Representing the peak of Japanese motorsport, SUPER GT shared the bill with Formula Nippon for the "JAF Grand Prix FUJI SPRINT CUP 2011", held at Fuji Speedway from November 11th (Friday) to 13th (Sunday), where the NISSAN GT-R put on a command performance.
The GT500 class featured 100km (22-lap) races on both Saturday and Sunday, without driver changes as seen during the regular season. In Saturday's Race 1, the #46 S Road MOLA GT-R took a lights-to-flag victory, while Sunday's Race 2 saw another pole position start for the #46 GT-R, this time finishing 2nd. As a result, the Ronnie Quintarelli / Masataka Yanagida driver pairing took this year's Grand Prix, while the MOLA team was awarded the National Traffic Minister of State prize.
- First Race
The first race for the GT500-class (100kms/22 laps) saw Ronnie Quintarelli make a smooth start, holding onto the top spot throughout the opening lap. After a few tours, he had built up a steadily increasing gap of about three seconds. In the race's middle stages his lap times dropped off a little, but this was due to his tyre-preserving strategy, and by then he had built up a sufficient gap over his pursuers to stay in front. In 2nd place, the #12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Joao Paolo de Oliveira) pushed hard, coming to within 0.373 seconds of the leader, who safely stayed ahead to take the win. Quintarelli, already crowned champion this season, commented, "Since the tyres and the car were both good, I was able to build up enough of a gap in the first half. As grip levels dropped off in the middle of the race, I had to manage my tyres in order to protect my position. Then for the final few laps I was able to push once again as grip returned".
Having risen to 2nd by lap 4, Oliveira in the #12 GT-R shortened the gap to the leader to just 3.5 seconds by the race's later stages and saw this as his chance to reverse the order. However, he ran out of time and finished in 2nd place. Meanwhile, the #24 ADVAN KONDO GT-R (Bjorn Wirdheim) and the #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Benoit Treluyer) were greatly delayed by the standing start, though had recovered their loss within the first lap.
Later, while battling for 4th, Wirdheim in the #24 GT-R damaged his tyres under braking just before the first corner on lap 4, causing him to fall back. Then on the following lap his tyre burst, forcing him to stop at the side of the track and retire. On the opening lap, Treluyer in the #23 GT-R cleared 5th place, and on lap 4 moved into fourth. Then, as he chased those in front, he suffered a broken wheel due to earlier contact. He pitted to change wheels and returned to the track, but in the end, could only manage a 12th-place finish.
- Second Race
Under clear autumnal skies, the 2nd GT500 race got underway at 3:25 p.m. on Sunday. This time, what happened at the start was hugely influential in the outcome of the race. Sitting on pole, Masataka Yanagida in the #46 GT-R got away a little slowly and had fallen to third by the first corner.
Meanwhile, there was confusion among the cars that had started at the back of the grid, with contact and spins at the first corner. Driving aggressively, Yanagida quickly moved up to 2nd and while vying for his chance to take over the lead, recorded the fastest lap of the race.
However, the #100 HSV never gave him an opportunity and Yanagida finished in 2nd place. In addition, Tsugio Matsuda in the #12 GT-R incurred major damage to the front cowl of his machine after being hit violently by another car, resulting in the nose coming completely off and necessitating a visit to the pits. He retired as a result.
Starting from a qualifying position of 8th, the #23 GT-R of Satoshi Motoyama had risen to 6th by the end of a fraught opening lap, and advanced to 5th on lap 2. By lap 8, the car was running in 4th place. From there, he was aiming at a higher position but was handed a drive-through penalty for contact with the #19 SC430 at the start. He returned to the race in 12th, and eventually finished in 11th place. Setting off from 3rd on the grid,
Hironobu Yasuda in the #24 GT-R had a scrap with the #8 HSV at the start, dropping well down the order as a result. Having fallen to 13th, he gradually recovered positions and finished the final race of the year in 9th.
-NISMO Team Director Yutaka Suzuki's comment:
"Since the #23 car was working perfectly, we were really enthusiastic about giving all the fans a great performance, and so we're very disappointed at this result. After a somewhat subdued start to the season, we had an extremely strong second half. Next season, we will persist with all our power to maintain this level of performance. Thank you all for a wonderful season. Please continue giving us your encouragement next year as well."