SUPER GT Rd. 7 Autopolis

Andre Couto wins the 2015 GT300 championship title!! Andrea Caldarelli with a P12, affected by misfortunes from qualifying


15gt6-COU5The 8-round series now came upon the one round before its very last. Over October 31st and November 1st, Round 7 “SUPER GT IN KYUSHU 300km” unfolded at Autopolis (4,674m track length) located on Mt. Somma in the Aso mountain ranges, where Japanese pampas grass spreads beautifully, wide across the plains.

Andre Couto, the present and dominant contender in the drivers ranking-top of GT300 (with 74 points), and currently ranking 7th (36 points) Andrea Caldarelli of GT500 class, both arrived at this circuit aiming to win as many points they can in the series coming near to its final round.

(Audience figures as officially announced: 11,340/Oct. 31;  22,680/Nov. 1)



October 31 (SAT)   Official Qualifying


15gt6-CAL8Contrary to the forecast, the weekend at Autopolis opened up with sunny skies (Air temp. 12 deg. Celsius), and 15 of GT500 and 26 cars of the GT300 got off doing their 1 hour and 45 minutes of practice runs starting from 9:00AM. Though 4 minutes into it, the session was red-flagged due to an accident, Andrea Caldarelli/Ryo Hirakawa of LEXUS TEAM KeePer TOM’S drove 31 laps in total, positioning 2nd with the time of 1’33.110, appealing to be on a good note.

Meanwhile in the GT300 class Andre Couto/Katsumasa Chiyo on GAINER also doing 31 laps, settled to P9 (1’45.541) in this session.



15gt6-COU3Eventually when the time was 13:30, program of the day moved onto the Official Qualifying session. First, in the Q1 heat exclusively run by the GT300 (Q1: 13:30-13:45), No. 10 GAINER TANAX GT-R appointed Chiyo to be in charge of the time-attacking. And though Chiyo worked hard, time-wise these efforts did not show up as clearly. (*According to the regulations providing this event, the Weight Handicap was allowed to be half for all cars, but still the weight GAINER TANAX GT-R had to carry was 74kg, the heaviest of all.)The team could only position in 14th, slightly short to placing P13 or above, and did not qualify to run in the Q2 heat. Andre Couto on standby finished Saturday without chances to be on the steer.



15gt6-COU1Andre Couto

“Machine was not bad, but WH laid heavily upon us, – also tyres not quite matching, we missed the Q2. But done is done, it’s behind us now so our minds are already locked on tomorrow’s race. We will do our best catching up from P14.”








15gt6-CAL5Over in the GT500 class’ Q1 (13:50-14:05), LEXUS TEAM KeePer TOM’S (No. 37) was covered by Andrea Caldarelli. However, just preceding the attempts, the machine running ahead paced down, also in the lap following, caught up behind another car, No. 37 missed the chance to deliver some true attempts. Resulting with the time of 1’34.812, the team sank to P15 and thus no chances to give more pursuits in the next heat.


Andrea Caldarelli

“It was really unfortunate. In the morning, we checked the car balance through practices and gained a good feeling. We were confident as moving onto qualifying, but missed out on chances to attack, even twice! Ended up with sad results like this … but anyway, tomorrow all we can do is give our best chasing up from the very back row, and let’s make sure we squeeze our way into the leader’s pack!”


 November 1 (SUN)   Race


15sf6-gridFree practice on Sunday (09:00 – 09:30) took place under cloudy skies, with temperatures reading 8 deg. C, somewhat chilly throughout the morning.

Here, LEXUS TEAM KeePer TOM’S, Caldarelli/Hirakawa pair marked a P3 time (1’36.446) in the GT500s, whereas Couto/Chiyo with GAINER TANAX GT-R positioning 14th (1’47.136), everyone waited for the 300km (65 laps) battle that was soon to come.


When it turned 14:00, a very crucial round finally got off with a Start – the one race quite important to foresee what the outcome may be of this series championship. In the meantime, the same cloudy weather remained as earlier on in the day (Air temp. 14 deg. C / Track temp. 17 deg. C).


15gt6-COU2In the GT300 Class, Andre Couto taking a fine rolling start from the 7th row on GAINER TANAX GT-R, continued to drive in P14 for a little more while. However eventually, the veteran Portuguese driver passed one machine after another at good pace, and by the 9th lap was running in P12. Renewing his own time records, on the 12th lap Andre just went rising even higher up to P11, and by the 17th lap P10. Watching other machines go to pit, No. 10 continued pushing in 8th. Meanwhile the track stayed Dry even though small bits and drops of rain did come falling momentarily.15gt6-COU7 GAINER TANAX GT-R on the 34th lap was running 5th until finishing its 35 laps and Andre, after an excellent job done, handed the car over to Chiyo Katsumasa. Andre’s Japanese teammate took over, also kept up the strong pace, and made a rise to P3 by the 47th lap. Then coming to the 51st lap, passing by another troubled car, captured P2! As taking the chequered flag in that position and earning 15 points, Andre Couto’s driver’s championship victory was confirmed at this very moment, together with the team’s title for GAINER No. 10 – not standing to wait till the final round!!


15gt6-COU6Andre Couto

“It was an incredible race. Today, starting from 14th on the grid, but taking a 2nd place finish on the podium, also winning the championship together with my team!! I am truly thankful to Team Gainer, also to both of my teammates Chiyo and Tomita, who are champions together. All of this was only possible through teamwork, and we share this blessing as a whole team.

I myself feel very proud about being part of the SUPER GT which I think is the best championship in the world. The value of racing in this series exceeds all others and to be a champion here is really something. I waited to get this title for long. I want to thank everybody who supported me up to this day, also my sincere thanks to the fans, and this title I would like to dedicate to my Son in heaven.”



15gt6-CAL3Over in the GT500 class, KeePer TOM’S RC F which had to start from the tail of the grid positioned up to P14 in the opening lap. Andrea ran patiently throughout the early laps caring the tyres, and on the 13th lap up to P13, on the 16th lap to P12, the 19th lap to P11, 25th lap to P10, and after another one lap, higher up to P9. Then, after 32 laps down, No. 37 finally pitted! Refueling and changing tyres, now Ryo Hirakawa headed on to the last half of the stint. On the 43rd lap, after all GT500 class machines had finished pit-stops, KeePer TOM’S RC F at the time was running 10th. Ryo devoted his best efforts driving and persisting, but sometimes struggling with pick-ups (*tyre debris) and all, eventually went down to P12 and finished the race in that position.


15gt6-CAL1Andrea Caldarelli

“It was a tough race, but the machine ran good and in my stint I was able to push well, tyre management also went well and I enjoyed the race. For Ryo it was almost his first time running here on this track, so it must have been a challenge. In the final round, let’s be sure that things turn out better as we give it our best. While we do so, please stay with us and give support!”







The very last round of the 2015 series, the AUTOBACS SUPER GT Rd. 8 will be held over November 14th and the 15th at Twin Ring Motegi.