May 12, 2017

Harsh finish, but enough data for the Round 3

Round name: FUJI GT 500km RACE
Course : 4.563 km × 110 laps (501.930 km)
Qualifying: May 3 (Wed) / Fine / Attendance: 34,100 (announcement from the organizer)
Race: May 4 (Thu) / Fine / Attendance: 58,000 (announcement from the organizer)

#16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT (driver team of Hideki Mutoh and Daisuke Nakajima) raced in the GT500 class at Round 2 of the SUPER GT Series that was held at the Fuji Speedway in Shizuoka Prefecture on May 3 and 4. As a result of winning 9th place in the previous race, the opening race 4kgs’ weight handicap was imposed on the machine, and whose total weight increased to be more than 1,053kg.


May 3 (Wed)

Official practice: 14th position in the GT500 class/ Hideki Mutoh: 00:01:30.997 / Daisuke Nakajima: 00:01:30.428

The official practice on the 3 was held under dry conditions. Though some thin clouds were floating, the sky was clear. It was Hideki Mutoh who grabbed the steering to start # 16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT, but his lap time was not as good as the team expected and the team changed their plan to detect its preliminary setting.


Hideki Mutoh ran 18 laps then Daisuke Nakajima took over it. When Daisuke Nakajima grabbed the steering at the end of the session lasting for an hour and 45 mins, the accident occurred and the session was interrupted by a red flag. At this point the time of # 16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT was 00:01:30.997 recorded at the 11th lap by Hideki Mutoh, 2 seconds behind the top time in 13th position.

The session mixed with GT300 and GT500 was canceled. # 16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT went for the exclusive session just after GT300 10 minutes’ exclusive session. Here the time of Daisuke Nakajima was shortened to 00:01:30.428. He ended his session having driven a total of 14 laps. # 16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT ended in 14th position among 15 participating machines.


Qualifying session: 13th place in the GT500 class(Q1: 13th position, 00:01:29.281, Q2: No entry)

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 final race is decided 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 Hideki Mutoh for Q1 and Daisuke Nakajima for Q2. The course conditions were dry. Hideki Mutoh entered the course and warmed up the tires, and then did a simulation of a time attack. After that Hideki Mutoh cooled down the vehicle and tried a time attack. As a result the time could be shortened to 00:01:29.281, however, not shortened enough to proceed to the Q2, and at this point the grid position of # 16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT was determined as 13th position.


May 4 (Thu)

Race: 15th place in the GT500 class(93 laps 17 laps behind / Best time: 00:01:32.193)

All the participating machines had to run for additional 500km on the race, meaning 110 laps of Fuji speedway course. The air temperature was 20℃ and that of course surface already rose to 30℃ and expected to be hotter. The starting driver was Hideki Mutoh. While Mutoh warmed up the tires for gripping, he was overtaken by the car behind and had to compete the race as the last car.


After the tires warmed up, Hideki Mutoh started to run faster and a distance between his car and the car in front got closer. But after the 10th lap, Hideki Mutoh felt some troubles with the engine and made up his mind to come back to the pit after finishing his 18th lap since he wanted to avoid driving over excessive wireless communication.


The machine was kept at the pit and all the parts assumed to be the source of the troubles were exchanged, and refueled and came back to the course with the driver, Daisuke Nakajima almost 8 laps behind the top. Though Daisuke Nakajima ran the same pace as the top driver, the condition of the machine remained not good enough to show its very best performance and the TEAM MUGEN decided to change their strategy focusing on collection of the data since the machine was already far behind from the top at this point.

Daisuke Nakajima came back to the pit after 58 laps. Hideki Mutoh took over the machine and after refueling, he went out for the course. Hideki Mutoh also devoted himself into conducting date collection, but around the end of the race, he felt some vibration with the machine and made his mind to finish the race considering life for the rest of the races.


As a result the Mutoh/Nakajima driver team gained no points (15th place), and TEAM MUGEN gained 1 point in the team rankings (11th place) and are to compete in Round 3 at the Autopolis.


Comments from team director Nagataka Tezuka

“It was a disappointing result. From the beginning, the machine did not run fast enough and as a result not in a good position. We then changed our strategy to compete steadily but the machine was losing its speed and I made up my mind to pit the machine to avoid ominous risks. This accident was caused by the engine censor troubles. We spent so much time on fixing it and were 8 laps behind from the top then decided to collect data and try tire tests after the driver change. At the end of the race, due to vibration issue, I pitted the machine. In spite of the bad conditions, the drivers completed 93 laps and we should regard it as a good opportunity to collect data and will prepare for the next race. It is so disappointing and regrettable since Yokohama Tire, related members, and drivers did their best. I feel sorry for our sponsors and fans, but want to do our best for the rest of the races with help of the collected data.”


Comments from driver Hideki Mutoh

“This race week from the beginning was not good. I tried various approaches to the machine, however, did not get any good responses and a setup of the machine and tires was not good enough, either. In the race I had no choice but to come back to the pit lot earlier than we planned due to the engine troubles just after the start of the race. Then we changed our mind and collected data of the tires. I also decided to drive in various ways. I would like to come together with the team and challenge the next race with the data information collected at this race.”


Comments from driver Daisuke Nakajima

“This race week was harsh in whole. In the race the conditions were not good enough to make use of the potential of tires. Understeers, oversteers, and not good traction. So tiresome race week...The machine itself is good depending on the conditions, though. But this time... Furthermore, machine troubles… When I took over the machine, our team had already lost a chance to compete for the top position. During my drive the machine troubles still remained somehow, but not so bad that I had to come back to the pit. What I did, I tried various mappings rather than giving up the race. I believe that we could collect data for the round 3 at the Autopolis.”