PRESS INFORMATION

May 26, 2017

From the 4th grid far down to 11th place in the end
Aiming high challenge did more harm than good

Series name: 2017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT SERIES ROUND 3
Round name: SUPER GT IN KYUSHU 300KM
Course : 4.674 km × 65 laps (303.81 km)
Qualifying: May 20 (Sat) / Fine / Attendance: 10,470 (announcement from the organizer)
Race:May 21 (Sun) / Fine / Attendance: 18,200 (announcement from the organizer)

#16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT (driver team of Hideki Mutoh and Daisuke Nakajima) raced in the GT500 class at Round 3 of the SUPER GT Series that was held at the Autopolis in Oita Prefecture on May 20 and 21. From this race participation rule of the Honda NSX has been revised and the 29 kg weight handicap is reduced to 14kg, and the weight of #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT has come down to 1,034kg. At the same time 4kgs’ weight handicap was imposed on the machine due to the 9th place in the opening race. The total weight of the machine came to be 1,038kg at this race.

 

May 20(Sat)

Official practice: GT500 class 8th position / Hideki Mutoh: 00:01:35.368 / Daisuke Nakajima: 00:01:38.107

The official practice started at 9am under the clear sky. The course conditions were dry. #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT was reducing the time constantly, however, due to a red flag to remove a stopped machine Hideki Mutoh came back to the pit for the setting of the suspensions.

 

When the race resumed, Hideki Mutoh came back to the course and kept on going. His position was kept around 10th. One hour later a red flag was raised again and the official practice was suspended. Daisuke Nakajima took over the machine and entered the course with used tires. When the exclusive session for GT500 class started at 10:35, Hideki Mutoh again grabbed the steering and proceeded adjustment of the machine.

 

Totally Hideki Mutoh drove 22 laps and at the 21st lap he simulated a time attack and recorded his best time 00:01:35:368. On the other hand Daisuke Nakajima who went with the used tires only drove 14 laps and recorded a time of 00:01:38:107 at the 4th lap. #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT ended with 8th position among 15 machines.

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Qualifying session: GT500 class 4th position (Q1: 8th position, 00:01:35.635, Q2: 4th position, 00:01:34:858)

The qualifying session that determined the starting grid was carried out in a two-stage knockout format with all 15 participating machines racing in Q1, and only the top 8 GT500 class machines racing in Q2. The starting grid for the race is determined by the Q2 times of the top 8 machines advanced to Q2, and by the Q1 times for the remaining machines. Q1 and Q2 must be driven by a different driver. One set of tires can be used for Q1, and another set for Q2. The TEAM MUGEN attacked the qualifying session with the same order of the drivers as in previous races, Hideki Mutoh for Q1 and Daisuke Nakajima for Q2. The sky was clear and the course conditions were dry. After 6 minutes passed, it was #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT driven by Hideki Mutoh that entered the course the first while all other drivers hesitated to come out.

Hideki Mutoh conducted a time attack at the 4th lap after warming up the tires and recorded a time of 00:01:35:635. Some of the other machines planning to conduct a time attack went off the course or could not speed up due to a yellow flag. Hideki Mutoh finished Q1 at 8th place and was entitled to advance to Q2.

 
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Because Daisuke Nakajima tried only used tires in the morning session, he tried new tires at Q2 at the very first time in this weekend. He controlled the machine with the combination of new tires well enough to record a time of 00:01:34:858 at the 3rd lap, and he ended up his session in the 5th place. Due to penalty of one machine ahead, its time was disqualified and the grid position of #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT moved up to 4th.

May 21 (Sun)

Race: GT500 class 11th position (64 laps 1 lap behind / Best time: 00:01:37.488)

The race also began with the clear sky, and the air temperature was 22℃ and that of the course surface was 31℃, which was much cooler than expected. The first driver was Hideki Mutoh. TEAM MUGEN had a strategy to let Hideki Mutoh keep his position, 4th and change only 2 rear tires at the pit stop to save time in order to advance to better position. And then Daisuke Nakajima would take over the machine.

Hideki Mutoh tried his best to keep his position, 4th even the distance between #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT and other machines going in front spread gradually. But the air and course surface temperature did not go up as the team expected due to strong wind. Unexpectedly combination of the machine and tires started to lose its balance gradually.

 
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Rear tires wore off much faster than expected and Hideki Mutoh noticed such a rear tires slippery situation that gave up his position to the machine behind at 19th lap and his position went down to 5th position. Since Hideki Mutoh could not find any advantages to continue to ride in such a (slow) pace and made a decision to come back to the pit earlier.

After fueling Daisuke Nakajima took over the machine and appeared on the course. He wasted some time messing-up shift control and the moment he departed from the pit, he noticed the machine unexpectedly was not in a good shape. Exchange of rear tires lead an imbalance in front and rear of the machine.

Daisuke Nakajima tied his driving method to cope with it, however, the lap time was not shortened and in the end at the 35th lap his position went down to 12th. The team figured out it impossible to compete in this race and at the same time the machine started to vibrate due to pick-ups then the team pitted Daisuke Nakajima and changed all 4 tires with 12 laps remaining. After going back to the course, Daisuke Nakajima was catching up the race, however, already far behind the machines going ahead, he could not find chances to overtake them unless they somehow slow down. In the end he ended up the race with 11th position.

 
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As a result the Mutoh/Nakajima driver team gained no points (17th place), and behind 1 lap though, TEAM MUGEN gained 2 points owing to completion of the race in the team rankings (13th place) and are to compete in Round 4 at Sports Land Sugo.

Comments from team director Nagataka Tezuka

Just after the race started, Hideki Mutoh came to notice that the tires were no good. He could not do anything but to try not to be overtaken and in fact kept his position, 5th. I made a decision to avoid conservative drive but to compete in the race and changed 2 tires, however, which lead to an imbalance in front and rear of the machine. Both the front and rear tires were not good for the driver. When in the 10 laps remaining, vibration occurred and we changed all 4 tires. The result of this race was very disappointing one to everyone who supported us. But as long as the possibility to win the championship remains, we will keep on challenging. I would like to ask for everyone’s continued support and encouragement.

 
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Comments from driver Hideki Mutoh

I cannot regret enough at this race. Position in the qualifying session was not bad, but this owed to help of others quite lot, not coming out of current ability. In the beginning of the race, I tried my very best and somehow was able to catch up with the machines going in front, however, after the air temperature went down and driving conditions changed so dramatically that I could not continue to keep my driving. Especially after the rear tires got slippery, I could not keep pace with other machines. I came back to the pit earlier in order to get installed with fresh rear tires, which I thought, would be the best way to record better average lap time. When I came back to the pit, I expected if this strategy had worked well, I would see myself standing on the podium, but in reality, the condition got worse and I had to struggle more. I probably should have stayed on the course as much as possible, but who knows, chance plays a part in every race. But I could not imagine that my position dropped so dramatically. Since we had no experience, no data, this result was inevitable, but still I felt so disappointed at this result.

 
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Comments from driver Daisuke Nakajima

I cannot regret enough at this race. Position in the qualifying session was not bad, but this owed to help of others quite lot, not coming out of current ability. In the beginning of the race, I tried my very best and somehow was able to catch up with the machines going in front, however, after the air temperature went down and driving conditions changed so dramatically that I could not continue to keep my driving. Especially after the rear tires got slippery, I could not keep pace with other machines. I came back to the pit earlier in order to get installed with fresh rear tires, which I thought, would be the best way to record better average lap time. When I came back to the pit, I expected if this strategy had worked well, I would see myself standing on the podium, but in reality, the condition got worse and I had to struggle more. I probably should have stayed on the course as much as possible, but who knows, chance plays a part in every race. But I could not imagine that my position dropped so dramatically. Since we had no experience, no data, this result was inevitable, but still I felt so disappointed at this result.

 
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