Round 1 Okayama : GT500 Race Review
On the afternoon of April 6, the Okayama GT 300km Race, Round 1 of the 2014 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, took place at the Okayama International Circuit in (Okayama Pref.). The winner in the GT500 class was the No. 37 KeePer TOM'S RC F driven by Daisuke Ito and Andrea Caldarelli. The winner of the GT300 class was the No. 4 GOODSMILE HATSUNEMIKU Z4 driven by Nobuteru Taniguchi and Tatsuya Kataoka.
Weather: Cloudy/rain/clear | Track: Dry/wet/dryAir/track temperatures at start: 9 ° C./ 20° > Mid-race: 10 ° C./15 ° C.
Disaster strikes the GT-R teams, ENEOS SUSTINA RC F gets fast start for early lead
Sunday at the Okayama International Circuit was marked by very unstable weather conditions varying from cold rain to moments of bright sunshine. At 2:00 in the afternoon the season opener started with somewhat improved skies but a chilly wind blowing.From this season, the starts begin with one warm-up lap followed by a formation lap, making for two laps behind the Safety Car before the race starts. The initial warm-up lap began exactly at 2:00 in the afternoon.However, there was difficulty getting the cars in proper formation during the formation lap, which forced the addition of a second formation lap and thus the removal of one lap from the actual race distance to 81 laps, instead of 82.
Once the race was underway, it was the pole-sitting No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA RC F (Kazuya Oshima) that led through the first turn. Following it in order came the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Joao Paulo de Oliveira) and the No. 46 S Road MOLA GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama), but on the Revolver Corner of the opening lap there was a collision between the No. 36 PETRONAS TOM'S RC F (James Rossiter) and the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda). The bump-up caused both cars to spin out, and although they were able to return to the race they both suffered big time losses.
Then, on the first turn of lap two, there was another collision when the No. 46 S Road MOLA GT-R cut in on the in side of the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R, which sent Oliveira off the track into the dirt. This allowed the No. 46 S Road MOLA GT-R to move up into 2nd position and the No. 37 KeePer TOM'S RC F (Andrea Caldarelli) into 3rd.
Running in the lead, Oshima recorded a fastest lap of the race on the second lap with a time of 1’21.977 as he pushed to open up a margin of lead over the No. 46 S Road MOLA GT-R, and by the fifth lap he had managed to open up a margin of nearly four seconds. When he began coming up on back markers, however, that lead quickly vanished, and by lap six Motoyama had closed to within one second of Ohshima and then to 0.8 sec. on the seventh and eighth laps.
But, Oshima began pushing the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA RC F hard again in a spurt that gradually widened his margin of lead once again, until rain began to fall from around the 17th lap. By the end of lap 18, Oshima’s lead in the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA RC F had reached a peak of 6.6 seconds, and then his pace slowed again somewhat. At the same time, the pace of the No. 46 S Road MOLA GT-R had also slowed, but now the No. 37 KeePer TOM'S RC F in 3rd position was running at a faster pace than the two lead machines, enabling Caldrelli to catch and pass the No. 46 S Road MOLA GT-R on the second turn of lap 20 to move into 2nd position, and as the rain began to fall harder, he quickly took the challenge to the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA RC F. Now back in 3rd position, the No. 46 S Road MOLA GT-R was also passed by the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R on the 21st lap, after which it had to return to the pit to change to wet tires. But, that strategy proved fruitless, as the rain soon stopped and the team was forced to change back to dry tires.
The tense battle between the two RC F machines in the lead continued with a margin of about one second between the two, but in the process they were pulling away from the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R in 3rd and the No. 18 Weider Modulo NSX CONCEPT-GT (Naoki Yamamoto) in 4th, turning it into a match race between the top two cars.
Gear trouble steals the win from the ENEOS SUSTINA RC F
Going past the 30th lap, the battle between the two leaders continued with only a couple of seconds separating them. On the 36th lap, the No. 37 KeePer TOM'S RC F was the first to make its routine pit stop and change drivers to Daisuke Ito. Then the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA RC F made its pit stop on the next lap and changed drivers to Yuji Kunimoto, and it appeared that at this point the gap between the two machines had widened somewhat.
Meanwhile, the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R, No. 18 Weider Modulo NSX CONCEPT-GT, the No. 8 ARTA HSV-010 (Kousuke Matsuura) and the No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN RC F (Yuhi Sekiguchi) continued to delay making their required pit stop as long as possible and ran on at the front until the last of them, the No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN RC F finally made its pit stop on the 43rd lap, putting the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA RC F back in the lead. Following in 2nd position came the No. 37 KeePer TOM'S RC F, now 2 sec. behind the leader. The gap between the two machines rapidly disappeared, however, and by lap 50, they were racing nose to tail.
As Kunimoto and Ito battled on, the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA RC F machine suddenly suffered from gear-shift trouble on the Atwood Curve of lap 55. Unable to shift gears, Kunimoto had to watch as Ito in the No. 37 KeePer TOM'S RC F took the lead away from him. Now back in 2nd position, the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA RC F’s shifter began functioning again and Kunimoto could resume the chase before being caught by the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda), he would not be able to catch the leading car No. 37 before the race ended.
In the end, the winner of the first contest between the new machines of the GT500 class in the season opener was the No. 37 KeePer TOM'S RC F. Finishing 2nd was the No. 6 ENEOS SUSTINA RC F, which gave the Lexus camp a 1-2 finish. In 3rd place came the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R, followed by the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD RC F and the No. 18 Weider Modulo NSX CONCEPT-GT.