SuperGT 2015 Round 6 – It's Tight At The Top in SUGO
Sportsland SUGO is a beautifully scenic racetrack in the middle portion of Japan that's surrounded by forests and set amongst rolling terrain. For round 6 of this year's championship, Super GT paid a visit for a 300 kilometer race that saw some ugly driving and questionable race direction but ultimately saw two marques notch up their first wins of the season.
|Image credit: Motomatters.com|
Unlike the last round at Suzuka this race was greeted by beautiful weather but just like at Suzuka a Nissan GT-R sat on the pole of GT500. This time however, instead of the #1 Motul Autech GT-R it was the silver and black #46 Mola car of Satoshi Motoyama and Masataka Yanagida starting on point. On the opposite end of the grid the championship leaders in the #12 Calsonic GT-R were almost dead-last with only the #39 Denso RC-F behind it. In GT300 the #55 Arta CR-Z was in the top qualifying slot with the championship-leading #10 Gainer Tainax GT-R managing to get eighth despite a massive amount of success ballast.
At the green the Mola GT-R made good its escape, opening up an early lead of over four seconds. Things seemed to be going well for the #46 machine until the 27th lap when the #38 ZENT Cerumo RC-F decided it so badly wanted to stay ahead of the hard-charging Denso car that it forced it off the road, ultimately causing it to spin and hit the wall hard.
This forced a safety car interval while the Denso car was pulled off and driver Kohei Hirate was extricated and thankfully proved to be unhurt. The safety car laps went off uneventfully until the pit lanes were finally opened and this saw a massive scrum as nearly every car dived into the pits simultaneously. The pits had only been open one lap when amazingly race direction called for the race to go green again. The leaders managed to leave without issue but the later cars were badly hurt in terms of time when a bottleneck developed in the tight pits thanks to one of the Honda CR-Zs blocking the pit lane exit while it waited for its sister car to finish service in their box at the very end.
This meant that a large chunk of the GT300 field got knocked out of touch with the rest of the pack and had their chances for a good result ruined. Up to this point the GT300 lead was in the hands of the #25 Vivac 86 but the #22 Greentec SLS inherited it after the massive pit lane kerfuffle.
After the field managed to get disentangled from pit lane more questionable race direction followed as the #12 got slapped with two consecutive penalties, one for 20 seconds, the other for 30 for relatively minor regulations infractions while the Zent car that had put a driver in the wall got off with a slap of the wrist in the form of a simple drivethrough!
|Image credit: SuperGT.net|
At the head of the field though the order had already shuffled as the #100 Raybrig car took full advantage of the erasure of the Mola GT-R's lead by the safety car interval and got past him then started opening up a comfortable gap. The Raybrig NSX would extend that lead and ultimately finish the race there with the Mola car having to settle for second. Congrats to Naoki Yamamoto and Takuya Izawa for a great drive that brought Honda it's first win this season.
Behind those two the Motul GT-R would have been on course for a podium however a contretemps it had with the Calsonic GT-R before the safety car came back to haunt it as it got hit with a drivethrough of its own, ending up in sixth instead of the third it looked set to earn. Finishing in third instead was the #24 D' Station GT-R after a great move on the outside of turn 1 saw Daiki Sasaki take the position from the #6 Lexus.
In GT300 the Greentec SLS's pit stop gamble didn't pay off and it ceded first to the Vivac 86 when it finally had to pit around lap 50. The Vivac powered on to its first win, just like the Raybrig car brought Honda its first win of the season. This was incidentally the first win for the "Mother chassis" cars that Super GT has been trying to promote as an alternative to the GT3-spec racers.
|Image credit: SuperGT.net|
The #31 Prius came home second in GT300 which meant it closed the gap a little to the #10 Gainer GT-R that finished in sixth. However Andre Couto still maintains a massive 25 point lead in the championship with only two rounds left. Third spot in the race went to the GT-R's teammates in the #11 SLS.
In GT500 the poor performances from the previous championship leaders meant the order was shuffled greatly and the margins tightened up. The Calsonic team still enjoys the lead despite a non-points finish but only just with the Raybrig car's win bringing them up to 2nd a mere two points behind. The second place of the Mola GT-R vaulted it up to third with only six points separating it from the leader while the overly-aggressive #38 Lexus RC-F got demoted to fourth after only scoring a single point. The Mola Nissan and the Lexus are actually equal in points but the former is third thanks to one win versus none for the Zent car. Three GT-Rs are in the top five thanks to the Motul Autech car scrounging up five valuable points despite their penalty. They're just seven points behind the leader.
The race results also had the added effect of rebalancing the weight handicaps. Now the cars that were hampered by weight ballast before lost a lot due to their poor results while the solid finishers this time gained more. This means the top teams have similar weight handicaps in the 50ish kilo range going into the next race at Autopolis. With the last race at Motegi in 2 months time being a ballast-free sprint this means it's still anybody's championship to win in GT500.
It'll be six weeks before the penultimate round comes on October 31st. Who'll shrug off their demons and who'll get spooked remains to be seen on that Halloween weekend so be sure to come back to Nismo.TV's Youtube channel then. In the meantime here's the video for Round 6: