Super GT: Round 2 (18/19 April), Suzuka
Three weeks after the opening round of the series in Okayama, the Super GT championship returned to action at the weekend in Suzuka. For reigning champion Benoit Tréluyer, it was the chance to score his first points of 2009 after a number of incidents costs him a result in the season opener. Unfortunately, a slow puncture ended his hopes of taking the win.
At one of Japan’s most famous and celebrated circuits, the Frenchman and his team-mate Satoshi Motoyama showed their race-winning potential in qualifying by putting their Team Motul-Autech Nissan GT-R on pole position.
“This weekend it was Satoshi’s turn to qualify and he did a superb job by setting the best time,” said Benoit. “The following day he found the early part of the race quite difficult because the car was very heavy as we were carrying so much fuel, but he found a good rhythm as the GT-R got lighter. At the driver change he handed over to me with a ten second lead which I was able to increase as I left the pits. The car was perfect and our choice of hard tyres meant that I could push without the rubber degrading quickly and I was able to improve our advantage out front. It looked like we were cruising to victory, but I wasn’t expecting a slow puncture ten laps from home.”
A 14 second lead quickly began to melt away as Tréluyer came under increasing pressure from the Tom’s Toyota SC430.
“I didn’t even try to defend my position,” admitted the Nissan works driver. “I even lifted off to allow him to pass before 130R. Unfortunately I didn’t see the Team Cerumo car which was between me and the grass. They put two wheels off the track and I was accused of a dangerous manoeuvre!”
As often happens in motorsport, the titleholders, especially if they are among the favourites to win, receive special attention from the stewards and issues such as these often turn into penalties.
“I have never done anything to warrant any penalty points in five years,” said Benoit. “Now I have had seven in the space of just a few weeks: three during winter testing after a small altercation with another driver, two during the first round after having contact with a competitor and two more here! The problem is that the more penalty points you accumulate, the less you can participate during the weekend. This weekend I was not allowed to take part in free practice and now at the next round I will be banned from qualifying. If I am unlucky enough to be given two more points then I will be suspended altogether!”
As well as the two penalty points given to Tréluyer, the GT-R was handed a 27 second penalty which saw it slip to last in the classified runners even though Benoit had managed to hang on to fourth place on the road with a tyre which, by the chequered flag, was completely deflated.
“We still haven’t scored a single point after two rounds,” concluded Benoit. “I am not worried though because I know we are the fastest car in the field. With the new regulations meaning cars have to carry 2kgs of success ballast per point, we should be strong favourites for the next round.”
That third round takes place on 3/4 May at Mount Fuji where victory is now the only objective for Benoit.