October 23, 2018
6th place in qualifying, but gained no points
Series name: 2018 AUTOBACS SUPER GT Round 7
Round name: AUTOPOLIS GT 300KM RACE
Course: 4.674km × 65 laps (303.81km)
Qualifying: October 20 (Saturday) / Fine / Attendance: 10,550 (announcement from the organizer)
Race: October 21 (Sunday) / Fine / Attendance: 20,380 (announcement from the organizer)
#16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT (driver team of Hideki Mutoh, Daisuke Nakajima) participated in the GT500 class at Round 7 of the Super GT Series on October 20 and 21 at AUTOPOLIS international racing course (Oita Prefecture). Weight handicaps were decreased by half in this race. Therefore, though #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT had been in the 4th place and gained 8 points at previous race and total series points had been accumulated to 16 points, the total weight handicaps remained the same 1,060kg (1,044kg + 16kg) as previous race.
October 20 (Sat)
Official practice: 8th place in the GT500 class, Hideki Mutoh: 00:1:33.876 / Daisuke Nakajima: 00:1:36.763
The official practice began under sunny sky at 9:00AM and the course was dry. The ambient temperature decreased to 15 ℃ at around Mt. Aso area.
It was Hideki Mutoh who took the wheel of #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT first and compared the carried-in soft tires with medium tires and confirmed their performances. In the latter half of the session Daisuke Nakajima took over Mutoh. Just before the end of the session Hideki Mutoh again took the wheel during the circuit safari and the car was found out to tend to understeer at the sector 3. The team had to hurry to solve the issue.
Hideki Mutoh took total 22 laps and tried a time attack at the 21st lap and recorded the best time 00:01:33.876. Daisuke Nakajima took 8 laps with only used tires and recorded a time of 00:01:36.763 at the 2nd lap. #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT ended the session in the 8th place among 15 cars.
Qualifying session: 6th place in the GT500 class (Q1: 8th place, 00:1:33.339 / Q2: 6th place, 00:01:33.150)
The qualifying session is held under a 2-stage knockout formula with all 15 cars driving in Q1 and then only the top 8 GT500 class cars can advance to Q2 where the starting grid is determined. The positions in the starting grid for the final race are determined in order of Q2 lap times for the 8 vehicles that can advance to Q2, and in order of the Q1 times for the other cars. Q1 and Q2 must be raced by different drivers, and one set of tires can be used for Q1 and another for Q2.
As usual Hideki Mutoh was in charge of Q1 and Daisuke Nakajima was in Q2. The sly was clear and the road surface condition was dry. Hideki Mutoh recorded a time of 00:01:33.339 putting him in the 8th place and advanced to Q2 and Daisuke Nakajima recorded a time of 00:01:33.150 and the position on the starting grid of #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT was determined to be the 6th.
October 21 (Sun)
Race: 14th place in the GT500 class (64 laps one lap behind / Best time: 00:01:35.808)
Weather on the race day was as good as previous day. The ambient temperature rose to 17℃. The first driver, Hideki Mutoh took laps at the 20-minute free session just before the race and tried to figure out the final setting to solve the issue, having a tendency to understeer. He recorded a time of 00:01:39.541 and was in the 13th place among all the participants.
Just after the race started, Hideki Mutoh tried to keep his position as long distance as possible, however, he lost one position at the corner of the 8th lap because the car going behind tried to pass by him from the outside and Hideki Mutoh locked the tires and lost speed. The understeering issue still remained from the previous day and the tires wore easily and then Hideki Mutoh was gradually forced to compete in the harsh race. He went down to the 8th position at the 10th lap, the 9th at the 13th lap, and at the 19th lap Hideki Mutoh could not decrease the seed at the first hairpin curve and overran and he was overtaken by the car behind and was down to in the 12th position.
A safety car appeared to remove the stopped car at the 20th lap and the race resumed at the 25th lap. At around then other cars started to come back to the pit but #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT kept on going. At the half of the race, the 32th lap, an apparent position of #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT moved up to the 4th and Hideki Mutoh took a pit stop. After tires change and refueling, Daisuke Nakajima took over the car.
Daisuke Nakajima went back to the race in the 13th position. At the 36th lap he moved up to the 12th potion and kept on trying to catch up the cars going ahead. But at the corner of the 47th lap, when he tried to overtake a GT300 from the inside, the GT300 came to inside and contacted #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT. Daisuke Nakajima lost speed and was surrounded by GT300s and contacted the car again and a left front fender and wheels were damaged.
Daisuke Nakajima kept on going, however, the car lost wheel alignment and a surface part of the front fender. In the end its aerodynamic balance changed and the car lost speed. He had no choice but to deal with the harsh race. Daisuke Nakajima tried his best to gain points but just 5 laps before the end of the race, he felt strong vibration on the car and made a decision to take an emergent pit stop and the tires were changed. He came back to the track and finished the race in the 14th place one lap behind the top in the end.
As a result, the team of Mutoh/Nakajima driver team did not receive any points, placing them the 15th in the season point rankings. TEAM MUGEN received 2 completion of the race points one lap behind and was remained the 14th place in the team point rankings, and had to be ready for the final round.
Comments from driver Hideki Mutoh
This race weekend was not good at all for me. The car itself went fast but range of tire temperature did not cover that of the race. Road surface temperature was lower than we expected. I faced a huge difficulty with the race because the tires did not grab the road surface and I felt so slippery with them.
Comments from driver Daisuke Nakajima
Judging from my experience, since combination between the car and tires is not bad at Autopolis, I had somehow a confidence to get decent position. I believe advancing to Q2 and finishing the session in the 6th place was not bad. But having considered the understeering issue, I did not expect the better position at the race.
In fact Hideki Mutoh could not pick up his speed. In the latter half of the race even after damage of the car, I still felt we could get some points somehow, but gradually the damage got worse and I made a decision to take a pit stop and went back to the track with soft tires. Since the tires went well, I might have chosen soft tires from the beginning.
Comments from team director Nagataka Tezuka
Though we chose the same tires that had shown a good performance at the previous race, they did not in reality. At the sector 3 under steering issue became remarkable and the car lost balance from the font area. We applied some countermeasure, but it did not work. But the car showed its performance at qualifying and advanced to Q2 in the 6th place.
As I mentioned, we applied some countermeasure for the understeering issue during the 20-minute free session before the race. But the car gradually lost its position. Also damages during the latter half of the race worsened condition of the car. The driver felt vibration at the 5th lap and took a pit stop for the tire change and we found out that the two wheel rims were cracked and the car was in the quite dangerous situation. We will do our best not to regret the final race.