SUPER GT Rd.6 Sugo

P6 Andre Couto with now the Title closer, inside his reach!  Andrea Caldarelli with a P9 finish, points gained



“The Silver Week” (series of holidays in row) in Japan this year began over 15gt6-1cornerSeptember 19-20th, including the very weekend of 2015 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Rd. 6 “SUGO GT300km RACE” staged at Sportland Sugo found near Sendai, also known as the “City of Green”. Till a day before, unstable weather continued but the race week was blessed with fair skies throughout. Already from Saturday many Japanese racing freaks flocked to the circuit for this fastest “Stock-car racing” in the world, and enjoyed the spectacles to their heart’s content. (Attendance as officially announced: Sept. 19 (Sat) 8000 / Sept. 20 (Sun) 28,500)




September 19th (SAT)  Official Qualifying


15gt6-CAL3Early morning there were clouds all about the sky, but by 9:00AM, time to begin the official practice sessions, the autumn sky turned blue and spread wide and beautifully over everyone.


Andrea Caldarelli / Ryo Hirakawa pair driving with LEXUS TEAM KeePer TOM’S in GT500, first started the session with Andrea Caldarelli driving. On the 3rd lap, clocking a 1’12.765 the diligent Italian driver continued onward forth, with good times marked, actually even rewriting the course record. Picking up a good feeling for the qualifying heats to come later in the day, now Caldarelli and Hirakawa chalked up laps as switching and shifting between each other. Eyeing the Race on Sunday, both drivers went on setting up the machine and resulted with 6th position time (1’12.510), finished the morning in a good note.


15gt6-COU1Meanwhile, Andre Couto / Ryuichiro Tomita with GAINER TANAX GT-R in the GT300 who raised two wins already in this class are now contenders of the title. Only, that means that the weight handy (WH) could also be heavy – in fact 138kg in all! — and also considering the fact that the max limit defined in the regulations is 100kg everybody imagined they would struggle more at Sportland SUGO which has severe up-down undulation. However, regardless of such worries Couto and Tomita pair positioned in 14th (1’21.175) out of all 27 machines of GT300, rather in the mid-field, as upsetting any negative expectations.


As the clock ticked 13:30, Official Qualifying session on the knockdown-style was finally set to begin.


15gt6-CAL4In the GT500 class, it was Andrea up first to drive the Q1 for LEXUS TEAM KeePer TOM’S. Putting out his utmost, strongest attempts, Andrea Caldarelli marked 1’11.997, an even better time than in the morning where he was already marking his personal best. Taking the P3 mark, he then trusted the machine over to Hirakawa who was in charge of the Q2. In fact, of the 8 cars that advanced to the Q2, No. 37 KeePer TOM’S RC F had on a 68kg weight handicap (of which 50kg could be adjusted by bringing down the fuel restrictor by 1 rank) – which was actually the heaviest of all teams. This simply speaks for the kind of techniques and efforts this skillful driver has! So therefore in the Q2, the team did drop by 1 position perhaps due to such WH, but only down to P4, and good enough to start the race from the second row. 4th on grid is never a bad position to start after all!


15gt6-CAL2Andrea Caldarelli

 “It was good qualifying! In Q1 the machine which the team had prepared for us was very good and we also made a tyre-choice for us to be better prepared for tomorrow’s race which all worked well in the quali as well, so that makes me happy! Throughout tomorrow’s long run I will be sure to check into the machine and prepare ourselves for the long race.”






15gt6-COU7In the GT300 class, Andre Couto had GAINER TANAX GT-R under his command, as not only marking his personal best but also making the course record of 1’20.156. In P11, advanced to the Q2 and next Tomita in Q2 marked the time of 1’20.361. Though Tomita never did catch up with Couto’s best time, still the team was able to position up to 8th actually 3 positions higher since the morning. This positioned them on the 4th row to start the race.





15gt6-COU2Andre Couto

“Under tough WH placed on us, P8 is not such a bad position to Start. As the top teams are all quite strong, tomorrow’s race will become a tough one. Let’s make sure that machine setting goes right in the morning’s free session, then we’ll go forth fighting a real Race.”






September 20 (SUN)  Race


15gt6-gridUnder clear autumn sky, Free Practice (began the day. No. 37 KeePer TOM’S RC F under the command of Andrea Caldarelli finished in P11 from this session, while GAINER TANAX GT-R with Andre Couto driving took P12. In these free practice laps of the morning, every team usually works on different (so-called,) “Menus”, though not only the time results alone will be any base to foresee what happens in the race. Feeling of the car itself, or the balance, life of the tyres are all important factors in the planning. In that sense, the two GRM drivers, Caldarelli and Couto were both able to get good ideas about their machine conditions at the moment, apart from just what’s seen through the time results marked from this session


Soon it was time to start the Race. Temperatures by then read 26 degrees Celsius with the track temperature at 38 deg. C, somewhat hard on the tyres, but in any case for the crowd watching from the stands, what a perfect race day it turned into!


15gt6-CAL6Andrea Caldarelli starting on the second row, grid 4 of the GT500 class, kicked off well and ran steady laps throughout the initial segment of the race. However, coming to the point of one-thirds through, a dramatic change and shuffling in the positions occurred. A car in P3 had to retire due to machine trouble, and moreover in the backfield pack of GT500, an accident occurred. Machine that crashed in the back-straight stalled and blocked half the track, which caused the Safety Car to come in. And because most of the teams had already finished one-thirds of the race by then, it was assumed that the machines will start doing their routine pit-stops, but at that time, the pit-road was closed and everybody had to continue their laps with great frustration! As soon as the pit-road opened up, all cars pitted in at once, and therefore the pit area turned into a busy-and-crazy battlefield of pit-stopping competition!


15gt6-CAL7Along with others, Andrea also headed to the pit on the same timing and switched with his teammate Ryo Hirakawa. Refueling, change of tyres and then … as the machine got jacked up, engine had not stopped completely and the tyres kept idle-spinning!  In spite of it however, all the needed pit-work was completed, and No. 37 rejoined the field as position-keeping themselves in P3. Now the race entered the last phase, but it was then that a drive-through penalty was given to this team because of the mistake made during pit-stop. Over the vision-screens around the circuit, the perplexed look of Andrea Caldarelli showed up but ‘C’est la vie’ – it could not be helped. Out on the track, Hirakawa continuing to push, went till the end running strongly until the chequer, and with P9 result scored points, which was the best possible this team could do in the rather disappointing circumstances.



15gt6-CAL1Andrea Caladarelli

“Though tyres were not perfect, machine itself was running good so in that part I enjoyed. Without the penalty, 3rd on the podium was not impossible so this is a bit discouraging. I really have no words to say…”








15gt6-COU3Andre Couto in the GT300 class, drove out on their GAINER TANAX GT-R to do the Start and the first half of the stints. Again, with a 138kg WH (which is just a calculation and actually the machine is carrying approx. 100kg which is the maximum defined in the sporting regulations) not much of over-pushing can be done but as a veteran driver, Andre Couto maintained his high pace, also his position throughout. After the Safety Car run, routine pit in was done by all the machines which turned into something like a “Pit-stop Contest” with all cars pitting in at once, GAINER TANAX team did a fabulous job, and sent Andre’s teammate Tomita out to the field in P11. 15gt6-COU4Though some positioning down from Couto’s P7 was apparent at first, this was only due to the inevitable pit-stop time. After that, many other cars also had to pit, which naturally paved way for Couto’s Japanese teammate to raise positions, and already in the following several laps the team was up running in P7 again.

Tomita continued on with a steady pace until getting the chequer in P6. This gave 5 points to Andre now standing at the ranking-Top, also enough points to bring Tomita himself to 2nd from the Top too (which is because of the number of rounds/entries by him). Henceforth, this brought Andre Couto ever closer to his very first Title winning.


15gt6-COU6Andre Couto

“P6 is not a bad result. But if there were no complications like there was at the pit-road exit during the SC run, we could have saved another 30 seconds, so this is a bit regrettable. However, even with our 100kg WH, and still to be leading the series, perhaps good chances still await – let’s stay focused and continue to fight strong!” 







The next round of the SUPER GT series, Rd. 7 will be staged at Autopolis over October 31 to November 1st.