Super GT 2016 Round 5 - Redemption

Image credits: SuperGT

Round 5 of Super GT this year saw it back at Fuji Speedway – the same track that had hosted round two where the Calsonic Impul team suffered a heartbreaking loss as a burst tire took them out of the lead with only four laps left to go. Despite the frustration for the #12 GT-R in that round there was still much to celebrate for Nissan fans as the defending champion Motul Autech car went on to win GT500 while the B-Max NDDP GT-R fought back to nip the pole-winning Arta BMW for the top step of GT300.

After the win in May Nissan had shown that the GT-R was still the dominant car at Fuji despite the fact that it was Toyota's home turf. No doubt Lexus was looking for redemption after failing to beat their rivals from Yokohama once again. The GT-Rs were proven to be fast around the tricky modern configuration of Fuji that places a premium on aerodynamic efficiency and an overall balanced machine but the RC F's had been every bit as fast in pre-season testing; and with the #1 car saddled with a massive 84 kilogram weight handicap it seemed like the time was ripe for Lexus to get their revenge.
Nissan showed off its hardware even before the race...

...including some demo laps by the new 2017 version of the R35 road car.

It was therefore a shock when the dust settled from qualifying and Lexus had suffered the same surprise result that Nissan had experienced in the last round at Sugo – all their cars were at the back of grid. At the front was a familiar sight: three Nissan GT-Rs with the gleaming blue Calsonic on pole, the silver #46 S-Road beside it, and the defending champions slotting into third despite the success ballast. Fourth and fifth brought more surprises as the NSXs outpaced the Lexus cars as well but with minimal ballast it would remain to be seen if they would fade in the actual race like they have before. The previous round's winner – the #24 Forum Engineering car - was the tailgunner GT-R in sixth.
The three leading GT-Rs were the only ones to get into the 1' 28" lap times during qualifying.

GT500 had the same car on pole as at round two and the situation was no different in GT300 – the #55 Arta BMW again showed its pace to take the point. The #21 Hitotsuyama R8 and #51 JMS Ferrari rounded out the top three. Sadly the GT-Rs had a poor qualifying performance with the #3 car managing no better than 17th and the 2015 champion #0 Gainer car in 19th.

Race day dawned sunny with high track temperatures causing concerns about tire wear but the front-running cars still aggressively warmed up their rubber on the formation laps. At the green the two GT-Rs in the top spots of GT500 sprinted away with the Motul car lagging from its heavy weight handicap. Both classes saw some minor squabbling in the midfield but the order stayed pretty much the same in the beginning.

While the Calsonic and S-Road cars ran off the #17 Keihin NSX was aggressively trying to put a pass on the #1 car for third. Amazingly the Nismo car was able to keep it at bay. After ten laps the order at the front was still staying the same but at the other end of the GT500 field the #37 KeePer Tom's RC F that had been dead last saw more bad luck come its way as the car's wing decided to part company with the rest of the vehicle. This sent it into the pits for repairs and shortly after the Forum Engineering GT-R followed for an undisclosed mechanical issue that took it out of the race while running seventh.
The #1 car was in dogfights with various cars almost the whole race thanks to its heavy weight handicap.

Come lap 18 the Motul car was having to struggle against two NSXs since the fifth-place #100 Raybrig was now right behind the Keihin. It got a brief break from the pressure when a safety car was called due to one of the GT300 AMGs losing its hood.

The race wouldn't restart until lap 25 but this sparked several overtaking maneuvers as the Raybrig NSX managed to jump the Keihin car for fourth and then the #36 au Tom's RC F managed to get past as well after making its way up from tenth.

Exactly at the midpoint the leaders started their pit cycles with the #46 GT-R starting off then followed by the Calsonic and Motul cars a lap later. After leaving the pits the Motul car lost out however as both of the leading Hondas got past it. The #1 car at least managed to stay ahead of the au Lexus to slot into fifth.

It looked like it would come down to a battle between two Nissans again just like in round two but then on lap 35 Katsumasa Chiyo in the #46 car went flying backwards off the first corner and hit the tire barrier hard. Thankfully he seemed unhurt but this left the Calsonic car with an untroubled lead.

Meanwhile in GT300 the Arta BMW and second place Hitotsuyama Audi had been grappling for position almost the whole race but the R8 always seemed to be thwarted. In GT500 most of the action was in the midpack with the Lexus cars squabbling among themselves for the spoils as the leading group of Nissans and Hondas remained steady in their positions.
The ARTA M6 and Hitotsuyama R8 were almost inseparable for most of the race.

With the untimely departure of the S-Road car the Calsonic Impul GT-R only had to avoid trouble to finally get the win that eluded them a couple of rounds before. The Hondas proved to be no match for the blue Nissan and after 66 laps the race ended with the #12 car enjoying a massive 25 second lead to the second place Keihin car. The two Hondas had ended up dicing with each other in the latter stages of the race with the #17 managing to secure second on the 51st lap. The Motul car defied the weight penalty it carried to secure fourth.

GT500 may have been a fairly easy win for the leader but GT300 was anything but. The second-place Audi kept hounding the leading Beemer and it looked like it had the speed to beat it but traffic kept coming into play to hurt its chances. On the final corner of the final lap the Audi made one last valiant effort though and tried to draft the Arta car. They hit the line with the big BMW only just keeping the lead. This put the Arta team not only on the top step of the podium but also on top of the championship standings. The #3 B-Max GT-R managed to stage a great fight from the back to end up in sixth and keep within 5 points of the leaders.

For both winning teams the first place finishes were redemption for the missed opportunities in the last Fuji race. To Calsonic Impul the win no doubt was a great fillip for what has been a very tough season especially since they failed to score any victories last year despite leading the championship for most of the season.
For their efforts the Calsonic Impul drivers got some well-deserved wood.

The poor results from the Lexus runners, improved form of the Hondas, and varying luck of the GT-Rs meant the championship standings were reshuffled except for the #1 car which extended its lead to thirteen points. Calsonic Impul should be happy to be in fourth after all the bad luck they've suffered this season but they face a massive 22 point deficit to the leading Nismo car.
Random race queen shot? Yes, random race queen shot.

The next round however is the Suzuka 1000K, the premiere race of the season with extra points to be had due to its longer length. The success of the #1 car has meant its weight penalty has ballooned to a massive 100kg and with their perennial rival #12 car finally seeming to be back on form, Lexus licking its wounds, and Honda on their home turf with improved cars the next race will no doubt bring a lot of unpredictability and excitement. It's only three weeks away and it's sure to be a good one. In the meantime, enjoy Nismo.TV's video feed and Nissan's customary celebratory video below: