SUPER GT Rd.1 Okayama

2016 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Series Rd. 1,  After a tough race, Andrea Caldarelli places 4th, Andre Couto climbs to P8 from the back grid, 17th


16gt01 CAL-1Amid beautiful cherry blossoms blooming here and there all about Japan, the much awaited AUTOBACS SUPER GT Series of 2016 finally unfolded at Okayama International Circuit over April 9 – 10.


GRM driver, Andrea Caldarelli of GT500 Class has joined LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S from this season, driving car #6 (WAKO’S 4CR RC F), a white-bodied machine with blue, highlighted with pink accents. Okayama International Circuit is where Andrea has taken pole-to-win victories in both 2014 and 2015, so good chemistry seems to lie there between Andrea and this track. Having developed a good trusting relationship with his new teammate Kazuya Oshima during the winter tests too, now the 25-year old Italian is set with all the right things needed to head into a new SUPER GT year, while aiming to grab his third in-a-row win from the season opener here in Okayama of course.


16gt01 COU-1GRM driver also and GT300 champion of 2015, Andre Couto also arrived at this track in Okayama with GAINER again this season, paired with Ryuichiro Tomita to drive the champion number of ” 0” on their machine, GAINER TANAX GT-R. The Portuguese contender has remained focused and kept up high motivation to aim at getting as best results he can from the year’s first SUPER GT race already.


Another thing to look out for in this season-opener race is that since Round 7 of the 2015 Series, the max boost (turbo) capacity of NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT3 has been restricted for adjustment reasons, performance wise. Therefore, with such handicap imposed on the machine, it should be interesting to see how GAINER, the 2015 champion team, will fight through as overcoming such disadvantages.


(Audience figures as officially announced: 4/9 (SAT) 9,600, 4/10 (SUN)19,000)



April 9 (SAT) Official Qualifying


16gt01 CAL-5The first day of the official schedule began under crisp and clear springtime weather – in conditions most suited for the start of a brand new season.

In the morning, Free Practice (9:00 – 10:45) took place in the Dry and 18℃ favorable auspices.

#6 of the GT500 class first appointed Kazuya Oshima to drive through the first 17 laps as checking into machine and tyre conditions, which was followed by Andrea Caldarelli doing the long run of 25 laps, checking more deeply into the tyres. The team finished this session in P4 (the time of 1’19.205). Though there were no issues with the machine balance itself, slight concerns were left with the choice of tyres made prior to the event and how the tyres may correspond with the ups and downs of this track.

16gt01 COU-3Car #0 had 29 laps done with Ryuichiro Tomita driving, and then additionally 15 laps by Andre Couto but their best time reached no higher than 1’27.857 (P16) from all of their Saturday practice runs.


Soon the time was 14:50, time for the first official qualifying (15 minutes) by the GT300 class alone. In 23℃ temperature with pleasant winds blowing by, 26 cars of the GT300 class entered the course all together. GAINER TANAX GT-R with Dunlop tyres had Andre Couto piloting the first stint. Pushing and doing the time attempts, the veteran Portuguese driver renewed his best time of 1’27.695 in his very last of 6 laps run. Even then however, other competitors were just too fast to beat, and #0 could only be happy with P17 for the day, with no advancement to the Q2.


16gt01 COU-2Andre Couto:

“The team did its best from the morning already, but with under-steer issues and insufficient side-grip, the results were not as good. But what’s more important is to focus on the Race. As long as the machine becomes more stable, and if we make no mistakes, there may be our chances to win.”


16gt01 CAL-2Over in the GT500 class, the Q1 (14:50 – 15:05) by 15 machines of the GT500 class, LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S Andrea Caldarelli was entrusted with the steering of WAKO’S 4CR RC F (#6), and on his 4th recorded lap clocked a P5 time (of 1’19.080) and moved onto Q2. In the Q2, now Kazuya Oshima overwhelmed the rest with strong attempts and marking a record-breaking time of 1’18.268 (the best ever was 1’19.008 till then) quickly rose to the top of timing monitors, but in the very very end his feat reversed by a competitor, LEMANS WAKO’S finished 2nd after all of Saturday.


Andrea Caldarelli:

“This is a very positive qualifying result as we are starting from the front-row on Sunday. We worked hard on the machine setting and balance from early morning and during the Free Practice, so we went onto Q1 with good confidence. Slightly more work was given to the machine before the Q2, and Kazuya also did great for us. In the race, let’s see if we can race well with a steady, good pace and then of course, win the race!”



April 9th (SUN)  RACE


16gt01 Pit walkFree Practice in the morning (9:00–9:35) took place in the Dry, under 16℃ skies covered with thin clouds. One important session this was, where everybody can make last checks into their machines, but with an accident occurring and red-flagged twice, the session had to be suspended. Though it did turn into a rather unfulfilling session for the drivers, even so, #6 WAKO’S 4CR RC F went in the order of Andrea Caldarelli and then Kazuya Oshima driving, and the team finished with a P2 time (1’21.814). Over in the GT300 class, GAINER TANAX GT-R, the relay went from Andre Couto to Ryuichiro Tomita and the team resulted with P9 marking a 1’28.905 time from the practice.


16gt01 Grid



Finally it was 14:40, scheduled time to START the race of 82 laps. Weather was still cloudy, with outside temperature of 20℃ and track temperature of 26℃, – somewhat cooler than what was forecasted. 300km race (3,703m x 82 laps) got underway with 15 cars from the GT500 class and 27 GT300 rolling out to fight the very first SUPER GT Race of 2016!





16gt01 CAL-4Andrea Caldarelli appointed to start the race from the front row put #6 WAKO’s 4CR RC F under good command, keeping P2 throughout the early laps. From the 5th lap or so, eventually the top GT500 group caught up with the GT300 machines, and therefore the traffic got heavy everywhere around the track, but skillfully finding spaces and managing his way through, with brilliant overtaking as well, Andrea continued to chalk up solid laps at very high pace.


Just when the top group passed the 17th lap (15:00 o‘clock), sun started to shine in the sky above, and the temperature quickly rose to 24℃ (Track: 27℃).


16gt01 CAL-8It was from around that time that car 1 (MOTUL AUTECH GT-R/Michelin tyres) came closing in from behind Andrea on the steer of WAKO’S 4CR RC F. Tyres wearing down a bit by then, Andrea defended hard trying to fight off and block but could not help slipping back to P3 on the 28th lap. Given this situation, LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S decided to order for a pit in, slightly earlier than what was scheduled. Andrea finished his stint of 37 laps and handed the machine over to Kazuya Oshima.


Along with the switch of drivers, the machine was refueled, put on fresh tyres and got back on the field in P3. Andrea’s new teammate drove with fine, steady pace as pushing hard but around the 40th lap gradually #46 (S Road CRAFTSPORTS GT-R/Michelin) came charging from behind so now 16gt01 CAL-6Kazuya had to get busy with the battle for P3 with #46 Nissan GT-R. The speed of #46 gradually exceeded however, and finally #6 had to give way and down to P4, finished the race in that position. LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S missed the podium by a close chance but scored 8 points from the season’s first race.


Andrea Caldarelli

“It was a very tough race, and in my stint I somehow managed to stay inside the Top 3 positions, but to be honest the tyres were not coming well, especially when they got abraded my struggle became harder. Kazuya must have faced similar issues, but all in all we are happy to have gained some points from season’s first race. The team will continue to work hard aiming at podium place finish in the next round!”


16gt01 COU-6#0 GAINER TANAX GT-R with Andre Couto starting from the 17th grid went overtaking one car after another, gradually working its way up. By the 26th lap, Andre climbed to P8. And after 3 more laps, even higher up to P7! From around that time, other machines started doing their routine stops, but Andre behind the wheels of GAINER TANAX GR-R stayed on. Eventually, as finishing the 35th lap, #0 returned to the pit and the steer was entrusted to Ryuichiro Tomita who then rejoined the field in P7. Throughout the latter half of the stint, Tomita exhibited skillful techniques showing his caliber as a regular driver to the team this year. Towards the end of the race, with the tyres mostly used up, the team could not help positioning down by 1 notch to P8. The champion car “0” took the chequer on this day with 3 points gained.


16gt01 COU-7

Andre Couto
“It was indeed a tough race but I was able to enjoy it. Machine was improved as compared with its condition from qualifying, and in my stint I could overtake some number of cars. Our target was to earn points from the opening round, so we feel glad to have achieved that. In the next race we will find the race pace that we missed having time, fire up for the challenge with team working as one.”



The next round of SUPER GT, Round 2 will be held over 3-4 May at Fuji Speedway.





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