tyres, and moreover, on the 3rd lap passed by no. 31 (TOYOTA PRIUS apr GT), then again on the 10th lap by no. 55 (ARTA CR-Z GT), No. 10 could not help positioning down gradually but Andrea went onward patiently in P6.



 After 36 laps, the Portuguese veteran driver handed GAINER TANAX GT-R over to his teammate Katsumasa Chiyo. With the advantage of very quick pit-work performance done by the crew too, GAINER TANAX GT-R was able to cling on to P4 throughout the last half of the race, but from around the 60th lap, No. 10 just could not improve the time and had to let go its position to no. 86 (Racing Tech Audi R8) coming from behind, and then to no. 0 (GOODSMILE HATSUNE MIKU SLS), and was down running in P6. Till finish, it could not pace up more and had to settle to 7th place after one hard battle fought.


15gt1-COU5Andre Couto

“It was a tough race, – tough to choose the right tyres. First we chose those that will match with conditions in the qualis, then today semi-wet, — then, at one time the track was dry and quite runnable, but when it turned Wet again, the matching between all the varied conditions and the tyres did not go right. But in spite of it all, to have gotten the PP from the season’s first Qualifying, and with the whole team working hard, we did earn some points too, so it is a good way to start the season. We will do our best in the next round as well.”



The next round of SUPER GT, Round 2 will be held over May 2nd and 3rd at Fuji Speedway.