SUPER GT Rd.4 Sugo

Andrea Caldarelli from a brilliant PP finishes P4 in the race, Andre Couto in P11


16gt4-Start2016 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 4 “SUGO GT 300km RACE” (in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan) was held over July 23~24th, actually after two and a half months since the last one, as the previous Rd. 3 had to be called off due to the “2016 Kumamoto Earthquake” affecting the very region where it was supposed to be hosted. And though the interval turned out to be longer versus the initial calendar, meanwhile official tests were held twice and the GRM drivers – Andre Couto and Andrea Caldarelli – both arrived at the circuit this weekend thoroughly prepared.

(Attendance figures as officially announced: July 23 (SAT) 8,200 / 24 (SUN) 29,500 spectators)



July 23rd (SAT) Official Qualifying


16gt4-CAL2Official Practice on Saturday morning (9:15-11:00) was held under cloudy sky (23℃) but in Dry condition and the 15 machines of the GT500, 29 machines of GT300 participated in this session.


LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S No. 6 started the practices with Kazuya Oshima on the steer, which was then followed with Andrea Caldarelli’s long run (26 laps), and the pair finished the session with their best time of 1 min. 11. 342 seconds (P7 result).




Andre Couto and Ryuichiro Tomita pair driving GAINER TANAX GT-R No. 0 in the morning marked their best time (1’19.840) out of the 1 hour and 45 minutes of this session as positioning 4th in the GT300 class.


The day’s program eventually moved onto the first heat of the Qualifying (Q1). Though thick clouds still covered the skies, the track itself continued to stay in the Dry. Air temperature also remained at 23℃, actually cooler than what was anticipated in the recent tests. Hence, the first part of qualifying got off with a fair start under such lower than expected temperatures.



In the qualifying session for the GT300 (14:30-14:45), Ryuichiro Tomita on GAINER TANAX GT-R up first was showing brilliant time-attempts, and just when his time-record was about to improve!? Tomita got caught in traffic and could position only in 15th. The pair missed their advancing to the Q2 session by mere 0.02 seconds.


Andre Couto

“Our machine wasn’t so perfect today. Just barely, by the smallest difference we missed the Q2, but by tomorrow’s Warm-up hopefully the machine is fixed and bettered. In tomorrow’s 300km, you never know what may happen so let’s give it our best and aim at upper positions!”


16gt4-CAL1In Q1 of the GT500 class (15:00 – 15:45), Andrea Caldarelli on the LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S steering pushed very strong, beat the course record with 1’11.129 time and positioned 3rd. However, a major crash soon occurred with one of the GT-Rs and the session had to be red-flagged! Due to the degree of the crash, the Stewards decided to discontinue this Q1 session along with the Red Flag. Thus, No. 6 making its way to Q2 under such circumstances now had Kazuya Oshima pushing fiercely, delivering his utmost! Though small raindrops started falling, they were not enough to wet the track, and Oshima clocked an overwhelming time of 1’10.516, and LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S No. 6 grabbed the Pole Position! The last time this team ever took a PP was back in 2014’s opening round held at Okayama.


16gt4-CAL3Andrea Caldarelli

“I haven’t taken a pole position in a while, so we are all really happy. Team did a fine job preparing a great package, a good machine entrusted to Kazuya. Machine feeling was good already from the tests, so we were able to challenge the qualifying today with confidence. In the morning, we also tried a long run already as presuming the race to be under these kinds of temperatures tomorrow. We have no worries with the tyres too, so in the Race all we need to do is go for a Pole-to-Win!”



July 24 (SUN)  Race


16gt4-CAL9Free Practice on Sunday (9:00 – 9:30) began in Wet condition where mists of rain fell from early morning. (Air temp. 21℃)


Pole-sitters Andrea Caldarelli/Kazuya Oshima of LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S started their day with scrub of rain tyres (Bridgestone), also did machine checks eyeing a race over the wet track and with a P6 time of 1’22.029, focused on preparing towards the race held in the afternoon. 





Meanwhile, Andre Couto/Ryuichiro Tomita pair of GAINER TANAX GT-R tried their Dunlop tyres over wet grounds and after some free practice laps recorded a P16 time (1’30.260) of all GT300s. 






Afternoon, as the clock struck 2:00pm, 81 laps of the race got underway where the weather condition was still not too clear with occasional rain showers but never bad enough to wet the whole track.



16gt4-CAL5All 15 GT500 machines decided to go with slick tyres, thinking that the weather will worsen no more. Hence, starting from the pole Andrea Caldarelli of LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S, as completing the formation lap hollered the engine and went with a fine rolling start!


16gt4-CAL10However, on coming to the first turn of the 6th lap, collision occurred with a GT300 machine (No. 22)! This caused Andrea with a spin, also cost him major positions-down to P13! From there onwards, WAKO’S 4CR RC F charged with an incredible force passing one machine after next, and already by the 25th lap was back up running in P8. Shortly after, a GT300 machine stalled on T13, and the SC run was brought in (13:38 – 14:50). After the SC run was cleared, there were four machines pitting in all at once, but No. 6 stayed out until 40 laps were done.


From there on, the last half of catching up by WAKO’S 4CR RC F was entrusted to teammate Kazuya Oshima!

When pit-stops by all machines were completed by the time of 47 laps down, No. 6 positioned in 4th and some more positioning up was expected by Oshima but on the 53rd lap, car no. 19 with Yokohama tyres came cruising by from behind and No. 6 could not help but yield to its overtaking, positioned down by one notch to P5.



Even so, when towards the end of the race other rivals began struggling with the tyres all the same, No. 6 overtook back car 19 and was running in P4 again by the 69th lap. It soon joined the top 4 leaders’ pack battling for podium positions, but just when this fight was going on, in the 75th lap (6 laps remaining) one of GT300 cars crashed on T13, and thus the race was red-flagged (at 15:50)!! Soon, the Finish of the race was officially announced by the Stewards, and according to the regulations, in such a case the standing as of 1 lap before (at the time-point of 15:48.15) is considered as the final result. Therefore, No. 6 losing the chance to fight further for a podium position, had to accept and settle with this P4 result from the race.


16gt4-CAL7Andrea Caldarelli

“This is very regrettable. Start went very well, and I pushed with good pace but with the double yellow, P2 machine came charging from behind on the last turn. Trying to get away with this, I started dashing but the car ahead, no. 22, who should have watched me in his mirror closed in to my door on the 1st corner, so we collided and spun. After this incident, all of us pushed as hard as we could throughout the race, even delayed our pit-in to fill the gap…. Being so close to a win — also to the team providing such a good machine for us all weekend, I am only sorry (we could not win) …”




16gt4-COU4GAINER TANAX GT-R Andre Couto off with a fair start from middle-field of GT300, continued their tenacious driving and pace in P13 for a while. Eventually on the 31st lap when the SC run was cleared, Andre came into the pit and trusted the steering to Ryuichiro Tomita.

Tomita pushing and striving hard from P13, worked up to P11 by the 57th lap. However, with the Red Flag the race was discontinued, with no more chances open for anyone, and Couto/Tomita duo finished their Sugo weekend in that same position, 11th.





Andre Couto

“SC run came in, so we tried filling the gap with the car ahead, tried to seek for chances!? However, getting involved with the car ahead (no. 55) and then spinning, we couldn’t avoid damage to our suspension. Even then, Tomita continued his push and strong driving till the end. Though we were a bit out of luck today, in the next round at Fuji, let’s be sure we can finish the race feeling a little better than this!”



 The next round SUPER GT Round 5 will be staged at Fuji Speedway over the weekend of August 6 – 7th.