August 10, 2017

Drop-out due to an accident

Round name: FUJI GT 300 KM RACE
Course : 4.563 km × 66 laps (301.158 km)
Qualifying: August 5 (Saturday) / Cloudy after fine / Attendance: 21,600 (announcement from the organizer)
Race:August 6 (Sunday) / Cloudy after fine / Attendance: 33,500 (announcement from the organizer)

#16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT (driver team of Hideki Mutoh and Daisuke Nakajima) participated in the GT500 class at Round 5 of the Super GT Series on August 5 and 6 at Fuji Speedway (Shizuoka Prefecture). As a result of the 6th place finish in the previous race, Round 4 at Sugo, #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT was assigned a weight handicap of 10 kg, totally 14kg bringing the total vehicle weight to 1,048 kg at the time of the race.


August 5 (Sat)

Official practice: 9th place in the GT500 class, Hideki Mutoh: 1:30.960 / Daisuke Nakajima: 1:30.667

The official practice session was held under basically clear skies with a few floating clouds and dry course conditions. With Hideki Mutoh taking the wheel first, #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT entered the course. During the 90-minute session a red flag was raised to remove a stopped vehicle on a course with 55 minutes of the session remaining. At this point the lap time of Hideki Mutoh was 1:30:960 putting him in 6th position.


Hideki Mutoh continued to drive with 20 minutes remaining till the session ended, and came back to the pit and Daisuke Nakajima took a turn. Daisuke Nakajima drove not only in the regular session but in the GT500 session as well held just after GT300 session and shorten the time to 1:30:667 and he went up to in 5th position. In the end some vehicles overcame this lap record and #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT ended up with 9th place of the official practice. But TEAM MUGEN could try the long run test and during the circuit safari period, they also could practice pit stop drill to prepare for the race.


Qualifying session: 13th place in the GT500 class (Q1: 12th place, 1:30.005 / Q2: DNS)

The qualifying sessions, a 2-stage knockout formula with all 15 racing vehicles driving in Q1 and then the only the top 8 GT500 class vehicles advancing to Q2 where the starting grid was determined was held. The positions in the starting grid for the race were determined in order of the Q2 times for the 8 vehicles that advanced to Q2, and in order of the Q1 times for the other vehicles. Q1 and Q2 must be raced by different drivers, and one set of tires could be used for Q1 and another set for Q2.At 2:55PM 15-min Q1 session began. It was Hideki Mutoh who was behind the wheel and tried to find out when to enter the course. TEAM MUGEN waited till there were less than 6 minutes left before the session ended, and Hideki Mutoh came out of the pit the last out of the 15 vehicles. His time attack recorded 1:30:005 in 7th positon at the second lap. But he was overtaken by following vehicles and his position went down. Hideki Mutoh repeated his attack but ended up with 1:30:084 and better time was not recorded. This result placed #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT in 12th place and the team could not advance to Q2.


August 7 (Sun)

Race: Drop-out (45 laps 21 laps behind / Best time: 1:32.831)

On Sunday at 1:50 PM the 20-minute warming-up session started as a preparation for the race. While the summer sun shined through layers of clouds and both a temperature and the road surface temperature increased, Daisuke Nakajima who did not drive in Q2 took the wheel and went off. During the session Hideki Mutoh took his turn and tried to get accustomed to the course. #16 MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT with fully fueled and the setting for the race went for 11 laps and recorded the best time among all the participant vehicles, 1:31:752.

Just after the warming-up session ended, the race for 66 laps started at 3:33 PM while the road surface temperature went down due to cloudy weather. It was Hideki Mutoh who was assigned to go first. Hideki Mutoh started his race from 12th position and soon went up to 11th but then was overtaken and again went down to 12th position. He had no choice but to compete in the first half of the race with a difficult handling of the vehicle which is totally different situation during the warming-up session.

In front of Hideki Mutoh one vehicle in its 11th position going just one second faster, but Hideki Mutoh could not go faster enough to overtake the vehicle and if he had driven aggressively at the corner, the tires could be worn out. Hideki Mutoh met a dilemma. And in the end his position went down to 13th and Hideki Mutoh came back to the pit at the 32nd lap.

Mechanics at the pit quickly finished fueling and tire changing, and took Daisuke Nakajima out to the course. Daisuke Nakajima succeeded to overtake the vehicle going in front and at the 35th lap he went up to in the 11th position. But handling of the vehicle did not improve and Daisuke Nakajima went down to 13th position at the 36th lap.

Then at the 43rd lap, Daisuke Nakajima overtook a GT300 vehicle going one lap behind at the 100R but then he could not find the place to go then escaped to inside the course and contacted the GT300 vehicle and left front area of the vehicle was damaged. Daisuke Nakajima came back to the course by himself but an under panel in the left front was about to fall down, which made it difficult for Daisuke Nakajima to continue driving and after finishing the 45th lap the team ordered him to come back to the pit. Mechanics investigated the vehicle and figured out not to be able to repair the vehicle and made a decision to give up the race. As a result, the team of Mutoh/Nakajima driver team received no points, placing them 15th in the season point rankings. TEAM MUGEN did not receive any points, either and is ranked down to 13th in the team point rankings in the leadup to Round 6 at the Suzuka 1000km.

Comments from team director Nagataka Tezuka

On Saturday we could try the long run under such good conditions as the course surface was hot and vehicle set-up was fine, and then came into the qualifying session, however, the timing to take the vehicle back to the course was not good, which I assume did harm to the driver. My big mistake. We could have advanced to Q2 judging from the sector times. We planned to catch up the race but did not make it in spite of not bad average time. I feel sorry for the accident of Daisuke Nakajima. When the accident occurred, I really had no idea what happened, however, when I heard about the penalty imposed on the opponent driver, I figured out what was going on. Overall we should have been able to show better race. So disappointing. Two drivers as well as our team members have not experienced the winning the race this year yet. I feel so sorry for them and of course our fans as well. We have no weight handicap for the next race, Suzuka 1000km, also Jason Button will join our team. All of us will work together to win the race.


Comments from driver Hideki Mutoh

On Saturday the vehicle was balanced well enough as we expected. Lap time was also good. But regarding the official qualifying we waited too long for the attack. When we went into the course, the time had already passed too much and I could not find my place. We had no choice but to try attacks with having not enough time to warm up the tires. We outlined the perfect scenario but even when tiny little things went wrong, the scenario would not work at all. We learned the importance of compromise at this race. Waring-up before the race, the temperature was so high that we were in a good shape. But towards the race, it was getting colder and colder, and then the balance of the vehicle went wrong. After staring out, I faced difficulties and slipped all over the course and could not overtake even the slow cars. I did not expect such a result. I do regret the fact that we were not competent enough from the start point.


Comments from driver Daisuke Nakajima

Despite the fuel tank was full, the pace was good. Then I looked forward to the race, however, due to change of the weather, gripping did not work as I expected. I was in charge of the second stint and as soon as I entered the course, I overtook several vehicles, but soon after I was overtaken by some other vehicles. I tried somehow to catch up the vehicles going in front and saw GT300 vehicle at 100R. I noticed some space inside the GT300 vehicle and tried to overtake the vehicle. But Probably I did not see the car well. The vehicle came close to me and I had nowhere to go and two of us contacted a bit, but my vehicle spun. It is driver’s ability to avoid such an accident. I am the one to blame for the accident. Left side of the vehicle was damaged but the area could not be seen from the pit wall, and I myself could not see it. Then I decided to keep going. But the damage seemed to get worse and in the end I could not even turn the vehicle at all. I was pitted and the race ended. I believe we could have gained the point. I feel so regrettable about this race.