2013 NEWS

    A P2 Podium Finish for Andrea Caldarelli, Starting from P4!

     

    The only overseas event of the 2017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, the “Chang SUPER GT RACE” took place at Chang International Circuit in the Kingdom of Thailand on the 7th and 8th of October.

     

    It was the 4th year since Chang International Circuit first started hosting the SUPER GT, and many SUPER GT fans in Thailand gathered to spectate the intense battle on the tracks.

    (Official attendance figures: October 7(SAT) 8,125/ October 8(SUN) 15,881 Total 26,376)

     

     

     

     

    October 7 (SAT) Official Qualifying

     

    Before the 39 cars participating in this two-day event rumbled onto the course on Saturday morning, a minute of silence was taken to commemorate the passing of the beloved King Bhumibol.

     

    Although the circuit was met with heavy squall prior to the start of the official practice session (10:10-11:50, outside temperature 28℃ / track temperature 31℃), sunshine cast over the tracks by the start of the session, drying it in no time. 15 cars of the GT500 class and 24 cars of the GT300 class quickly switched to slick tires, and spun off to the course.

     

     

     

    The No.6 car of the GT 500 class, the WAKO’S 4CR LC500(with weight handicap of 48kg) of LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S, was boarded by Andrea Caldarelli and Kazuya Oshima, as they made their final adjustments toward the race. Their best lap record for the session was 1’24.247, finishing the session in P3.

     

    The day’s event then proceeded to official qualifying. As rain started falling around noon, the tracks were in wet condition. Although the racing line of the circuit started drying during Q1 of the GT300 class, it was not dry to the extent of the application of slick tires in the GT500 class Q1 (15:20-15:30, outside temperature 27℃ / track temperature 29℃).

     

     

    LEXUS TEAM LEMAS WAKO’S first sent Andrea Caldarelli for the speed run. To respond to the expectations of his team, Andrea made an all-out attack on the WAKO’S designed machine. While competitors selected soft compound tires, Andrea elegantly landed a record of 1’29.672, good for P3, on medium tires. The team smoothly progressed to Q2. In Q2 (16:05-16:17), Kazuya Oshima, with firm command of the WAKO’S 4CR LC500, recorded 1’25.183, ending the session in P4.

     

     

     

     

     

    Andrea Caldarelli

    “Despite the difficult track conditions, I believe we performed very well in Q1. The machine feels very good, and I was able to perform my speed run without any mistakes and make best use of the tires. We will be starting from the second row tomorrow, and will do our best aiming for the podium to gather as many points as possible. The final two races are very important, we cannot risk losing them!”

     

     

    October 8th (SUN) Race

     

    Throughout the morning, support races and events were carried out spectacularly, and time was closing up to the 15:00 race start.

     

    However, after the 20-minute warm up session around 11:30, just when starting procedures were going to be carried out, heavy rain started pouring over the circuit causing a commotion on the starting grid, as team crew were forced to reevaluate their tire strategies for the 66-lap race which was yet to start.

     

     

    Rain receded in a short while, but the tracks instantly changed to wet condition (outside temperature 30℃ / track temperature 33℃). The WAKO’S 4CR LC500 with Andrea Caldarelli on the wheel, made its start on rain-tires and kept its P4 position, pushing as much as possible while keeping an eye on track conditions. The car made its first pit stop on lap 14 when most of the course was fully dried. The No.6 car recovered into the race with slick tires. After 2 laps, Andrea engaged in a heavy charge against a car ahead of him, and successfully overtook his opponent! Andrea, newly in P3, continued pushing with a strong pace, recording fastest laps along the way. Andrea finally returned to the pit again after a long stint amounting to 41 laps.

     

     

     

    The pit crew performed smoothly by quickly switching tires and refueling, and the WAKO’S 4CR LC500 was handed off to Kazuya Oshima. During this process, car No.6 moved up one position as the car in P3 took a longer pit stop, and Kazuya Oshima started his stint in P2. Oshima, also performed high-speed laps, and was checkered in 2nd place.

     

     

     

     

    Andrea Caldarelli

    “I struggled in the first part of the race because the rain tires did not seem to warm up, but after I changed to slick tires, I was able to maintain a good pace, and was able to push as I pleased on every lap. After overtaking car 17, I also gained on car 12, but missed my opportunity when I accidentally drove over some wet pavement. Still, the team performed excellent pit work, and Kazuya kept his position in P2, making it a race in which all of us performed to our best. The gap between the point leader is 6 points going into the final race of the series. We will be on our best, aiming for series champion at Motegi. Please keep cheering for car No.6!”

     

     

     

    The final race for the 2017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 8 MOTEGI GT GRAND FINAL will be staged at Twin Ring Motegi over November 11th and 12th.

     

    Photos by TOSHIKAZU MORIYAMA

    Andrea Caldarelli performs a flawless no-miss/no-trouble race, in the mid-summer race of survival.

     

     

    17gt6-CAL2The 2017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 6 the “46th International SUZUKA 1000km” was held on August 26th and 27th. As this event was going to be the last “Suzuka 1000km” race which has been taking place since 1966, every driver had a special feeling towards this event and was determined for the race. To witness this one and only traditional mid-summer event of 5 and a half hours of action-packed racing, a total of 72,500 GT fans gathered at Suzuka.

    (Official attendance figures: August 26th(SAT) 27,500 / August 27th(SUN) 45,500)

     

     

    August 26th(SAT) Official Qualifying

     

    17gt6-HelmetThe official practice session in the morning (9:20-11:05, cloudy skies, outside temperature 23℃) was started in wet condition due to precipitation at dawn. However, as sunlight was once shining, the tracks dried within 30 minutes and outside temperature made a quick rise up to 29℃ (track temperature 34℃). Along with the 15 cars of the GT500 class and the 30 cars of the GT 300 class which entered the race, LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S (car No.6) Andrea Caldarelli and Kazuya Oshima pair finished the session in P10 with a record of 1’48.839 despite being imposed a weight handicap which amassed a total of 86kg (on board weight 36kg + fuel restrictor level 3).

     

     

    17gt6-CAL4It was soon 14:50, the time for the first official qualifying round (Q1) for the GT500 class. Clear skies stretched over Suzuka circuit, and outside temperature rose up to 33℃ under strong sunlight.

     

    Kazuya Oshima, appointed for Q1 (14:50-15:05) of the GT500 class for LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S, boarded the WAKO’S designed Lexus LC500 and performed an aggressive speed run. Unfortunately, his best record 1’49.002 was only good for P11, and could not make the P8 cut for Q2.

     

     

    17gt6-CAL1Andrea Caldarelli

    “The restrictor on our car was set to level 3 which is the maximum level, and it is even hard for us to overtake GT300 cars at the stretches. Tomorrow will be a long race over 1000km, and we will fight for higher positions until the end!”

     

     

     

     

    August 27th(SUN) Race

     

     

    17gt6-Pit walkAlthough temperatures were at the highest, Suzuka circuit was welcomed with the occasional breeze as many fans gathered from the morning to witness the historic event “SUZUKA 100-km THE FINAL 1966-2017” which was about to begin. Before the race, fans enjoyed pit walk, autograph sessions, and photo sessions.

     

     

    17gt6-GridAfter a brief warm up session (10:55-11:15), the event’s schedule finally moved on to race start at 12:30.

     

     

    17gt6-CAL3LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S Andrea Caldarelli on car No.6 started on the 6th row of the GT 500 class, dropped his position to P12 on the opening lap, but maintained consistent driving throughout the early stages of the race despite weight handicap equivalent to 86kg. Finishing his first 28 lap stint as scheduled, the No.6 car was handed over to his partner Kazuya Oshima. On lap 40 while car No.6 was in 12th position, an accident brought the Safety Car (SC) on the course. Maintaining the same position, car No.6 made its second pit stop after finishing lap 57. The crew performed a quick and successful pit-work as Andrea came back on the tracks for his second stint gaining one position.

     

    17gt6-CAL5After that, 1 car retired off course, and Andrea on WAKO’S 4CR LC500 moved up to P9. The team called Andrea back to the pit after finishing half of the total race distance on lap 88, and a third driver change, tire change, and refueling was done. The WAKO’S designed car was back in Kazuya Oshima’s control as he performed with endurance despite a second SC run was initiated after another accident. As other cars in higher positions were imposed with certain penalties, Oshima moved up to P7, and came back to the pit finishing lap 120. Andrea Caldarelli then took the wheel, racing under constraint to preserve the soft tires, he unwillingly dropped his position to P9.

     

     

    Although appealing over the team radio that the car was in oversteer, Caldarelli endured throughout his stint and made the last pit stop after completing lap 144. The car was entrusted to Kazuya Oshima for the sixth stint.

    Skillfully driving the WAKO’S 4CR LC500, Oshima kept pushing, and moved up to P7 as two cars retired from the race. The race reached its maximum extension time at 18:28, and the checkered flag was waved on lap 172. Car No.6 of LEXUS TEAM WAKO’s finished in P7, earning 5 points.

     

    17gt6-CAL6Andrea Caldarelli

    “The weight handicap restrained the fuel restrictor on our car, which was our main struggle throughout the long race since it did not give us the chance to overtake in many situations. Also, the machine was not at its optimum balance, but we did not experience big trouble. Kazuya and I did our best not to make any mistakes, and we were able to finish the race. As a result, we were able to manage to place 2nd in the series standings (tied with car No.37) for the next race. Please keep rooting for us!”

     

     

     

    The next SUPER GT Round 7 of this season will be staged at Chang International Circuit in Tailand (Buriram province) as the exclusive overseas round of the series over October 7th and 8th.

     

    Photos by TOSHIKAZU MORIYAMA

     

    Andrea Caldarelli finishes in 9th despite difficulties with the weight handicap.

     

    17gt5-startThe 2017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 5 “FUJI GT 300km RACE” took place in Fuji Speedway on the 5th and 6th of August. As this event was a major summer event, many race fans including those who came as a family, showed up to witness Japan’s most prominent GT race event, which turned out to be a heated battle in mid-summer.

    (Official attendance figures: August 5(SAT) 21,600 / August 6(SUN) 33,500)

     

    August 5 (SAT) Official Qualifying

     

    17gt5-CAL9Clouds covered the mountain base of Fuji, with outside temperature recorded 25℃ (track temperature 29℃), as the official practice session (8:50-10:35) was off to a start. The 15 cars of the GT500 class and 30 cars of the GT300 class participated in the session, and made final adjustments for the official qualifying round which followed this session.

     

    LEXUS TEAM WAKO’S Andrea Caldarelli and Kazuya Oshima pair boarded the WAKO’S 4CR LC500, which was subject to a provisional weight handicap (*about 82kg) respective of their acquired series points, and ended the session with P10, recording 1’34.721 as their best lap time.

     

    17gt5-CAL6The day’s event then moved on to the 1st official qualifying round (Q1).

     

    The GT500 class Q1 (14:55-15:10) followed the GT300 class Q1 (14:35-14:50), and LEXUS TEAM WAKO’S sent Kazuya Oshima for the speed run. However, as the No.6 car was under the heaviest weight handicap of the class, and a P11 record (1’29.985) was the best the veteran driver could push. The team could not place over P8 to proceed to Q2, and there was no chance for Andrea Caldarelli to perform a speed run in the qualifying round. Andrea left a short comment, saying “Today we placed P11. All we have to do is to make our way up in the race tomorrow,” as the qualifying round ended.

     

    *Regarding the GT500 class, when the normal handicap weight has exceeded 50kg, the handicap will be also controlled by regulating the fuel restrictor diameter to control the fuel flow.

     

    August 5 (SUN) Race

     

    17gt5-CAL717gt5-CAL8Clear skies covered Fuji Speedway in the morning of race day, and although some clouds appeared from time to time, the day turned out to be perfect for race spectating. In the morning, the drivers enjoyed fan interactive events such as talk shows. A ceremony was held, introducing each driver before race start, and the drivers gradually gained in motivation.

     

    17gt5-CAL5At 15:25, the 300km (4,563m x 66laps) race was off to a start. Thin clouds appeared in the skies, but outside temperature increased up to 29℃ (track temperature 35℃) as the 45 GT cars circuited the course for the parade lap, formation lap, and finally a roaring rolling start!

     

    17gt5-CAL3LEXUS TEAM WAKO’S Andrea Caldarelli starting from the 6th line of the starting grid, overtook car No.1 on the 5th lap and gained one position to P10. Struggling with the heavy weighted car, Andrea Caldarelli patiently accumulated laps while still defending his position. On lap 20, many cars made early pit stops due to tire degradation, but Andrea Caldarelli stayed on the tracks, and performed aggressive driving by applying pressure on the cars in front. The No.6 car came back to the pit on lap 30, right on schedule! Kazuya Oshima boarded the WAKO’S 4CR LC500 equipped with a fresh set of tires and added fuel, and headed for the final stint.

     

    Oshima made his way up to P9 on lap 34, to P8 on lap 35, and P7 on lap 49. However, after one car overtook him on lap 53, car No.6 eventually fell back to P9 on lap 62. Oshima endured throughout the remainder of the race and completed the 66th lap, finishing in P9.

     

     

    17gt5-CAL1Andrea Caldarelli

    “Although we earned 2 points, I am disappointed with the result. The pace of the machine was satisfactory despite the weight handicap, but I was blocked for several laps by the cars in the front of me, and not being able to overtake them lagged my time record. If we had made earlier pit stops given this situation, we might have finished in P5 or P6. We suffered a frustrating result today due to strategical errors, and I believe the next race in Suzuka will be even more challenging. I will do my best to race with persistence to win our way to the championship!

     

     

    The next SUPER GT Round 6 of this season will be staged at Suzuka Circuit over August 26th and 27th.

     

    Photos by TOSHIKAZU MORIYAMA

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Andrea Caldarelli wins his place on the podium finishing in 3rd after a difficult race in severe weather conditions.


    17gt4-CAL7The first round of the SUPER GT Summer Triple, 2017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 4 “SUGO GT 300km RACE” was held on the base of the imposing mountain ranges of Zao in Sportsland SUGO (Miyagi prefecture, Japan) on the 22nd and 23rd of July. LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S and its drivers Andrea Caldarelli and Kazuya Oshima duo won pole position last year in this exact circuit. Expectation for a first-place finish was held high going into the race, as SUGO circuit was proven to be their specialty.

     

    (Official attendance figures: July 22(SAT) 9,600 / July 23(SUN) 26,200)

     

     

    17gt4-COUUnfortunately, GRM driver Andrea Couto was injured in an accident while racing in the China GT Championship which took place in Zhuhai Circuit in China, on July 8th. He will be absent for this round and the next round in Fuji to commit to his treatment for recovery.

     

     

     

    JULY 22 (SAT) Official Qualifying

     

    Contrary to the forecasted weather the official qualifying session (9:05-10:54) was underway in dry condition beneath clear blue skies. (outside temperature 32℃ / track temperature 42℃)

     

    17gt4-CAL915 cars of the GT500 class, 28 cars of the GT300 class participated in this session, and LEXUS TEAM WAKO’S first sent Kazuya Oshima on the WAKO’S 4CR LC500 (No.6) to check the machine performance. Andrea Caldarelli then took the wheel to make final adjustments anticipating the qualifying round in the afternoon and the race on Sunday. In the final 10 minutes of the session in which only GT 500 cars occupied the course, Andrea executed speed runs on new tires, his best track record marking 1’12.394. WAKO’S 4CR LC500 exhibited its excellent condition through its performance.

     

    21QC4722The event then proceeded to the 1st qualifying session (GT500 Q1: 14:36-14:51 outside temperature 29℃ / track temperature 36℃). Although the tracks were met with sprinkles of rain at the beginning of the Q1 session for the GT300 class, it remained in dry condition, and the appointed attacker for Q1, Andrea Caldarelli, recorded 1’12.163 good for P8, and advanced to Q2. In Q2 (15:30-15:42) Kazuya Oshima pushed to his best. However, he could not outrun competition and WAKO’S 4CR LC500 finished the qualifying session in P8 (1’12.163).

     

    17gt4-CAL3

     

     

     

    Andrea Caldarelli

    “Considering the heavy weight handicap (60kg), the machine was in excellent condition and the result of the qualifying session was satisfying. Honda took great command of the qualifying session today, and we were not able to exceed them. We will do our best and aim higher positions for the race tomorrow!”

     

     

    July 23 (SUN) Race

     

    17gt4-showThe race day was unfortunately met with light rain. Still, many SUPER GT fans gathered in Sportsland SUGO from the morning to participate in fan service events promoting the attractiveness of SUPER GT such as pit-walk, driver talk shows, and driver introductions, and the circuit was filled with smiles and joy.

     

    17gt4-gridEven though there was no heavy rain, worrisome conditions continued as the rain went on and off until time was 2:30 in the afternoon. As thin rain continued to pour on the tracks, the parade-run and formation lap was carried out in wet condition (outside temperature 25℃ / track temperature 27℃), and the 45 car race (81 Laps) was off to a start.

     

     

     

     

    17gt4-CAL6Andrea Caldarelli, starting from P8 on the WAKO’S 4CR LC500, performed a strong start and pushed up to P6 on the 2nd lap. After the safety car (SC) was introduced into the race following an accident involving a GT300 class car, rain seemed to pour harder, and Andrea made his way up to P5 when a car spun off course on lap 17. Andrea, eager for the opportunity for another overtake, improved his position to P3 on lap 30 when rain stopped and the tracks partially started drying. To make the best of the rain tires, WAKO’S car No.6 raced patiently tracing parts of the track which were still wet, and the strategy was proved effective as car No.6 was in P3 by the 40th lap! Andrea made his way back to the pit after the 2nd SC run ended.

     

    17gt4-CAL8The WAKO’S 4CR LC500, changed to slick tires, was then passed on to Kazuya Oshima. Right as he rolled on the course, a 3rd SC run was initiated following an accident, and the top two cars changed places, with car No.6 still keeping its position in P3. Oshima raced all out, keeping his position until the checkered flag, finishing the race on the podium in 3rd place for LEXUS TEAM WAKO’S! The team also leaped to first place in the series ranking, with 41 points.

     

     

     

     

    17gt4-CAL5Andrea Caldarelli

    “I am very happy that we finished this race on the podium. With the changing track conditions, the SC which was initiated several times, managing through GT300 traffic, and racing with weight handicap, it was definitely a tough race considering all these factors. Still, the team was able to come up with a great machine, and Kazuya and I raced without making mistakes which I believe all added up to achieve this result. Thank you all so much for the support!”

     

     

    The next AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 5 of this season will be staged at Fuji Speedway over August 5th and 6th.

     

    Photos by TOSHIKAZU MORIYAMA

     

     

    Andre Couto’s first race for SUPER GT this season, resulted in a 7th place finish starting from 16th. Andrea Caldarelli qualified for 6th, unfortunately finished in 13th.

    17gt3-Grand stand2017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 3 “SUPER GT IN KYUSHU 300km” took place in Autopolis, located in the verdurous mountain region of Aso (altitude 4,674m). Many GT fans enjoyed this long-awaited event, which was held for the first time in 2 years, due to the aftermath of the earthquake which hit Kumamoto prefecture on April of last year.

    (Official attendance figures: May 20 (SAT) 10,470 / May 21 (SUN), 18,200)

     

     

     

     

     

     

    May 20 (SAT) – Official Qualifying

     

    17gt3-CAL2The official qualifying day was welcomed by clear and sunny skies, which hinted the start to the summer season (outside temperature 25℃), with temperatures so warm that the circuit addressed for spectating fans to take caution to heatstroke. 15 cars of the GT500 class and 30 cars of the GT 300 class proceeded to the 1h 45m official practice session which started from 9:00.

     

    In the GT500 class, LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S Andrea Caldarelli and Kazuya Oshima made final adjustments to their WAKO’S 4CR LC500 (LEXUS LC500/Bridgestone/WH60kg*), finishing the session in P5 (1’34.948).

     

    *Fuel flowing restrictor

    In GT500 class when the handicap weight (success ballast) given has exceeded 50kg, weight handicap will be replaced by controlling the fuel flow through control of the restrictor.

     

    17gt3-COU5Andre Couto, joining the series for the first time this season driving for D’station Racing (GT300), climbed onto the D’station Porche (Porche 911 GT3/Yokohama/WH24kg) along with his teammate Tomonobu Fujii, with a P13 record (1’45.818), and proceeded to the qualifying round.

     

    The day’s event then moved onto the official qualifying round. (outside temperature 26℃ / track temperature 41℃)

     

    For the first qualifying session of the GT300 class (Q1 13:30-13:53), Andre Couto was appointed to drive the No.33 car for D’station Racing. Although he pushed as hard as he could without making any mistakes, the time record was only good for P16 (1’46.016), and could not advance to Q2.

     

    17gt3-COU6Andre Couto

    “The car felt very good at the practice session in the morning, so I expected better results. However, the front tires lacked grip in Q1, so we were not able to advance to Q2. Anyways, we will focus on the race tomorrow to make a comeback.”

     

     

    17gt3-CAL3

     

    For Q1 of the GT500 class (14:00-14:15), LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S assigned Kazuya Oshima as the driver of car No.6, who marked 1’35.549 which was good for P7, and proceeded to Q2. In Q2, Andrea Caldarelli took the wheel and finished the session in P7 with (1’35.549). After the qualifying session, a penalty was imposed on a car which attempted a time attack while the yellow flag was effective, which placed car No.6 on the 3rd row of the grid for the start of the race.

     

    Andrea Caldarelli

    “There was a difference in the feeling of the car compared to the morning, so it was a tough qualifying session. However, considering the WH, it’s not too bad of a result. We will do our best for the race tomorrow!”

     

    May 21 (SUN) Race

     

    17gt3-COU3The race day was also welcomed by warm sunny weather, as temperature during the 20 minute warm-up session from 12:25 was recorded 23℃ for outside and 36℃ on the track. Under perfect weather for racing, at 14:00, the 65-lap race got underway.

     

    Andre Coute, driving for D’station Racing, started on the 8th row of the grid for the GT300 class. Although it was his first race on the D’station Porsche (car No.33), Andre raced through the tracks driving skillfully without making any mistakes. He moved his way up 5 positions by the time the SC run was declared after an accident which occurred when the leading group of the GT500 class were making their way into the 5th lap. After that, he climbed up to P9 and returned to the pit finishing his 26th lap. His teammate Tomonobu Fujii, who then took the wheel, strove to the finish and was chequered for P7.

     

    17gt3-COU7Andre Couto

    “We started out on P16 and finished in P7. It means a lot to me that I could contribute to earn valuable points (4pt) for the team. The aesthetics of this circuit did not exactly match the characteristics of the porche, so it was not a machine which we could aim for 1st place. However, it was great that Tomo (Tomonobu Fujii) and I could make our way up the ladder on such a challenging layout with so few areas for overtaking. We will aim for a higher achievement in SUGO!”

     

     

     

     

     

    17gt3-CAL1Andrea Caldarelli, appointed as the starting driver for LEXUS TEAM LEMEAS WAKO’S, defended his P6 position. However, the No.6 car bearing WH receded to P8 half way into the race. After completing 31 laps, WAKO’S 4CR LC500 was handed off to Kazuya Oshima. After a swift execution by the pit crew, the No.6 car recovered onto the track as provisional P6. Oshima kept pushing, overtaking a competitor on the 46th lap, and also accompanied by a car which retired from the course, he made his way up to P4. Pursuing this momentum, Oshima strove for P3, until his car came in slight contact with another car! Damages caused by this incident caused WAKO’S 4CR LC500 to gradually slow its pace down and eventually return to the pit with only 3 laps to left complete the race. The team was not able to send the car back onto the course, finishing the race in P13.

     

    17gt3-CAL4Andrea Caldarelli

    “It was unfortunate that we had to end the race the way we did. The race was very challenging, with a lot of contact and fighting throughout my stint. I was lucky enough not to bear any damage, but Kazuya seemed to have taken a hit on the tires, resulting in an unfortunate finish to our race. Even so, this is what happens in a race. We will definitely make a comeback in the next event!”

     

    The next AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 4 of this season will be staged at Sportsland SUGO over July 22nd and 23rd.

     

     

    Photos by TOSHIKAZU MORIYAMA

     

     

    Andrea Caldarelli now with two consecutive P2, podium results!

     

    17gt2-CAL12017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 2 “FUJI GT 500km RACE” was staged at Fuji Speedway located in the famous Fuji mountain ranges over May 3rd – 4th. Also during Japan’s long holiday week, the “Golden Week”, over 92,000 GT fans showed up at this big event, had their fill of the 500km long-race spectacles.

    (Official attendance figures: May 3 (WED) 33,100 / May 4 (THU) 58,000)

     

     

     

     

    May 3 (WED, National holiday) – Official Qualifying

     

    17gt2-CAL7Wednesday morning, from 9:00 – 10:45, Official Practice began under clear blue skies with 15 cars of the GT500, 29 cars of GT300 classes present in the session. Andrea Caldarelli and Kazuya Oshima pair of LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S brought WAKO’S 4CR LC500 under their control, marking a P2 time (1’28.712)in spite of the 30kg Weight Handicap (WH).

    Their pace was consistently good throughout the long run as well, able to show that the machine has been prepared to a secure package. 

     

    17gt2-CAL12

     

    Before long, the day’s program proceeded to the Official Qualifying session.

    Andrea Caldarelli of LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO‘S appointed to drive the Q1 (14:50–15:05, Air temp. 18℃ / Track temp. 30℃) pushed with the utmost forces, delivering there a P3 time (1’28.241) and unquestionably advanced to Q2. Likewise, in Q2 Kazuya Oshima pushed more and #6 WAKO’S 4CR LC500 was able to finish the qualifying day with the time of 1’28.217, positioning 3rd overall.


    17gt2-CAL6

     

    Andrea Caldarelli

    “Considering the WH we were carrying, today’s qualifying went quite well. Our team prepared us an excellent package and its feeling was great as well! Tomorrow, starting from P3 on the grid should give us good chances to target winning the race!”

     

     

     

     

    May 4 (THU, National holiday)  RACE

     

    17gt2-CAL3Covered with a light overcast of clouds, the mountains of Fuji were found in pleasant weather again on the Race day. From 9:30, the Pit Walkabout began as part of the fan service functions, followed by numbers of event ceremonies during the hours preceding the Race. Introduction of the teams and drivers were given to the spectators as well.

     

     

     

     

    17gt2-start

     

    After 20 minutes of Warm-up session at 12:35 and various starting procedures, eventually at 14:10 (Air temp. 19℃ / Track temp. 29℃), the long Race got underway with the total of 44 machines – 15 machines of GT500 and 29 of GT300 fired up towards the chequer of 110 laps ahead!

     

     

     

     

     

     

    17gt2-CAL10At LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S, first it was Kazuya Oshima up driving as the Starting driver. Oshima kicking off from the second row with a fine rolling start, his race pace did not improve as expected and by the 9th lap positioned down to P6. But overtaking a car on the 18th lap, and then on its 35th lap WAKO’S 4CR LC500 returned to the pit for scheduled pit stop. After refueling and tyre change, #6 was now in the hands of Andrea Caldarelli who joined the field in P6. The 27 year old Italian driver gave further strong pushes and already in the 39th lap 17gt2-CAL8got into fierce battling with #23 (MOTUL AUTECH GT-R), seized this fight, and climbed to P4! On the 55th lap, passing another, #1 (DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500) and then another which had to draw back due to penalty, LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S captured the P2 standing. Soon, after the last drivers’ switch to Kazuya Oshima, WAKO’S colored machine ran at steady pace trying to reduce the gap with the race leader #38 (ZENT CERUMO LC500) be less than 5 seconds but not quite, #6 accepted the chequered flag in 2nd place from the long, hard-fought race.   

     

     

    17gt2-CAL2Andrea Caldarelli:

    “Our result of P2 finish (scoring 15 points) is great in terms of the championship standings. This weekend, the race itself was not easy – especially tyre management wise, but I did enjoy overtaking a lot in my stint. Only, after pushing hard in the early laps chasing up the cars ahead, our tyres suffered during the last half and it was a bit of a struggle driving. In any case, up to now the flow (in this new season) has been fantastic for the team too, so we are getting excited for the next race in Autopolis!”

     

     

     

    TOPICS:

     

    17gt2-COU1The next SUPER GT Round 3 will be staged at Autopolis (Oita Prefecture) over June 24-25.

    In this 3rd round, as well as in Rd. 4 (SUGO), Rd. 5 (Fuji), Andre Couto will be making entry with D’station Racing of GT300 class, along with a Japanese teammate, Tomonobu Fujii. #33 D’station Porsche (911 GT3 R), which captured a P3 podium place from Rd. 2 Fuji, impressed everybody with its high potential and next, with the veteran driver Andre Couto joining and adding force to this machine will definitely arouse further expectations for this team.

     

     

    Photos by TOSHIKAZU MORIYAMA

     

     

     

    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.

     

    Photos by TOSHIKAZU MORIYAMA

     

    Andrea Caldarelli  Finishes the races in P4 & P2, – Vice-Champion of the Series, Andre Couto  Finishes the races in P5 & P18, also the 2016 season at 8th in GT300 ranking

     

    16gt3-qf2016 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Series fought through 8 rounds now reached the very last rounds of this season with “MOTEGI GT GRAND FINAL – the “Kumamoto Earthquake Disaster Reconstruction Support Event” – over the weekend of November 12 and 13 at Twin Ring Motegi (in Tochigi Prefecture).

     

    The weekend turned into a very special one as staging the Round 3 Autopolis (* or, what should have been the Autopolis event back in April of this year), which was once cancelled due to an earthquake disaster striking Kumamoto region at the time. Therefore, together with the season’s-closer Rd. 8, the Rd. 3 event was to be held in this same weekend. Practice sessions were held on November (Friday) instead, which were followed by Rd. 3 Race on Saturday November 12th, and also Rd. 8 (with Weight Handicap mandated) on Sunday the 13th. Thus the event was formatted into a special kind of program – actually for the first time in the SUPER GT history. This program made it difficult than ever to forecast who will be crowned the Series’ Champion. With two rounds of racing held back to back just inside one weekend, who knows what the outcome may be!?

     

    16gt8-pwCalled “The Largest Battle in the history of SUPER GT,” this way some extreme battling could be brought on, and how fancy this will mark the grand finale of the season! The degree of excitement felt among the fans was indicated through the attendance figures as well, with many SUPER GT fans from around the country gathered about to watch races take place over two days respectively – in fact how could anyone miss these two important races at the end of the season?

    (Official audience figures as announced:  Nov. 12 (SAT) 23,500 / Nov. 13 (SUN) 36,000)

     

     

     

     

    November 11 (FRI)  Official Practice Session

     

    16gt3-fpWith heavy rain pouring down upon the track, the practice session of Friday morning (9:00-10:00) had to be postponed to 13:00-14:40 of that same day. Weather had already cleared by the beginning of this session, so with just the track surface still wet, many machines chose to put on slick tyres. However, at the point of 20 minutes remaining in the session, raindrops began falling again and therefore everyone’s setting had to be re-adjusted. Amid such conditions, championship contenders Andrea Caldarelli/Kazuya Oshima pair on #6 LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S (WH 46kg) went forth targeting the Title from their ranking-2 position among 15 cars of GT500 and 28 of GT300 — everybody steaming up to fight through strongly the last of the season.

     

    16gt3-cou7#0 GAINER TANAX GT-R (WH 32kg) under the belt of Andre Couto/Ryuichiro Tomita pair, aimed at winning its second consecutive title (GT300 class) from its current standing in 7th, also eyeing to reversely win these rounds. However on Friday morning, #0 positioned in 16th (1’57.138), as the time results on this day was counted only with the rain tyres, Andre Couto held high hopes for the race based on good confidence and positive feelings gained from the machine package.

     

     

     

     

     

    November 12 (SAT)  Rd. 3 Official Qualifying, Race

     

    16gt3-cou5Rain from the night before had cleared with even blue skies found with the clouds, but Wet condition persisted throughout the Official Qualifying sessions (Air temp.: 11℃, Track temp. 23℃) which took the style of one (1) driver delivering time-attacking attempts at a time.

     

    In the qualifying for GT300 (8:35-8:50), Andre Couto on the steer of GAINER TANAX GT-R chalked up strong pursuits, and placed in P5 with fair results (1’57.059) recorded.

     

    16gt8-cal5Meanwhile, over in the GT500 class, Kazuya Oshima assigned to begin the qualifying time-attack (during 9:00-9:15) outputted a P10 time (1’47.064).

     

     

    Soon, time was 13:30 and the 53-lap Race of SUPER GT Round 3 got underway.

    By then the sky over Twin Ring Motegi had completely cleared, with air temperature rising to as high as 21℃ (Track temp. 23℃), rather warm for mid-November temperatures of these local regions.

     

    16gt3-cal2In the opening lap, WAKO’S 4CR RC F with Kazuya Oshima (up first) starting from the fifth row climbed up quickly to P8. However, due to others’ crashes on T1 and T11 during Lap 3 led to a SC run, so early phases of the race were with a bit of a stir-up. Amid so, Oshima strove with aggressive driving and on the 9th lap #6 passed a car ahead, getting up to P7! And after another two laps climbed to P6. #6 continued to battle for 5th during the few laps following but at the point of 23 laps done, had to return to the pit. After speedy tyre change and switching of drivers, now Andrea Caldarelli was in charge of pushing the WAKO-colored machine. Joining the field, the 26-year old Italian now in charge chalked up more laps at high pace, also running in P3. Only, on the 31st lap getting passed by a car which hadn’t changed tyres, #6 lost one position down to 4th. And further, at the point of 10 laps to go, as trailing closely behind and chasing a P3 machine, still the position did not improve further and the team finished in P4 (8 points gained) from the Round 3 Race.

     

    16gt3-cal1Andrea Caldarelli

    “Starting from P10 and finishing in P4 is not bad. Machine was competitive and in my stint I tried pushing as much as I could for the podium but the tyres were running down by then. Today we’re still 7 points behind the ranking-leader but let’s give it our best to catching the title and becoming the Champions!”

     

     

     

     

     

     

    16gt3-cou1In the GT300 class, Andre Couto with GAINER TANAX GT-R started the race from P5, ran for a while in that position, even after the SC run. Coming to the 17th lap, finally overtaking a machine which it was struggling to pass for some laps preceding, car #0 rose to P4. Then on the 22nd lap returned to the pit to hand the machine to teammate Ryuichiro Tomita. Tomita took over the driving, did whatever he could to keep P4, but lost 1 position down on the 36th lap even after his hard pushing throughout the last half of his stint. GAINER TANAX GT-R got the chequered flag with P5 finish.

     

     

     

    Andre Couto16gt3-cou2

    “Too bad we got no further up than P5. In my stint, machine condition was very good so getting to P4, even P3 seemed possible but perhaps due to changing just the rear tyres, towards the end of the race Tomita suffered a grip-down. Actually other teams in positions higher than us were either with different tyre properties, or did no tyre change at all … For tomorrow we may have to switch gears, change our strategies, also our minds, and be sure to finish the season without regrets!”

     

     

     

     

     

    November 13 (SUN)  Rd. 8  Official Qualifying and the Race

     

    16gt8-gridSeason’s closing round, Rd. 8 was blessed with the finest autumn weather with not one cloud in the sky! Same as the previous day, qualifying and the race were both done in the same day.

     

    At GAINER TANAX GT-R, the qualifying session for the GT300 class (8:40–8:55) began with Ryuichiro Tomita on the steering offering 7 laps of fantastic time-attacking attempts. But in spite of so, the team resulted with P19 (1’48.043) from the qualifying session.

    In the GT500 class qualifying heats (9:05-9:20) LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S Andrea Caldarelli with strong pursuits took P3 with the time of 1’36.776, – perhaps a position close enough to see chances for victory in its reach.

     

     

    Finally, as the clock ticked 13:30 it was time to unfold the 53 laps of the final SUPER GT battle this year!

     

    16gt8-cal3At rolling start, #6 WAKO’S 4CR RC F with Andrea Caldarelli kicking off from the second row on GT500 grid ran in P2 already on the opening lap chasing #39 (DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC-F). Clinging onto that position throughout the stint, on the 21st lap Andrea stopped for pit-in as scheduled. Andrea’s teammate Kazuya Oshima then took over machine as keeping P2 through the last half of the race. Closing up and minimizing the gap with the top, at the point of 10 laps to go in the race, #6 was marking times even in 1.23 seconds’!! Going tail-to-nose throughout the remaining laps, threatening the race leader as seeking to overtake just any time, such battling continued all the way to the very last lap… But in the end, finishing the race in P2 and placing 2nd in the Series Ranking (with 69 points) as well, the hard-fought 2016 season for this SUPER GT team finally came to an end.

     

    16gt8-cal4Andrea Caldarelli

    “It was really a challenging race, especially as we were trying for winning the title. Earlier in the race, we tried saving on the tyres while the gap with the top was only within 1 second, and in the last half of the race we had even a quicker pace than #39. Kazuya did great with a good pace, and we were able to take 2nd place on the podium. Also with LEXUS teams dominating all top 5, – and out of which #39 also winning the Series Champion are truly the results of hard work by TOYOTA/TRD. Let me just say how proud I feel to be part of such a Family.

    Also this year was the first year for me joining a new team. There was really much to learn. And what is for sure is that our team sits inside a group of some of the quickest machines, plus we running second to the champion of this group also makes me feel glad. I want to thank the fans also for the great encouragement they gave us throughout the year Thank you very much for all the warm support.”

     

     

    16gt8-cou5GAINER TANAX GT-R #0 with Andre Couto, having to start the Rd. 8 race from the back rows, was down to P21 just in the opening lap, but by the 5th lap already recovered P19. On the 9th lap getting up to P18 and finishing 17 laps in that standing, the steer was handed to Ryuichiro Tomita. Tenacious driving and thriving by Tomita brought GAINER TANAX GT-R up to P15, which also became the final result and position for this team. Therefore, after all 8 rounds fought, Andre Couto completed his 2016 SUPER GT in 8th (with 36 points) of the series ranking.

     

    16gt3-cou4

    Andre Couto

    “It didn’t turn into the best race for our team today. Based on yesterday’s race, we gambled to choose different tyres which weren’t matching and compatible with the track already from qualifying. However, we couldn’t help but go with those tyres, so not much racing could be done today. It’s too bad our strategies didn’t succeed and we could not end with higher results. Our apologies go to the fans who supported us greatly, and yet having to see only such results…

    We will give our best efforts again next year, and may next year’s battles be just as exciting for everyone following us. Please continue to stay by our side!”

    16gt8-finale

     

    Photos by TOSHIKAZU MORIYAMA

    Happy first podium place of this season for Andrea Caldarelli, Andre Couto with a bit regretful P4 finish

    16gt7-circuitOctober 8th – 9th, Rd. 7 “BURIRAM SUPER GT RACE”, the only flyaway round of the 2016 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Series was staged at Chang International Circuit of Buriram, Thailand.

     

    16gt7-pit-walkBeing this the third time SUPER GT race is held in Buriram, an ever more number of local GT fans showed up at the circuit to join the excitement and fun!

    (Attendance figures officially announced: October 7 (Fri) 8,139 / 8 (Sat) 24,249 / 9 (SUN) 27,948 – in Total: 60,336)

     

     

     

    October 8 (SAT)  Official Qualifying

     

    16gt7-cal5Though heavy downpour struck the region the night before, SUPER GT Round 7 Official Practice in the morning (10:00 – 11:45) was held in Dry condition. At start of the session, the temperature was 28℃ but in just less than a few hours it was 31℃. Under such auspices, the 15 cars of the GT500 class and 26 of GT300 got busy working on machine settings.

     

    In the GT500 class, car #6 (WH70kg) LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S went off to the session with Kazuya Oshima driving. Next, Andrea Caldarelli took the steer and rendered a long run, finishing the session with a P10 time (1’25.530).

     

    16gt7-cou4Meanwhile, defending champion Andre Couto and Ryuichiro Tomita on GAINER #0 (WH48kg) finished in P12, with machine setup and conditions all looking good.

     

    Soon the program moved on to the Qualifying sessions formatted on the knockdown style. And though thick rainclouds were seen over towards the 1st Turn, rain never fell and dry condition lasted throughout this session.

     

    16gt7-cou1

     

     

    At GAINER TANAX GT-R, first it was Ryuichiro Tomita challenging with aggressive pursuits in Q1 (15:00-15:15) of GT300 class, and who resulted with a P5 time (1’33.520) as well as smooth advancing to the Q2. Andre Couto now in control of car #0 in Q2 (15:45-15:57), also pushed forward more with strong charges. As a result, Couto repeatedly updated the GT300 class course record on Chang’s track and finished the official qualifying with a P3 result (1’32.949).

     

    16gt7-cou7

     

    Andre Couto

    “It was a good qualifying session as I took the best position ever in this season. It was also the best machine condition of all we had so far, so I was able to push with confidence, especially on the high-speed corners without worries. Our pace is also good so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s race!”

     

     

     

     

     

     

    16gt7-cal3In Q1 (15:20-15:35) of GT500, LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S with Kazuya Oshima delivered the top time (1’24.462) breaking the course record, and obviously an easy advancement to Q2. Andrea Caldarelli was up next to drive WAKO’S 4CR RC F in the Q2. However, in the Q2 (16:05-16:17), Andrea could raise no higher time than 1’24.809, and ending with a P6 result, car #6 was to start from the third row on Sunday’s starting grid.

     

    16gt7-cal1

     

     

     

     

    Andrea Caldarelli

    “It wasn’t such a happy qualifying, as I happened to lock the tyres on the 1st turn and the 2nd turn, we lost time by 3/10ths … And because I know that we do have the potential to start from the front row, this is not the best outcome. Well, tomorrow’s race will be a long one, which may allow us chances to catch up from P6 so let’s give it our best – “Gambarimasu!”

     

    October 9 (SUN)  Race

     

    16gt7-cal2With high humidity and a haze of clouds above, Chang International Circuit on Sunday morning offered relatively pleasant conditions overall.

     

    In the Free Practice session (9:50–10:20), LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S Andrea Caldarelli/Kazuya Oshima struck a P2 time (1’26.007) showing that the machine is in a good shape. Both drivers commented, “Perfect!” about the machine, filled with confidence for the approaching race.

     

    16gt7-cou6In the GT300 class, Andre Couto/Ryuichiro Tomita pair on GAINER #0 in P6 (1’34.559) after gaining positive feelings from the machine, quietly waited for the start of the Race.

     

     

    16gt7-grid

     

     

     

     

    Time was 15:00, and finally the 66 laps (approx. 300km) of the Race got underway. Sun shining down strong and with temperatures up to 33℃, such auspices can be severe and raise the bar for every driver!

     

     

     

    16gt7-cal12Oshima of WAKO’S 4CR RC F in GT500 started from the 3rd row. Oshima kicking off from 8th position in the opening lap kept a fine race pace and also patiently chased a machine in front for a while, finally rising to P7 on Lap 9. After that as joining the battle for 6th which also tested a bit of patience, #6 finally passed another car on the 28th lap up to P6. Meanwhile, with one machine in front backing down due to a penalty, #6 climbed another position up to P5. Eventually, as completing the 33 laps of stint, WAKO’S-color machine was entrusted to Andrea Caldarelli. In charge of this second stint running in P5, on the 47th lap Andrea began closing in to a car ahead running in fourth. Clever Italian driver, not to miss out on the smallest chances pressed hard until this rival made a mistake, and as soon as, grabbed P4 away. Then eventually, higher up to P3 since another machine was given a penalty and drew back! Keeping up the good stride in P3, #6 finished the race placing third. For Andrea Caldarelli this was the first podium-finish won this season and together with LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S!

     

    16gt7-cal10Andrea Caldarelli

    “It was a good race! I thought the best we could aim for today is P4, but we made it to P3 (onto podium). Race itself was very hard and since various things could happen in a race, my focus was anyway to bring the machine to chequer in safe. The team did very well for us and I’m very happy. In the Series Ranking too we are now 2nd, so let’s keep the good flow towards Motegi!”

     

     

     

     

     

    16gt7-cou10Andre Couto starting in P3 of all GT300 class, with GAINER TANAX GT-R rose to P2 on the 9th lap and a bit by bit reduced the gap with the class’ race leader who went to pit-in rather early, around the 24th lap. This allowed Andre Couto to run at the top for quite a while, only until getting stuck where three GT500 machines were battling hard. Andre lost space, also collided with one of such machines (which did hard-braking) and hurt the left-side front part of the machine! Because of this, #0 had to go in for an emergency pit-in, and though the team was able to repair quickly, #0 could not help losing a few positions down. Ryuichiro Tomita up next, continued efforts driving strong in P5, then on 55th lap worked up to P4. Hanging on strongly till the end, GAINER TANAX GT-R received the chequered flag in that position.

     

    16gt7-cou2Andre Couto

    “We made every preparation aiming to win the race, but towards the end of the race on the last corner, I couldn’t help getting caught in the battle of three GT500s, plus one of them did hard-braking when exiting the corner and I couldn’t help contacting! Damage was caused to our front fender, – we also lost some positions. It was a race we could have won so I don’t know what to say other than that it is regrettable being so close to winning. This is all part of racing… and yet P4 finish is not bad so in any case let’s switch, go forward – my mind is already set on the next round.”

     

     

    SUPER GT Rd. 3, but which is also the last round (*a round to make up for the Autopolis Round which had to be cancelled earlier this year due to Kumamoto earthquake), and also Rd. 8 will be staged at Twin Ring MOTEGI over November 12 – 13 (*a 2-race weekend – both Qualifying and Race for each round (Rd.3 on Sat. & Rd. 8 on Sunday) will be held respectively).

     

    Photos by TOSHIKAZU MORIYAMA

     

     

    This season’s first podium for Andre Couto at the traditional 1000km race of Suzuka, Andrea Caldarelli also with a fine P4 result

     

    16gt6-COU62016 AUTOBACS SUPER GT fought on 8 rounds has now come to its 6th one of the Series, while the traditional “Suzuka 1000km” celebrates its 45th holding as mentioned officially in its event title also, “The 45th INTERNATIONAL SUZUKA 1000km”.

     

    16gt6-pitwalkOver August 27-28th, the two days of this big summertime event, total of 60,500 fans from all around Japan gathered at Suzuka Circuit to join the blazing heat of excitement at this longest-ever SUPER GT race. (Attendance figures as officially announced: August 27 (SAT) – 26,500 / 28th (SUN) 34,000)

     

     

     

    August 27 (SAT) Official Qualifying

     

    16gt6-CAL1Official Practice (9:20 – 11:05, Cloudy, Air temp. 29℃) held in the morning saw 15 cars of the GT500 and 29 of GT300 classes run as checking into each of their conditions. Andrea Caldarelli/Kazuya Oshima pair of LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO‘S positioned 11th in this session, with their best time of 1’48.918 and prepared towards the Official Qualifying to be held in the afternoon.

     

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    Andre Couto/Ryuichiro Tomita pair also worked on the machine setup as conducting GAINER TANAX GT-R, resulting with a P6 outcome (1’59.900) – not a bad way to start the weekend!

     

    At 14:30, the Q1 of Official Qualifying session got underway. By then, clear skies spread above Suzuka Circuit, with the highest of the day reaching 31℃ (Track temp. 43℃).

     

     

    16gt6-COU2Ryuichiro Tomita was on the steering of GAINER TANAX GT-R No. 0 in Q1 of GT300, and affirmed their advancing to Q2 with a P8 time result (1’59.211).

    Then, in the Q2 (15:15-15:27) now Andre Couto showed a brilliant attack as clocking the time of 1’58.947 and with 2 more positions up, #0 finished in P6 from this session.

     

    Andre Couto

     “For us, P6 result from the qualifying is so far the best position we got this season, so we have to be happy with this result. On top of that, among all the FIA GT3 machines, we marked the top time (laugh) so this aroused the team’s motivation. 1000km is going to be a long race of course, but together with Tomita, let’s aim at winning!”

     

    16gt6-CAL3Kazuya Oshima of LEXUS LEMANS WAKO’S, appointed to run the Q1 (14:50-15:05) delivered strong attempts with WAKO’S-colored machine, but without any result higher than P10 (1’48.763), no advancing could be made to Q2.

     

    Andrea Caldarelli

    “We were struggling with machine balance from the morning, and tomorrow we will start from 10th position on the grid. But since we do have a good pace, plus being it a long race tomorrow, I’m not too worried with this result. Also with high chances of rain tomorrow, who knows what will happen. Anyway, all that we will do is to give our best!”

     

    August 28 (SUN)  Race

     

    16gt6-COU3Rain fell upon Suzuka Circuit from the morning of Race day. Due to the overall event schedule planned, this time the customary Free Practice session was not held. Hence, the teams and drivers spent such time until the Race getting ready, also giving fan-services during the Pit Walk.

     

    Shortly after, the rain stopped and as the track started to dry gradually. At 12:30, the longest of all SUPER GT of 1000km, the 173-lap racing got underway over the 5.817km/lap course.

     

    16gt6-COU10In the GT300 Class, Andre Couto serving the starting driver on GAINER TANAX GT-R #0 kicked off from P6 on grid showing aggressive strides already from the beginning and up running in P3 on the 2nd lap! The Portuguese expert driver pushed on throughout the early phases of the race in this position and on coming to the 25th lap, handed the “baton” to Ryuichiro Tomita. However, Tomita in his out-lap soon collided with a car going ahead! Given a drive-through penalty due to this accident, #0 lost some positions down to running in P10. After running 18 laps, Tomita returned to pit-in. And now, Andre Couto behind the wheels of GAINER TANAX GT-R again, with powerful pushes recovered several more positions up to join the race leaders pack. After driving 27 laps stint, Andre handed #0 over to Tomita.

     

    16gt6-COU5Where the top group of GT500 entered the 89th lap of the race, one of the GT300 cars crashed, which drew the Safety Car (SC) in. By this point, GAINER TANAX GT-R was actually up running the top position of all GT300 classes! However, shortly after it was passed by another car that took the strategy of changing only two of its tyres, so Couto in P2 anyway had to sustain running his last stint in P2. Though rain showers came pouring down occasionally, the GT300 Series Champion of 2015 went forth with steadfast driving and pitted in after his 27 laps done. The last stint was entrusted to Tomita who clung onto P2 for another while, but with 2 laps to go, rain showers came down again which caused one position down to P3. Thus, GAINER TANAX GT-R #0 got the checkered flag in 3rd podium place!

     

    16gt6-COU9Andre Couto

     “We should be satisfied as it was a good weekend for us all along. P6 from the qualifying meant Top position in the FIA GT3 too. This is also our first podium finish this season. In fact, it’s Suzuka 1000km the toughest race of all in the series and we are glad to have this result from this event. There were some unlucky moments in the race today, as well as lucky – and in the end we were able to score points (13 points) too, so it’s good. This makes us even more excited for the next round in Thailand.”

     

     

     

    16gt6-CAL2Andrea Caldarelli of LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S behind the wheels of #6 WAKO’S 4CR RC F started from the 5th grid of the GT500s. Overtaken by one machine coming from behind on the 2nd lap, losing one position down but staying calm and focused, Andrea drove steadily in P11. On the 17th lap, at T14 was a collision (racing accident) with another competitor but unaffected, positioned up to P10. Picking up more speed and force, the Italian driver from Pescara further raised positions up in the 23rd lap and 26th lap respectively, and eventually up to P7! Then just as finishing 28 laps, #6 returned to pit-in. Machine now in his teammate Kazuya Oshima’s hands, at one time #6 was running at P9 when all GT500 teams had done the 1st routine stop. Following that, as overtaking machines going ahead, further rise of positions to P8 and then to P4 were achieved by the 49th lap.

     

    16gt6-CAL7Then at 14:25, as everybody came upon the 55th lap, droplets of rain started to fall over the track again. Nonetheless, no change to rain tyres had to be made and #6 went for its 2nd routine stop at the point of 58 laps down.

     

    Andrea in his second stint kept his strong stride positioning 4th and on the 70th lap when a car ahead had to move down due to penalty, Andrea positioned up to P3. Then, when finishing 86 laps and pitting in, driver change from Andrea Caldarelli to Kazuya Oshima took place. Meanwhile, at the point of 92 laps down, the SC run was cleared. WAKO’S 4CR RC F had to step down to P4 in the meantime, having to give up its position to other car closing in from behind with greater speed. Though struggling with under-steer during most of the way, Andrea’s teammate held on to the current position and entrusted the machine over to Andrea in charge of the next stint.

     

    16gt6-CAL9Andrea Caldarelli, never easing off this race pace continued driving strong, as keeping the P4 standing, but again when the race came upon its 127 laps overall, large drops of rain suddenly seized the West Course of the circuit, and everyone was on the alert for a moment. Shortly, this rain stopped and at the point of 139 laps in the race, LEXUS TEAM LEMANS WAKO’S returned to the pit for its last stop. Now Kazuya Oshima headed out to the field, assigned to run all the way to checkered flag but with 4 laps to go, #6 was passed by a car coming from behind. While running in P5, heavy drops of rain now struck the East Course, and yet Oshima stayed focused and in good control of the machine. In the final lap, a machine running in P4 stalled due to machine trouble, and therefore WAKO’S 4CR RC F finished the long race in 4th place with 10 points gained.

     

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    Andrea Caldarelli

     “I think giving our max, best efforts led us to this result. We never had a good enough pace today, such that could bring us to the podium, and the machine feeling was never perfect. However, we’re happy to have gained some points and still remain in the fight for the championship title. In the next round, let’s be sure that we are on the podium. I want to thank all the fans who were here giving us warm cheer and support!”

     

     

     

     

     

    16gt6-CAL8TOPICS:

    In regards to the large earthquake which struck the central region of Italy on August 24th, and on behalf of the entire SUPER GT, Andrea Caldarelli and Ronnie Quintarelli the two Italian drivers of this Series expressed their sincere compassion and condolences to those affected by this disaster in their home country.

     

     

    Round 7 of the SUPER GT series will be held at Chang International Circuit of Thailand (Buriram region) over October 8th – 9th, which is the only fly-away race of this Series.

     

     

    Photos by TOSHIKAZU MORIYAMA/MASARU HIRATA