SUPER GT Rd. 1 Okayama

Andrea Caldarelli with a P2 podium place from a rough and tough Race!


17gt1-CAL12017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT celebrated the opening of a new season at Okayama International Circuit over the weekend of April 8th and 9th, right amid springtime Japan with beautiful Sakura (cherry blossoms) blooming everywhere.


Last season, settled to being the vice champion in the Series ranking, Andrea Caldarelli is on the up-and-up again to challenge for the big title, with LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S led by Director Juichi Wakisaka and with the same teammate Kazuya Oshima in their second year working together. They will drive WAKO’S 4CR LC500 (LEXUS LC500), a brand new machine which the team had good feelings with throughout the winter tests. Now there is only one goal this team will target this year, which is winning the Series Championship!


All the GT fans who waited anxiously for this opening round gathered about and enjoyed the exciting race of 15 cars in the GT500 class, and 30 cars of GT300. (Official attendance figures:  9,700 spectators / April 8 (SAT), 17,300 / April 9)


April 8 (SAT)  Official Qualifying


17gt1-CAL4Official Practice in the morning (9:00-10:45) got underway with cloudy skies above (Outside temp. 18℃, Humidity 93%). However, with the track surface still found in the wet due to rain which continued till early morning, Wet condition was declared for this session at first but along with the passing of hours, gradually the track started to dry.

LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S (No. 6) driven by Caldarelli/Oshima worked on machine balance to mature the setting but towards the end had issues with the ECU and finished the session positioning 9th (1’19.498).

Before long, it was time for the Official Qualifying session to begin. Thick rainclouds lingered over the circuit still, but the session was announced to start in the “Dry”.


17gt1-CAL2Andrea Caldarelli of LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S appointed to conduct the Q1 (15:15-15:30) attempts in the GT500 class, brought WAKO’S 4CR LC500 under his command and with the best time of 1’18.558 positioned in P2 with an easy ticket won to fight the Q2. Next, his Japanese teammate Kazuya Oshima set onto challenge the Q2 (16:15-16:37). Pushing strongly from the very beginning, Oshima re-marked outstanding times but inside that lap where No. 6 was going at its best time pace, one of the competitors coursed-off and red-flagged the session. As the Q2 got resumed, just 3 minutes of chances were left for everyone, but shortly another machine stalled on the course again, which brought back the red flag for the second time and also this time, brought the whole session to a sudden ending.  As a result of this, LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S finished the Saturday actions positioning 2nd, and to start the Race from the second row, also at the top of all LEXUS machines!


17gt1-CAL9Andrea Caldarelli

“In Q1, tried the tyres which we put on for our first time, but the feeling was very good and therefore we could push with a fair amount of confidence. In Q2 however, we had to finish without being able to do much more and since Pole position was actually right there within our reach, this is in fact a rather unlucky result for us. However tomorrow, we are starting the race from where we can still see us winning, so please watch us. As a team we will fight strong, together as One!”




April 9 (SUN)  Race


17gt1-CAL3On the Race day, the sky above was yet with some overcast of clouds. Effective from this season, Free Practice in the morning was eliminated from the event (program) and now drivers are able to spend more time interacting with the fans through pit walkabouts, talk shows, etc.


17gt1-CAL13On this day, before Start, a fancy Opening Ceremony to celebrate the season’s first round was held where the entrant teams and drivers were formally introduced to the audience. And following such sequences, now the real part – the official (race) program unfolded with a Warm-up session (of 20 minutes).


Shortly it was 14:34 – time to kick off the 2017 Series. It continued being cloudy over Okayama International Circuit (Air temp. 19℃/Track temp. 25℃)


17gt1-CAL11First, a parade lap was run as led by the Japanese motorcycle police officers (on “White-bike” motorcycles), then all the cars went on to the formation lap. Nevertheless, including the pole-sitter car #8 (ARTA NSX-T) three HONDA machines stalled on the course one after another! Therefore, the whole procession soon had to be Red-flagged. Due to these situations, LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S with Kazuya Oshima rolling out from the second row on grid re-Started at the top but behind the SC (Safety Car). (* eventually, by the stewards of the race, the number of laps for this race was adjusted to 81 laps in total)

No. 6 kept its stride as a race leader with a fair pace, but on the 3rd lap was passed by a machine from behind. Oshima maintained his calm with consistent driving for some laps more. However, on the 7th lap there was a competitor with a crash on T11, also with some troubled cars, SC run had to be declared again. After the race resumed, Japanese driver on the steer insisted on keeping P2 but on the 22nd lap lost one position down. Then by the time finishing 40 laps and for the scheduled pit-stop, WAKO’S 4CR LC500 was running in P4. 17gt1-CAL12After swift pit-work by the team crew and speedy switch of the drivers, now the machine was handed to Andrea Caldarelli. Owing to excellent pit-actions by the team, WAKO’s colored machine soon climbed to P3, with Pescara-born Italian driver pushing at quite a high pace. Maintaining a good momentum, on the 42nd lap No. 6 recovered P2, and just after a few more laps it was chasing up #37 (KeePer Tom’s LC500) running at the top! Then on T9 a major crash occurred which called SC back onto the field, and this brought a momentary cool-down to the battle between these two top race contenders. After re-start, the two drivers leading the race (#37 with Hirakawa and #6 Andrea) were ready to battle again for the remaining 20 laps on Okayama’s track that also happens to be where both (these drivers) tend to favor and do well. Neither of them willing to ease off or yield, their tail-to-nose fight turned even hotter from the 70th lap or so. Only however, slightly disturbed with one GT300 machine spinning towards the end of the race, Andrea Caldarelli could not reduce the gap with the top and finished the first race of the season in position 2.


17gt1-CAL10Andrea Caldarelli

“A tough race it was. We really had to fight this race! Making a rather aggressive tyre choice caused us some time-loss in the early laps and ran in P4 for a while. But during my stint in the last half of the race, I’m glad to have regained a few more positions up. Anyway, with everybody giving effort in the team, we had a very competitive machine which brought us to the 2nd place, – also scored some points from the season-opener so I must say this is a happy outcome.”



The next SUPER GT Round 2 of this season will be staged at Fuji Speedway over May 3rd and 4th.