wet SUPER GT opening round SUPER GT 2009
Round 1 Race Report
In the opener to the 2009 SUPER GT series held on Sunday March 22nd at the 3.703km Okayama International Circuit, Okayama Prefecture, the No. 24 HIS ADVAN KONDO GT-R driven by Joao Paolo de Oliveira and Seiji Ara started in 3rd place off the grid but overpowered rivals to build a commanding 21- second lead and take the checkered flag in a powerful display of driving.
The No.12 IMPUL CALSONIC GT-R driven by Tsugio Matsuda and Sebastien Philippe started 10th after qualifying and finished in 4th place.
Despite the threat of a rainy day, 23,000 people made it out to see the final day of this year's first round of the SUPER GT series. From the morning cloudy skies occasionally gave way to light rain, but an hour before the race the rain became heavier, so all teams changed to rain tyres before setting out for the grid. Then the race promoters decided to put safety first, and the 2pm start was made with the cars trailing behind the Safety Car. The 15 GT500 machines sent up a wall of spray as they lined up in starting order, and after two laps trailing the Safety Car picked up speed as the racing battle began. Starting in 3rd place Oliveira had the chance to move up to take the lead after nailing a great start and quickly grabbing that chance, moving to the head of the field on the third lap.
With every lap Oliveira continued to steadily draw away from the cars chasing him, building a 10-second margin by lap 20 and growing that to 20 seconds by lap 30. Of the 82-lap event, Oliveira raced for 52, handing off to Ara with a 50-second lead over the car in second position. In the final section of the race conditions on track settled down somewhat, and a composed Ara concentrated on driving steadily to finish the last laps.
The result was not a single threat from rivals, and the win. Tsugio Matsuda in the IMPUL CALSONIC GT-R managed to avoid the confusion at the start of the race and on every lap clawed his way up through the ranks until lap 9 when he was running 4th. On lap 34 he handed the car over to Sebastien Philippe, who managed to avoid danger and hold onto his position to finish 4th.
The No.3 HASEMI TOMICA EBBRO GT-R driven by Ronnie Quintarelli and Hironobu Yasuda started the race from 12th place on the grid. With Quintarelli at the wheel, the car battled in 9th and 10th position throughout the first part of the race, and with hopes of gaining position in the second half, came in to the pits on lap 30 to hand the driving to Yasuda, giving the rookie a very long turn at the wheel in his debut GT500 race. He pulled out some relatively fast lap times during the middle of the race, but on lap 46 spun off track, suffering a roughly 3-lap deficit that put him into 12th position by the finish.
The No.1 "MOTUL AUTECH GT-R" driven by Satoshi Motoyama and Benoit Treluyer started 9th on the grid with Treluyer at the wheel. Fortune was not favoring him as spray from cars ahead cut his visibility inducing a collision with another car on lap 3 that caused major damage to the left front nose of the car. Receiving a drive-through penalty for the accident just rubbed salt in the wound. After returning to the race, the damaged nose was judged to be too dangerous, forcing him into the pits again. He returned to the track once again but came into the pits to have major repair work done in the garage. Motoyama took the car back on track and finished the race in 13th.
KONDO RACING Team Director Masahiko Kondo's comment: "Of course it's wonderful to take our first domestic win, but it's also delightful to be able to do it in the wet. We've shown huge progress in the last three years (since the team's first participation). We expected conditions to improve in the second half of the race, and if we controlled the tyres, knew we'd be able to maintain our position. The drivers ran perfectly and according to plan. We considered making a dash for it in the early stages, but everything was going so well it was a little scary. If it becomes possible, we'll definitely be aiming for the championship."
NISMO Team Director Yutaka Suzuki's comment: "Immediately following the start Benoit (Treluyer) chose a safe line into the first corner, but after two laps behind the Safety Car his tyres had cooled down and he locked up the brakes. This caused trouble for the No.36 car, and I also apologise to those who came to assist. After that, Benoit's feeling of responsibility saw him push and run at an extremely good pace, his recovery bringing great expectations. If we had been able to continue like that, without having to go back to the pits for repairs, I believe we'd have risen to about 4th place. We'll be fighting at Suzuka as if it were the opening round.